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.

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

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All Songs Considered
9:23 am
Sat March 29, 2014

Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

Colin Stetson at Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 12:10 pm

Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]

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First Listen
9:03 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

First Listen: Saintseneca, 'Dark Arc'

Saintseneca's new album, Dark Arc, comes out April 1.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 12:19 pm

Banjo, baglama, bulbul, balalaika, bowed banjo, baritone ukulele, banjo, bass, bouzouki... Saintseneca might pick up any of these instruments at any given moment, and those are just the ones that start with the letter B. The band has its origins and heart in a small Appalachian town in Ohio, as well as a passion for sounds and textures with acoustic instruments at their core. Saintseneca's members eventually settled in Columbus, and they like their acoustic music a bit punkish, with stomping feet as a heartbeat to accompany mind-altering words and music.

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All Songs Considered
10:03 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Neil Young Wants You To Truly Hear Music

Neil Young in conversation with NPR's Bob Boilen.
A.J. Wilhelm for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 9:47 am

Neil Young wants you to truly hear the music you listen to. Over the years, the trend in audio has prioritized convenience over quality. Last week at SXSW, I had a conversation with Neil Young about an idea he has to change that trend. In this interview, he talks about Pono, the new audio player he's been helping develop. Just before the interview, I spent time listening to Pono. It's impressive.

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All Songs Considered
10:44 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Hear Neil Young Explain His Pono Music Player At SXSW

Neil Young speaks about Pono, his new high-quality digital audio system, at SXSW.
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 6:46 am

Neil Young wants to start a revolution against the MP3, against the CD, poorly made vinyl and poor audio quality in general. He wants people to hear the music the way it was made.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:40 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Jake Bugg: Tiny Desk Concert

Jake Bugg performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in February 2014.
Jim Tuttle NPR

There was a haze over Jake Bugg when he arrived at the Tiny Desk. He was expressionless and quiet. That all changed when he strummed fast and fierce on his acoustic guitar and began a flow of words reminiscent of Greenwich Village in the '60s, not modern Clifton in England's East Midlands, where he grew up.

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All Songs Considered
11:06 am
Sat March 8, 2014

Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 2:19 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:15 am
Sun March 2, 2014

Asaf Avidan: Tiny Desk Concert

Asaf Avidan performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in February 2014.
Jim Tuttle NPR

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 7:36 am

So I'm driving down the road when I hear this incredible voice coming out of my car speakers — part Janis Joplin, part Nina Simone — and I wonder, "Who is she?"

That day, I'd ripped a number of CDs onto my phone and didn't remember which record this was. Upon a quick glance at my phone during a traffic light, I discover the name Asaf Avidan. Next traffic light, I look it up and I see a picture of a skinny, handsome white male. I figure that's a mistake — that I must have typed the wrong name — so I wait to get home.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

goats standing on things

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Tiny Desk Concerts
12:08 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Cate Le Bon: Tiny Desk Concert

Cate Le Bon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in January 2014.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 12:52 pm

The Beatles may be an odd place to begin a Cate Le Bon conversation, but I remember being struck by the way four guys from Liverpool could sing without their English accents. That's true of most pop singers, whose words often come out sounding more American than anything else. But that's not true with Cate Le Bon. Her phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh.

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All Songs Considered
10:04 am
Wed February 12, 2014

The Moth & The Flame, 'Winsome'

Watch 'Winsome' by The Moth
Courtesy of the band

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 9:15 am

If you try to watch this video for its plot, good luck. There's a mermaid, a sandstorm, a dude, a chase, sea creatures, close-up lips ... I tried, but gave up and simply gave in to the flow of the song and the images.

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