Bob Boilen

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.

Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling — in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.

In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.

After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Boilen's first book, Your Song Changed My Life, was published in April 2016 by HarperCollins.

In 1980, there were few clubs to see bands, especially regional bands, play their original music. I would know — I was in one of those bands, Tiny Desk Unit. Where I lived, in Washington, D.C, the options you could find if you wanted to hear rock and roll were nearly all bars, not clubs, and what you'd encounter there were bands playing mostly cover tunes, some hoping to sneak in a few originals, often to the dismay of the bar crowd.

Thanks for joining our live listening party for Fiona Apple's remarkable Fetch the Bolt Cutters. NPR Music's Ann Powers, Marissa Lorusso and I had the opportunity to answer some of your great questions about the influence of the rhythms of the African diaspora on Apple's first album in eight years, as well as talk about the experience of listening in isolation. Thank you for all your love and thoughts in the chat!

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.


"Hello, this is Ben Gibbard, welcome to Tiny Desk, Seattle style."

This is the most engaging song by Bob Dylan I've heard in decades. As someone who grew up in the era of President Kennedy's assassination, the portrait Dylan paints in "Murder Most Foul" is extraordinary, and takes me back to those days, to my memories of a nation overwhelmed by grief. There's something eerie about this song coming out at this precise moment.

The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest is still underway. Along with supporting unsigned independent musicians all across the country, we've been reaching out to those musicians who had high hopes of performing at the SXSW Music Festival and are now unable to do that.

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In the past year, we've had some pretty big names come perform at the Tiny Desk: Lizzo,

When we first started filming musicians playing behind the Tiny Desk in April 2008, the beauty was in the intimacy and simplicity of these concerts. Now into our 11th year, after more than 900 Tiny Desks, the other treasure I find in these concerts is the variety. I remember having the cast of Sesame Street here in May, with NPR parents and their children seated on the floor watching the Muppets.

These are my favorite albums of 2019. The flood of music and the variety of music in 2019 felt exhilarating, though also overwhelming. I couldn't keep it to my usual top ten, so I extended it to twenty.

It's almost always impossible to pinpoint an exact moment in music history when the plates shift. But looking back at the last decade in Latin music, it's easy, now, to see that the release of "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi in early 2017 was just such a moment.

Sunny War has a soothing voice but at the Tiny Desk, she didn't talk much, at least not until she saw the Talking Master P doll on the Tiny Desk shelf. With a huge grin, Sunny looked up, pointed at Master P and said to NPR Music's Stephen Thompson (the doll's owner), "if you want to sell it..." Stephen promptly replied, "not for sale!" To make her even more envious, he quipped, "It's signed by the man himself." It was a lighthearted moment from a heavy-hearted singer.

From the moment Brittany Howard walked into the NPR offices, I could sense her intense commitment and passion. Her eight-piece backing band, all decked out in red and black, played with a soulful subtlety that bolstered Brittany Howard's tender songs about her family — stories of a mixed-race child growing up in Alabama.

Warning: The opening cut on this week's show, by Fran got stuck in my head and kept me wide awake at four in the morning. But a song from Soccer Mommy about dealing with temptation and the devil, Ruby Duff's "rainbow of emotions," Chastity Belt's first new music since 2017 and (Sandy) Alex G's devastating song titled "Hope" will help when taken at a hefty volume.

Like almost 6,000 other artists, Hobo Johnson entered the Tiny Desk Contest in 2018. But unlike the other entries, his video, for the song "Peach Scone," went viral. It now has nearly 16-million views. Though Hobo Johnson didn't win the Contest, I did invite them to play a proper Tiny Desk.

There's a cinematic theme in the songs on this edition of All Songs Considered, including a new track from Thom Yorke called "Daily Battles" and an instrumental version of it from trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. These two songs were created for the Edward Norton film Motherless Brooklyn.

On this edition of All Songs Considered: songs of gratitude from Pinegrove, a take on intimacy from Norwegian artist Jenny Hval and a song of quietude with a few surprises from Anna Meredith.

