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.

There's a stunning project by a handful of music's current big-thinkers: composer Nico Muhly, songwriter and singer Sufjan Stevens and guitarist-composer Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, along with percussionist James McAlister, have created Planetarium, an existential song cycle that confronts both the heavens and the human condition in a marriage of hypnotic sound and song.

Guest DJ: alt-J

Jun 6, 2017

alt-J's art-rock weaves dark, seductive and otherworldly tales that lean heavily on folk traditions — their version of "House of the Rising Sun," their inclusion of lines from the Irish tune "The Auld Triangle" in "Adeline" and the Shakespearean references in "3WW" come first to mind.

"Oh, these three worn words
Oh, that we whisper


Like the rubbing hands
Of tourists in Verona
I just want to love you in my own language"

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band turns 50 next week — so what's been done to celebrate one of the greatest records ever? They've remixed the entire album! The word "remix," in fact, may not capture the scope of the project — it's more like someone rebuilt a pyramid with fresh bricks. But a question remains: Why would anyone do so? I traveled to New York to meet Giles Martin, who spearheaded the project, to find that out.

On February 28, 1967, The Beatles were in Abbey Road Studios in London working on a new song, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Today we're premiering "take one," the first attempt The Beatles made at recording it.

The first time I saw Christopher Paul Stelling his face was red and his eyes were wide, singing as if he were about to burst apart, as if he had so much to tell us and too little time, as if his mind was racing faster than his tongue could keep up with. He's a singer with the spirit of Woody Guthrie both deep within and showing on his sleeve. Stelling has a new collection of songs he has titled Itinerant Arias, which he says "sounds a lot better than 'travelin' songs,'" but that's exactly what they are. Songs which have in common no single origin, or sense of place.

I want to introduce you to Chad Clark, a Washington D.C. artist with the band Beauty Pill, which begins a tour today with a musical hero of Clark's and of mine, Arto Lindsay.

I didn't know much about Gracie and Rachel on first hearing "Only A Child." There's a terrific tension in the sound, an underpinning of mystery set against a baroque, but modern, pop foreground. Then I discovered that Gracie Coates and Rachel Ruggles seemingly embody the schism I heard in their song — Rachel's dark, classic violin is set against Gracie's more upbeat pop piano.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

It seemed like a simple video editing trick, run the tape backwards and it will look like this guy is driving backward. Well, it's no trick. The more I watch this video, for JEFF the Brotherhood's song "Punishment," the more jaw-dropping it is to see Harpreet Pappu careening on the highways and unpaved side roads of Bathinda, Punjab in India at full speed — and backwards.

Alex Napping is the name Alex Cohen's gave to her Austin-based guitar-pop band. On "Fault," Cohen explores her eating disorder in vivid blue and white, confronting her feelings of shame about the ailment.

Breaking news this morning: Dan Auerbach has been abducted by aliens to compete in intergalactic demolition derbies.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


It's somewhat rare to find three singers so in sync as The Wild Reeds' Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe. Rarer still is the trio's songwriting skills; think Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Here's a story of how a sentiment, the kernel of a piece, can blossom when the right person comes along. The songwriter is Minneapolis-by-way-of-Wisconsin's J.E. Sunde, but the key transformer was Monica Martin, of the band Phox.

My favorite rock band, alt-J, has a pleasantly surprising piece of new music this morning — "3WW" comes from the band's third album, Relaxer, which they announced this morning and will be out June 9 on Canvasback Music. Unlike some of their brasher music, this song has the feel of a West African tune, with a gentle plucked sound that reminds me of an ngoni or kora.

There's a vibrance to the current music of Esmé Patterson that I wasn't expecting, having listened to her previous band Paper Bird. Gone are the banjos and remnants of folk music, and in their place are electric guitars — sometimes fierce and, here at the Tiny Desk, somewhat understated. She's a relative newcomer to the guitar, making it part of her songwriting only since leaving Paper Bird. But all of this instrumentation is meant to be supportive, not center-stage. At the heart of these songs, from her album We Were Wild, is a reach for independence:

Sean Rowe's voice, a room-rattling baritone, demands attention. The stories he tells with it are portraits that feel simple on the surface... they never are. Within "Gas Station Rose," Sean Rowe is on the road with a partner, they have each other, not much else. Even this little scene is filled with tension:

Sincerity, community and beauty is how I think of Lowland Hum; the sounds of Lauren and Daniel Goans. Thin is the husband and wife duo's third album since their 2013 debut, further refining their hushed harmonies and aural paintings. It's a sound that makes them a quiet Sunday-morning favorite. Some of the imagery comes from the beauty they see in the landscapes and locales they traverse and visit all over this country; art centers, cafes, nightclubs, house shows, racking up something like 45,000 miles in a Toyota Sienna between 2014 and 2015.

It's basically three chords banged out on a piano for 4 minutes. No drums, no guitars, no samples. But then: there's her voice. Haunting.

"Here is your princess / here is your horizon" — Aldous Harding repeats the line as a mantra, as a truth, as a reality. It's as if the gift of life is right here, with all its beauty and its limitations. At least that's how I see it.

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