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“Whoever is absent-minded with the accuracy in baby affairs cannot be trusted with important matters.” —Albert Einstein
In the age of declared Fake News, we as citizens accept a assignment to authority our columnist accountable. Whether it is political advertisement or affairs journalism, the accuracy matters, and there is no actuality too baby to go unchecked. So it’s troubling, then, that for a decade, one of America’s best admired columnist outlets may accept been artful the public. Back 2008, National Accessible Radio has hosted an advancing alive music alternation alleged Tiny Board Concerts, which appearance artists from all genres of music, bold selections of songs abaft a chaotic appointment board in NPR’s Washington, DC, headquarters. Now in its tenth year, the accepted alternation has accumulated over 700 performances, from T-Pain to Wilco to Adele, and has racked up over 80 actor angle on YouTube. But afterwards reviewing hours of footage, speaking with sources abutting to the desk, and allegory photos, one affair is acceptable clear: The “tiny desk” in NPR’s acclaimed Tiny Board Concert alternation is not absolutely that tiny at all.
Many bodies who accept been abaft the Tiny Board allege of its ambiguous name. Alex Luciano of the bandage Diet Cig, who performed a Tiny Board Concert in 2017, tells Noisey that she and her bandmate Noah Bowman generally allocution abreast about “how the board is not baby at all.” Luciano remembers the desk’s admeasurement as actuality adequately average. "It seemed aloof like a approved L-shaped desk,” she says. “But it was added structurally complete than we expected.” In fact, the board is ample abundant that Luciano, who is 5’ 3”, had abundant allowance to angle on it during the band’s performance.
“Yeah, actually, the board was acutely boilerplate in size,” says country artisan Sturgill Simpson, admitting he did agenda that the bench provided for his 2014 Tiny Board achievement was on the abate side. “I do bethink cerebration at one point while I was arena that they should’ve called it Tiny Stool Concert.”
"Yeah, actually, the board was acutely boilerplate in size." — Sturgill Simpson
To assay the Tiny Desk’s about concrete stature, it should aboriginal be bent what constitutes “tiny” in agreement of board sizes. The appointment accessories banker Appointment Depot lists three categories of desks for auction on their website. The “Large” breadth includes desks over 60 inches in width, “Medium” desks ambit amid 30 and 60 inches in width, and “Small” includes aggregate from 30 inches and under. One board in the “Small” class was a bald 16 and 3/10 inches wide. So it would angle to acumen that any board that would analogously be advised “tiny” would charge to admeasurement beneath 30 inches. Yet photos of NPR's Tiny Board acquaint a altered story.
Jason Isbell, who in June of 2016 told a fan on Twitter that he is 6’ 1” tall, performed a Tiny Board Concert in August of 2017. Bold Isbell was actuality accurate about his acme (two sources who accept met him affirm the approximation), and bold he did not get any taller in the 14 months amid these two contest (men about stop growing in acme by the age of 18; Isbell is 39), let’s use his analytic alpine ability as a calibration with which to accomplish a asperous altitude of the desk.
Here’s a photo of Jason Isbell abaft the desk:
And here’s an artist’s apprehension of Isbell’s almost frame, ablaze by the desk:
Now let’s see how that 6’ 1” altitude endless up adjoin the breadth of the desk:
Clearly, Isbell fits calmly forth the larboard ancillary of the desk, which would beggarly that the breadth of this ancillary is at atomic 6’ 1” (73 inches). And that’s not alike factoring in the appropriate side, which would acceptable be hardly beneath back abounding accept declared the board as “L-shaped.” Still, that would beggarly that the absolute Tiny Board is the admeasurement of one and a bisected Jason Isbells, or 146 inches, authoritative it 116 inches too ample to authorize as “small” by best board standards.
And this altitude alone encompasses the desktop. If the absolute amplitude abaft the board is additionally to be included back because the admeasurement of the desk, the “Tiny” qualifier applies alike less. Isbell was accompanied in his achievement by bristles associates of his band, the 400 Unit, and at one point alike arrive an beholder in the office, Ashwin Wadekar, to accompany on guitar. It stands to acumen that any board breadth that could accompanying board seven adults of capricious heights, one of which is 6’ 1”, could hardly be advised “tiny.”
The bandage of seven average-sized adults that comprise Isbell’s 400 Unit was not alike a almanac for the breadth abaft the Tiny Desk. Not alike close. The alternation has hosted the massive ensemble of the Polyphonic Spree, the ten-member a cappella affiliation Afro Blue, an 11-piece assumption band, 17-member alcove bedrock bandage Mother Falcon, and the 23-member Mucca Pazza. That’s not alike advertence instruments, which accept included aggregate from tubas to Chick Corea's 900-pound admirable piano.
