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All Things Considered Music

All Things Considered Director Bob Boilen answers your questions about the music you hear between stories.

How do you pick the music?
Some directors listen to stories ahead of time and preplan what they play. My style is much more like an improvising musician. That is, I pick most of the music, while we are on the air -- and just before we need it. I often listen to the story while you are hearing it, get an idea of mood, see how much time I have to play music, figure out what I need to transition to. I have a CD player in front of me and a pair of headphones. Before I come into the studio, I bring a selection of about 15 CDs from our very large collection. When I hear something I like, I hand the CD to our engineer, and they cue it up in one of the on air CD players. Some of the CDs I bring into the studio are randomly selected, some purposely selected, based on the stories for the day. I am known for making mad dashes out of the studio during the program, to my office to find a piece of music.

Why do you play music?
The music on our program has many purposes. It fills the time -- since we have certain "time posts" we have to hit so stations can break away -- and it's used for transition, to get us from, say, a story on Witches in the Military, to a story on Moths. It is also useful for setting or continuing a mood. Say you have a very powerful story, it can give the listener a chance to breathe, or in some cases a chance to laugh.

Where do you find the music?
People send us CDs. Most are available in any good record shop, but most radio stations don't play much of the great music that is out there. But that's another story.

What's your favorite?
My favorite, that's a hard one. I always look forward to something that is challenging but accessible. Tuatara fits into that category. So does Don Byron, or Gustavo Santaolalla. Both Eno brothers, Roger and Brian. But I also like the standards and by that I mean the music of the 30s and 40s, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins. I think great American music, melodies that are part of our language, are wonderful touchstones for our program.