At the end of last year, Beck released an ‘album’ of sheet music called Beck Hansen’s Song Reader. The album, which was ten years in the making, is composed of 20 individual scores, and, according to Beck, intended to “be pulled apart and reshaped” by anyone so inclined.
In other words, you have to pick up an instrument yourself to hear it. For fans who embraced the prospect of a more front seat approach to their music consumption, a website was set up, hosting various interpretations of the album’s scores. Said Beck:
The idea of (the songs) being played by choirs, brass bands, string ensembles, anything outside of traditional rock-band constructs — it’s interesting because it’s outside of where my songs normally exist. I thought a lot about making these songs playable and approachable, but still musically interesting. I think some of the best covers will reimagine the chord structure, take liberties with the melodies, the phrasing, even the lyrics themselves. There are no rules in interpretation.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Beck has now drafed the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Franz Ferdinand, Beth Orton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joan As Police Woman, Conor J O’Brien (Villagers), Michael Kiwanuka, The Staves, The Guillemots, Pictish Trail and James Yorkston to bring his scores to life, for one night at The Barbican (4 July).
The event is unfortunately now sold out, but there may be return tickets. Either way, the Barbican will also house a free Song Reader exhibition on the night of the concert, which will feature the extensive artwork from the album and a selection of some of the best amateur interpretations of the songs.
By Lucy Jordan