Mucca Pazza, all 23 associates of them, abaft the "Tiny" Desk.
Gabby Smith, who has performed abaft the Tiny Board twice, already with her activity Eskimeaux (now accepted as Ó) and already with the bandage Bellows, addendum that although the board is not physically small, it can feel like it is. “The board itself is a accustomed size, and it's absolutely in a cubicle, which I wasn't expecting,” she tells Noisey. “But as anon as you alpha aggravating to charge your accomplished bandage and accessories into the amplitude and the complete analysis gets quieter and quieter, it starts to feel absolutely tiny.”
Several alpine performers accept acclaimed the Tiny Desk's accustomed size. “I don’t absolutely bethink the desk, which suggests it’s baby abundant to abstain authoritative abundant of an impression,” says the 6’ 3” accompanist Frank Turner, who performed abaft the Tiny Board in 2013. Back apprenticed if the board was tiny abundant to bethink as almighty small, Turner responded, “I accept not, no.”
"I’m 6’ 4” and aloft abutting inspection, I begin it to be a actual normal-sized desk," says Ben Walsh of the bandage Tigers Jaw, who performed a Tiny Board Concert in 2017, "although I can’t aphorism out the achievability that I had briefly shrunk." (NPR staffers affirm that the Board is moveable but about provides a achievement amplitude of 11 anxiety by seven feet.)
The Tiny Board accomodating a admirable piano and a vibraphone.
Before NPR relocated to 1111 North Capitol Street, NE in 2013, the Tiny Board Concert alternation was filmed at a board in NPR's above address at 635 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. The accepted Tiny Board is alike beyond than the antecedent one, according some NPR agents members. Comparatively, the Tiny Board is not alike tinier than the added desks on the appointment floor, they say.
The desk’s appreciably boilerplate ability seems to be an accessible abstruse amid industry insiders. “It’s bigger than my desk!” one New York-based music arranger told Noisey anonymously out of affair for her clients. “It’s like two mid-sized desks pushed calm to accomplish an L shape. My accomplished appointment would apparently fit [behind the Tiny Desk].”
The Tiny Board Concerts accept been the accountable of accessories in The Washington Post, Forbes, and The Ringer. But anniversary of these accessories focused on the absorbing access of the alternation or its creators, NPR agents biographer Stephen Thompson and the aborigine of the desk, All Songs Advised host Bob Boilen. But none of them addressed the albatross in the room: the admeasurement of the desk.
"[T]he series’ name is a nod to not alone the admeasurement of the date and the breadth of the concerts, but additionally the history of its host," Thompson wrote in an email. "But, no, aloof as Bob’s appearance All Songs Advised doesn’t absolutely accede ALL of the songs, his Tiny Board isn’t, in reality, all that tiny. Bob is a fraud, is what I’m saying."
In the backward 70s, Boilen formed Tiny Board Unit, which he declared in his 2016 book, Your Song Changed My Life, as a “psychedelic ball band” but did not accommodate the acumen abaft the band’s name. In a 2015 articulation with CBS This Morning, however, Boilen accepted that his asleep bandage was the afflatus for the Tiny Board Concert name, which he explained in a 2016 Vox commodity started as an central joke: “Our acquaintance Bill had this little tray with a agenda and a pencil holder. He’d aloof aces it up and move it around. It was his tiny desk.”
Forty years later, the “Tiny Desk” misnomer continues to be an central antic amid those in the know, according to sources. Accompanist Conor Oberst assured his 2014 Tiny Board achievement by presenting a allowance to Boilen, a handheld allotment of miniature furniture. “It’s an alike tinier desk,” Oberst said to a amusement Boilen.
Conor Oberst, abaft the Tiny Desk, presenting a abundant tinier board to NPR's Bob Boilen.
But at whose amount is this “inside joke”? Unlike abounding abreast endemic columnist outlets, NPR is a non-profit media alignment that is allotment of the Corporation for Accessible Broadcasting, a accumulation that receives federal subsidies and allocates $450 actor annually to accessible broadcasting.
“I like the Tiny Board series, but as a aborigine I do feel a little cheated by the name,” one music fan told me privately. “Especially if the board isn’t absolutely tiny.”
Dan Ozzi is a agents biographer at Noisey, accoutrement appointment appliance trends in music. Follow him on Twitter.
Annalise Domenighini and Colin Joyce contributed to the advertisement of this story.