by Ryan Wasoba
If you are like me, you drive a car with a broken cd player. So you have to listen to the radio while driving, and you end up on NPR most of the time because you are sick of Adele on the commercial stations and your favorite independent music channel always seems to have a zydeco show on when you're in the car. (Ahem, KDHX.)
But just because you're listening to NPR talk shows doesn't mean you won't hear some great music. In fact, some of the most wonkish news programs on public radio feature some truly groovy theme songs. Take for example, these six shows:
6. On The Media The theme song to "On The Media" is a variation of "Disposable Genius" by bassist Ben Allison. Even among the nerdy world of NPR, this tune often goes unnoticed. At the time of writing this, the video below was the only trace of this song on YouTube and it only had seven hits. I believe with all of us combined, we can double that!
5. All Things Considered Perhaps the most iconic of NPR themes, "All Things Considered" shows the power of a simple melody. It is peppy and vaguely patriotic, which means it basically sounds like something you'd hear on Sufjan Stevens' Illinois record. Listening to the daily program, the primary melody reprises itself as an interlude by a'la carte instruments throughout the daily program. My personal favorite is the upright bass version.
4. The Moth Radio Hour "The Moth Radio Hour" could be NPR's edgiest program. For example, last weekend Jillian Lauren told a detailed story about her experience as a call girl exported to Brunei. Fittingly, the show uses "Uncanny Valley," an obscure Tortoise-esque jam by San Francisco group The Drift. Like the best stories on "The Moth," The Drift's tune begins by raising eyebrows and reveals its purpose later. There is no distinct melody, but the spy-movie funk vibe is its own statement.
3. The Diane Rehm Show If you begin "Allegre" from Claude Bolling's "Toot Suite" at the 1:34 mark, you may recognize the playful music to "The Diane Rehm Show." The piece is written for trumpet and "jazz piano," and it melds the classical and jazz realms in a similar manner to Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo Ala Turk." The theme is elegant and deliberate, much like Rehm herself.
2. On Point with Tom Ashbrook "Everything Is Alright" by Four Tet is not a standout in the electronic musician's catalog, but it takes on an alternate life as the theme to "On Point with Tom Ashbrook." The pairing is ideal. "On Point" is a broadcasted discussion and "Everything Is Alright" is a track of conflicts, organic instrumentation with electronic presentation.
1. Talk Of The Nation "Talk Of The Nation" will be going off the air on July 1, so say goodbye to this daily earworm. Personally, I love the way the tune starts with a fake-out build, and how the percussion stops when the trumpets enter. I consider it moderately advanced. "Talk Of The Nation" may be a bit on the easy listening side -- it is reminiscent of a time before Kenny G revolutionized the elevator music industry -- but it is nice to have a calming element on a call-in talk show. R.I.P.