Anyone who's followed the musical career of Beck Hansen knows that the eclectic singer-songwriter is no stranger to experimentation. Some of Beck's early work was pioneering in its fusion of indie rock, country, hip-hop, and soul. He went on to explore how the album format could become a participatory multimedia experience. More recently, Beck has launched innovative projects like the Record Club, covering full LPs by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Yanni, and INXS in a day's time, then posting the results online for free download.
So it's no surprise that Beck's latest project is a uniquely ambitious and imaginative endeavor. On the upcoming Song Reader, a collaboration with the renowned publishing house McSweeney's, Beck will issue a new collection of songs not in recorded form, but as 20 booklets containing sheet music for others to play. If you want to hear the new Beck album, you better learn how to play an instrument—and read music notation—or wait until other Beck fans start making recordings (and there are sure to be many). From McSweeney's:
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. The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear “Do We? We Do,” or “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,” bringing them to life depends on you.
The booklets will come packaged in a hardcover carrying case and will be accompanied by original art and essays by Beck and music critic Jody Rosen. The McSweeney's website will host Song Reader tracks recorded by Beck's musician pals, as well as a set of specially selected versions submitted by Beck fans—information about how to participate is forthcoming.