Friday, August 3, 2001

Pushing the Musical 'Buttons' for an NPR Newsmagazine

A Web show and a CD give fuller voice to the eclectic artists and songs featured in the tuneful interludes on 'All Things Considered.'

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times 

WASHINGTON — A delightful discovery, a little humor, and a chance to breathe and reflect--that's an awful lot to pack into a 10-second snippet of music. Especially one nestled in the middle of a news program.

Bob Boilen (source: NPR)
"All Things Considered," the afternoon newsmagazine on National Public Radio, features two hours daily of headlines and features. Between the stories, though, a listener might catch a few twangy notes by jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, or a buoyant Basque accordion, or the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" as played on traditional African instruments. The interludes, called buttons, serve as cushions between the segments.

To some listeners, the musical moments may seem like throwaways, if not invisible altogether. But for many others, the buttons are as vital to the program as reports from Capitol Hill or Kosovo--and that popularity has turned the buttons into a cottage industry at NPR. To quench listeners' interest, last year the network launched a World Wide Web show called "All Songs Considered" ( , the eighth episode of which just debuted. And last month it released a compact disc by the same name, featuring songs and musicians excerpted on "All Things Considered," after clamoring fans said they needed more than just a few seconds of these artists they weren't hearing anywhere else.