In one of today's more interesting release decisions, Beck
has opted to make his new album, Song Reader
, only available as sheet music. Which means you have two options: learn how to read music by the time the album drops in December OR make friends with somebody who already can. The 20-song album will be released on Beck's new label, McSweeney, and will feature custom artwork for each song, a personal forward from the artist, and ukulele notations when necessary. Select interpretations of the songs, performed by readers and choice musicians, will be made available on McSweeney's website
So, what's the rationale behind such a complex decision — and one that will ultimately exclude many from hearing the new work? McSweeney weighs in: "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."
Granted, today's industry has grown increasingly over-saturated with material, and in an effort to keep up with the latest and greatest, releases are not always given the attention to detail they truly deserve. In a way, maybe we should applaud this back-to-basics move Beck has chosen, but at the same time, who's to say that understanding how to read music deems you any more careful — or worthy — of a listener? