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 He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Longtime NPR fans may remember another contribution Boilen made to NPR. He composed the original theme music for NPR's Talk of the Nation.


Tiny Desk
1:00 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

Frank Fairfield: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concert with Zac Sokolow (left), Frank Fairfield and Tom Marion.
Emily Jan NPR

They came to the Tiny Desk a bit groggy, having been up late playing music in the hotel the night before. It's what Frank Fairfield and his friends Tom Marion and Zac Sokolow do when they're together. And the music they make is casual and mostly hand-me-down songs from well before Fairfield was born nearly 30 years ago.

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All Songs Considered
1:08 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

All Songs At 15: When The Tallest Man On Earth Played The Tiny Desk

Kristian Matsson, a.k.a. The Tallest Man on Earth, performs at Bob Boilen's desk.
Coburn Dukehart/NPR

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 4:47 pm

Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email:

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Tiny Desk
1:28 pm
Tue May 26, 2015

Madisen Ward And The Mama Bear: Tiny Desk Concert

Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 1:48 pm

There's sweetness to Madisen Ward And The Mama Bear's music that makes me smile, and then there's so much more. I first saw the Kansas City mother-and-son duo perform last fall in Nashville's Blue Room, a small, perfect-sounding stage at Third Man Records. The bluesy roots of the music suited the space, and the sound — with young Madisen Ward's powerful, quivering voice backed by his mother Ruth — had a homespun feel.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Young Fathers: Tiny Desk Concert

Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 6:30 pm

They've made music together since they were young teens, coming together in Edinburgh from places as far apart as Ghana and Maryland. Young Fathers' hip-hop-infused poetry is intense; you can hear that on the group's new album, White Men Are Black Men Too.

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All Songs Considered
4:28 pm
Mon May 18, 2015

Song Premiere: DRINKS, 'Hermits on Holiday'

DRINKS is a collaboration between Cate Le Bon (right) and Tim Presley.
Cara Robbins Courtesy of artist

Cate Le Bon wrote some of my favorite words of 2013 on her album Mug Museum. White Fence is the swirly psych-like music of Tim Presley. Cate and Tim are friends — Cate played guitar on a tour with White Fence — and so now there's this: DRINKS.

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All Songs Considered
2:43 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

Songs We Love: The Mynabirds, 'Semantics'

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds.
Bliss Braoudakis Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 10:13 am

I've been a fan of Laura Burhenn since we met at NPR's studios with her band Georgie James eight years ago. Her pop wisdom and desire to push her limits have produced some great music, especially the past two Mynabirds records.

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All Songs TV
10:35 am
Tue May 12, 2015

LÁ-BAS, 'Automaton'

LÁ-BAS with their song "Automaton"
Courtesy of the artist

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:56 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

Bellows: Tiny Desk Concert

Morgan McCloy NPR

Bellows' debut album, Blue Breath, was among my Top 20 records of last year. What sets Bellows apart from thousands of other guitar-bass-drums bands out there is its heart. Oliver Kalb sings about things that matter to him in ways that matter to me. His sing-song, matter-of-fact phrasing and guitar melodies are memorable, and the harmonies are lovely, with the staying power to drift in my head for days on end.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
11:37 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Eskmo: Tiny Desk Concert

Morgan McCloy NPR

We met at a ping-pong party in Iceland. Brendan Angelides introduced himself as a musician and friend of Jónsi and Alex Somers, who were hosting the party. When I came home from the Iceland Airwaves music festival, I listened to the music Angelides makes under the name Eskmo, and was intrigued.

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3:35 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

JiHAE, 'It Just Feels'

The artist JiHAE
Mote Sinabel Courtesy of the art

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 11:35 am

This fiery song is pretty much an ode to orgasm. JiHAE sings this song with conviction:

It feels so good

And it feels so right

It feels like I've been rescued

in the middle of the nightI

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All Songs TV
8:03 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Christopher Paul Stelling, 'Hard Work'

Courtesy of the Artist

Christopher Paul Stelling is a brilliant fingerpicker with a message: "I know my work is never done, 'til I can see the good in everyone." That's the heart of his new song, "Hard Work," and the setting for this live, one-take performance couldn't be simpler: his tiny NYC kitchen. The song comes from his stirring album, Labor Against Waste, which is out on June 16.

