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.

Just about everyone at NPR Music's favorite discovery from SXSW this year was Brittney Parks, who records as Sudan Archives.

Today, the singer, violinist and electronic musician has a new song, "Nont For Sale," a title inspired by a sign she saw on a Ghana hillside that read: "THIS LAND IS NONT FOR SALE." It comes to us from her new EP, Sink, due at the end of May.

The last time Dan Auerbach came to the Tiny Desk he brought a mariachi band (we supplied confetti cannons). That was our 500th performance at the Tiny Desk, with Dan playing alongside his band The Arcs.

We have some new music from Big Thief in the form of live concert footage. The band is performing at Point Ephémère in France this week and this beautiful video was captured by La Blogothèque and published on ARTE, the public Franco-German TV channel.

One of the best spots for new, independent music at SXSW — and year around in Austin, Texas — is Cheer Up Charlie's. During the festival you can see an artist like the British folk singer Jade Bird in the dark, unassuming indoor space, and walk out into the bright sunlight for Andrew W.K. or Hop Along.

The three singers who perform together as I'm With Her sound like sisters. It's as if they've known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories.

Our South X Lullaby with Soccer Mommy took us away from the frenetic world of the South by Southwest music festival and into the past. We ventured to my favorite store in all of Austin, Texas: Uncommon Objects, a self-described "one-of-a-kind emporium of transcendent junk" or "your eccentric uncle's attic on steroids."

There's an abundance of jubilation and glee in the strums, trills, double stops and drones from the Swedish instrumental band Väsen. The trio came to the Tiny Desk with just three instruments, but all together it was a 30-string sonic blast of 12-string guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a fiddle with keys — think 15th century keytar).

The idea behind our South X Lullaby series was to offer intimate moments with musicians as an antidote to the commotion and deluge that is the SXSW music festival. When we met Lucy Dacus for her Lullaby and found out she'd perform "Historians," a most somber song from her deeply personal and triumphant album Historian, it felt just right. It's a song of reflection, the story of two intertwined partners and the way they document one another's lives and preserve each other's memories.

In the midst of all the chaos that is Austin, Texas during the SXSW Music Festival, we seek moments of calm. And so one night, as the week was nearing its end, we made our way to the courtyard of St. David's Episcopal Church, just a few blocks from the thousands of festival participants and onlookers.

Our bleary-eyed, ear-ringing week of seemingly non-stop live music in Austin, Texas has ended and we're back one last time to reflect on the 2018 South by Southwest festival and play some of our favorite discoveries.

When I told Mal Blum about the Future of Secrets art installation in which they'd be performing a South X Lullaby, Blum immediately had the perfect song.

Two weeks ago, we reached out to Haley Heynderickx, a three-time Tiny Desk Contest entrant and Slingshot artist, about writing for the Tiny Desk Contest newsletter. "The Tiny Desk Contest changed my life," she said, so we asked her to tell that story in her own words:

Hello everyone!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! At least it is for avid music fans like us and anyone else attending the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The annual endurance challenge gets underway this week, with thousands of bands from around the world — and many more fans — converging on the city for a seemingly endless bender of live performances — shows both big and small that last all day, every day, into the wee hours of the morning, with music pouring out of every club, restaurant, street corner and alleyway for miles.

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including "Sam Stone," "Angel From Montgomery," "Hello In There" and countless others.

Every year for the past four years we've had a Tiny Desk Contest (there's one going on right now), and though only one band can officially win the competition, thousands enter. I inevitably end up discovering so much wonderful music while going through the submissions.

This is a complex and fascinating conversation with Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine about the latest version of the band's legendary 1991 album, Loveless. It's also about the group's future.

Riddles, the third album by Ed Schrader's Music Beat, is a fascinating piece of work that is both ugly and beautiful, often at the same time. The beauty of this music is in the trance-inducing pulse that drives it; a chaos of pulsing, incessant rhythms.The sound is reminiscent of two bands that captured my musical world around 1978 — the aggressively minimalist electronics-and-poetry duo Suicide and the dark, futuristic sounds of Pere Ubu's Dub Housing.

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I've experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It's all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

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.

We're one week into the 2018 contest and love what we're seeing. Submissions have already come in from all over the country featuring music and desks ofall varieties. With that, we'd like to take a moment to celebrate the first entry we received: Ian Bamberger's "A Privateer's Eyes."

Vagabon: Tiny Desk

Feb 23, 2018

Laetitia Tamko, the artist known as Vagabon, is a 25-year-old, Cameroon-born musician with a big, tenor voice just bursting with new musical ideas. I've seen her as a solo artist, with a band and, here at the Tiny Desk, both solo and with a bassist.

River Whyless is a band whose members push themselves toward perfection while holding each other up and allowing for some risk-taking. This is a band not only of strong players and singers but something a lot of bands rarely have: multiple, talented songwriters.

The music of Nick Hakim occupies a space and time that is faintly out of this world. The guitars and machinery that make up his music feel slightly askew, as though someone slowed down the tape machine every once in a while. His raspy voice feels drenched in a cavernous space. In fact, the first time I met Nick Hakim, he was literally draped in fiber optics, as if stars were surrounding him.

It's time to crank up the amps, warm up the drum machines, dust off the sax (or whatever your instrument of choice is) and enter the Tiny Desk Contest.

Pages