Beck’s new album will be 108 pages long. The singer-songwriter has announced that his hotly anticipated 11th LP will not be issued on CD, vinyl or MP3 but as sheet music, which other musicians can play for themselves.
Beck Hansen’s Song Reader will comprise 20 full-colour booklets, each setting out a different new song. “[These songs], including two instrumental, are as exciting as you’d expect from their author,” said publisher Faber and Faber. “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 reader.”
The “lavishly produced” collection incorporates 20 booklets, a hardcover case, an introduction by critic Jody Rosen, and illustrations by artists such as Marcel Dzama and Leanne Shapton. Beck also wrote a foreword. As for recorded versions of the music, McSweeney’s, Song Reader’s American publisher, will host renditions by Beck’s friends and fans on their website.
“Beck is one of the great maverick pop stars of this, or any age, and as soon as I saw Song Reader the relevance of the concept struck me,” said Lee Brackstone, Faber’s publishing director. “[The book] makes a radical statement about the value and importance of performed and recorded music at a time when these very things are under threat.”
While this is the first time a major pop act has issued an album purely as sheet music, other musicians have experimented with similar ideas. Two notable releases happened in 2008: Alkaline Trio and Deerhoof both issues singles as downloadable scores.