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All Songs Considered
1:31 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

Songs We Love: Farao, 'Hunter'

Ella Schultz Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 10:16 am

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All Songs Considered
3:36 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

All Songs +1: 'Baltimore'

When we asked listeners to tell us about a song they turned to this week — one that spoke in some way to weighty events unfolding around the world and how they felt — we weren't sure what we'd get. Would it be mostly songs of solace? Songs of grief, or anger?

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Tiny Desk Concerts
6:29 am
Wed April 29, 2015

José González: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concert with José González.

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 6:47 am

There's a quiet and a calm from José González that amplify his words. This has never been truer than on his new album, Vestiges & Claws. The songs are full of abstract imagery — more paintings than stories. He performed this song, "With The Ink of A Ghost," at my desk.

Idle as a wave
Moving out at sea
Cruising without sound
Molding what's to be
Serene between the trace
Serene with the tide and ink of a ghost

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All Songs Considered
12:56 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

Why We Like Falsetto, Why Melodies Matter And Other Musical Wonders

Top row: Audience members rate the music during our All Songs Considered listening party. Bottom row, left to right: Susan Rogers, Bob Boilen, Amelia Mason, James Reed, Stephen Thompson.

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 3:53 pm

Why do we like falsetto so much? Why is melody the single most important part of a song? And why does country music move (or repel) us? These are just a few of the questions that popped up during our All Songs Considered listening party in Boston last week.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
9:03 am
Sat April 25, 2015

DakhaBrakha: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

People always ask me, "What's your favorite Tiny Desk Concert?" Well, right now it's the one recently performed by DakhaBrakha. The creative quartet from Kiev, Ukraine make music that sounds like nothing I've ever heard, with strands of everything I've ever heard. There are rhythms that sound West African and drone that feels as if it could have emanated from India or Australia. At times, DakhaBrakha is simply a rock band whose crazy homeland harmonies are filled with joy.

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All Songs Considered
11:55 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Come To A Screening of 'Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90)'

Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat in 1983.
Jim Saah Courtesy of the artist

For a solid decade, Washington, D.C. was firmly on the map as the punk capital of the nation. During the 1980s, you could see Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Fugazi and Mission Impossible (featuring a 16-year-old Dave Grohl) in DIY spaces all over town. And what made it vital and game changing was that do-it-yourself ethos: no corporate anything, no major labels, just kids burning with energy, rage and creativity.

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All Songs Considered
2:25 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

All Songs Considered: Hear Brand New My Morning Jacket, More

Clockwise from upper left: My Morning Jacket, Sharon Van Etten, Matt Pond PA, Desaparecidos
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 10:18 am

On today's All Songs Considered, we're hitting you with several premieres, beginning a heavy cut from My Morning Jacket's latest studio album, The Waterfall. On "Believe (Nobody Knows)," front man Jim James seeks meaning and truth in an uncertain world, while hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton consider a life of possibilities.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:41 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Jessie Ware: Tiny Desk Concert

Carlos Waters NPR

Young, soulful English singer Jessie Ware has a powerful voice, but it's used with grace. Her singing brings warmth to electronic music and swoon to her own pop, so it's no surprise that her visit to the Tiny Desk was filled with casual poise and spontaneity.

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All Songs Considered
1:15 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

All Songs +1: Our Record Store Day Must-Haves

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 3:37 pm

Record Store Day is that magical day each spring (this year it's Saturday, April 18) when geeks like us line up outside their favorite music shops to get their hands on a bunch of vinyl exclusives. These are the albums, EPs and singles bands and labels put out just to celebrate the day.

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