Beck Needs Your Help To Hear To His Next Release, An Album Of Sheet Music
from the streaming-pdfs dept
Nothing sells like scarcity. We've seen artists package their music in any number of new ways to make the infinite, well, less infinite. Collectors and afficionados of analog devices are picking up vinyl at a record (oh ha! and I didn't even mean that one!) pace. Even the cassette has made a resurgence.
But Beck, always the iconoclast, is going back even further. Past 78s and wax cylinders. Past player pianos and John Phillip Sousa's eerily prescient fear of new formats. Beck is going all the way back to the day when artists only had one way to publish music: via the staves and bars of sheet music.
Beck has announced that his newest album will arrive in the form of Beck Hansen's Song Reader, meaning you won't know what the songs sound like unless you put some work in. What is a song reader, you ask? It's an experimental collection of individual pieces of sheet music. In this case, none of the 20 songs have been recorded or released before. It'll be available through indie publishing house McSweeney's in December of this year.
While it remains to be seen if today's Beck fan has the washboard-and-harmonica skills to pull off a Beck tune, the novelty of the whole thing should certainly see a few dollars thrown its way. Of course, releasing an album of sheet music asks a lot of your audience, including “Did you like the thing the Flaming Lips did when you needed four stereos playing simultaneously to hear the album in its intended form?,” “Regret dropping band after 6th grade?,” and “Can you read ukelele notation?” McSweeney's has more details, but no solid answers to these rhetorical questions:
In the wake of Modern Guilt and The Information, Beck’s latest album comes in an almost-forgotten form—twenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded. Complete with full-color, heyday-of- home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and, when necessary, ukelele notation), the 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, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together.
Man, that takes me back. The last time I had a dozen gatefold LPs put together, I was running a small-time weed dealership and pulling an all-night seeds-and-stem sorting operation. Good times… probably. But this package is more than just functional. In addition to its collection of ukelele explorations, the collectible package will include art from more than a dozen different artists (some of which you can eyeball here) and 20 individual full-color song booklets.
This is definitely a case of giving people a Reason to Buy, even if many of them will still need outside assistance to hear the music they purchased. And I could imagine an entire cottage industry of Beck Hansen's Song Reader covers springing up all over YouTube, assuming Beck is cool with that. Packaging his new album this way also makes his post-release touring that much more of a draw. If all people have heard is their own renditions and other covers, I imagine they'd jump at the chance to hear the original performer actually perform them.