Echoes Podcast: Bob Boilen and TONTO’s Malcolm Cecil

Ambience Ancient and New: Bob Boilen's Pandemic Moods & Malcolm Cecil of Tonto's Expanding Head Band Remembered

In the Echoes Podcast, NPR’s Bob Boilen.  He’s more than the creator of Tiny Desk Concerts and host of All Songs Considered. He’s has been exposing new music and helping keep NPR musically hip for three decades. But that’s not why we talked to him. Bob Boilen is also a composer of music from ambient to punk rock. We get to the ambient side when he talks about his pandemic album Hidden Smiles as well as his covers albums which turn classic rock into ambience without him essentially playing a note.

Then we remember Malcolm Cecil, one half of the duo that made up, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band.  The patch cords were pulled from Cecil on March 28, 2021. He was 84 years old. His band with Robert Margouleff, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, who released their debut album, Zero Time, 50 years ago. The album was recorded on their electronic array called TONTO, an acronym for The Original New Timbral Orchestra. In ten beautiful curved wooden cases they mounted synthesizers from Moog, ARP, Oberheim Serge and more.  Their first album created a sound that predated by years the music of Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra, Klaus Schulze’s Picture Music and Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. It was an album of thudding bass grooves, melodic electronic flights and deep ambient expanses, long before that became part of the electronic music vernacular. We’ll go back to a 1996 interview with Cecil and Margouleff, recorded in the presence of TONTO