I'm also thrilled to have new music from Sudan Archives, an artist who blends violin loops and catchy rhythms like no one else. And what is the sound of four Mellotrons? Hear John Medeski, Pat Sansone, Jonathan Kirkscey and Robby Grant's "Pulsar," part of their Mellotron Variations project.

Bob Boilen and I are back together again to share some of the phenomenal new music we've been hearing, starting with Brittany Howard's stirring and inspired "He Loves Me," from her upcoming solo debut Jaime. She named the album after her sister who passed away when they were both teenagers. The music is a celebration of the human spirit.

When Among Authors arrived at NPR, the Seattle band seemed like a pack of eager pups — and with good reason. The odds of this unsigned, self-managed quartet playing a Tiny Desk concert was pretty small, but Among Authors is a band that beats the odds. Nearly a dozen years ago, at 23, bandleader Ian Ketterer had open-heart surgery. Born without a thumb on his right hand and deaf in his right ear, he plays piano and sings.

Note: With hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton away this week, we've got an encore presentation of The Worst Songs Of All Time, from Feb. 2014.


Guitarist, actor, writer (and former Monitor Mix blogger) Carrie Brownstein joins us, along with NPR Music's Stephen Thompson, to do something we don't normally do: Talk about the songs we really, really don't like.

For the past 14 years, producer Andy Zax has been digging into the music and sounds of Woodstock, that culture-shifting music festival that unfolded in August of 1969. Now, 50 years later, all 32 performances — the audio announcements, the entirety of this three-day festival in upstate New York — is about to be released by Rhino Records in a 38-disc box titled Woodstock - Back To The Garden:The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive.

I was thrilled to have the gifted voice of Tamino gracing the Tiny Desk. But as charged as I was, that didn't match the excitement that Colin Greenwood expressed as we rode up the elevator. The Radiohead bassist (and bassist for this special performance) shared a brief text exchange with his son, basically telling his hugely accomplished dad that playing the Tiny Desk was "the coolest thing he'd ever done!" That made us all smile.

This month marks 60 years since the very first Newport Folk Festival. NPR has been covering the event since its rebirth in 2008. Jay Sweet, now the executive producer, was mostly responsible for the festival's revival, booking unexpected bands and reinvigorating the spirit of the annual gathering. It's long been a place where musicians would collaborate and make music often steeped in social justice.

I told this story on the 40th anniversary of the first moonwalk, but on this 50th anniversary, like grandpa, I'll tell it again.

It was July 20, 1969 and I had tickets to see the supergroup of supergroups: Blind Faith. I was psyched until I realized that it was to be the night of the very first manned moon landing — and the very first time a human would walk on the moon.

I'm all alone in the studio.

I had so many new songs to share; I didn't want to split the show with a co-host.

To be clear, sad songs make up the majority of this week's All Songs Considered. So, if you have a love for the type of music you might hear from Julien Baker or Japanese Breakfast, we have five new artists to add to your playlist, including a 19-year-old singer from Belgium who goes by the name Asia; The artist known as Dolly Valentine asks, "Do you know where you want to go?" And there are more beautiful but crushing tunes brought to you by "the dream team" (NPR's Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso).

For the past year, NPR has been taking a deep look at American anthems and all the forms they can take. These are the songs that unite us, inspire us or say something about what it means to be an American — songs as traditional as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," or as defiant as Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

Lucy Dacus / YouTube

Lucy Dacus is conflicted about America.

Most cities tend to have a voice, but few quite as loud or interesting as Seattle's. This is a city that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Pearl Jam but also the softer, more introspective sounds of Fleet Foxes, The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie.

Your picks for the best new artists of 2019 (so far) include a lot of bands and musicians we've been following for a while – Maggie Rogers, Stella Donnelly, Nilüfer Yanya and Jade Bird have all been releasing music for several years – but they didn't drop an official full-length debut until this year.

The artists who attract me the most are those who are on the rise — artists whose popularity is mostly a small, dedicated circle of fans but growing. That's certainly true of the Shreveport band Seratones. They're putting out their second album later this summer and, from the sound of this potent new title track "Power," it's clear they'll find a bigger fanbase.

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