Beck fans will have to play new album Song Reader themselves
Forget vinyl or CD - Beck's new album is only available as sheet music
AMERICAN alt-pop musician Beck Hansen, best known for the 1990s hit Loser, will release a new album later this year as sheet music only, with no recorded songs.
Beck Hansen's Song Reader, from the platinum-selling artist normally referred to simply as Beck, will be issued by the San Francisco publishing house McSweeney's. It will comprise 20 individual song booklets, 18 of which will include lyrics.
The songbooks will also feature "full-colour, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art" for each song, created by artists Marcel Dzama (who created the imagery for Beck's acclaimed Guero), Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran and Jessica Hische.
The Hollywood Reporter says that Beck won't perform the music himself, but select renditions of the songs by fans and other musicians will be featured on McSweeney's website for the less musically inclined to enjoy.
Beck explains on his own website that "Song Reader is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012, an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track". But not everyone is impressed by the idea.
An editorial in The Independent says Beck's sheet music release is "not quite in the same class as John Cage's 4 minutes 33 seconds of silence" and asks if this is an ironic comment on "the post-Napster, post-file sharing, post-Spotify era?" It concludes that despite Beck's penchant for postmodernism, "there are limits to the insight that art is as much about the observer as the artist".
Gawker's Caity Weaver quips that her new album is "self-contained within the following empty brackets [ ]". Weaver adds "it is an innovative audiovisual masterpiece that encourages experiencers to test the bounds of their own creativity by imagining what perfect music might sound like".
Lee Brackstone, director of Faber publishing, which is collaborating on the project, has defended Beck's approach, saying Song Reader "makes a radical statement about the value and importance of performed and recorded music at a time when these very things are under threat".
But will it change the way we listen to music? Will it inspire a resurgence of the old days of parlour-style home music making? Gretta Cohn put the question to Jonathan Hiam, curator of the American Music Collection at the New York Public Library in her Soundcheck blog. It's unlikely, said Hiam, telling Cohn he expected that "the party would go online".
Beck Hansen's Song Reader is due to be published in December 2012. ·