NPR logo What Was that Song After Nina Totenberg?

What Was that Song After Nina Totenberg?

Listeners who pay attention to the musical interludes (we call them "buttons") in between stories may have wondered how we pick 'em. I went down to watch All Things Considered director Bob Boilen perform this task, one of his myriad duties.

"Here's how I do it," he said at 3:40 p.m., twenty minutes before airtime. "I open up the CD cabinet and just start pulling them out." Bob has heard all of them — thousands of them — and just follows his whim. He doesn't know which piece of music he'll use until the show starts. He just takes a stack of CDs into the studio and while the show hosts and reporters are holding forth, Bob gets a feel for each story — content, mood, feel — and finds something from his stack to play as the show moves from one story to the next. It's pretty much by feel and on the fly.

Sure beats listening to advertisements.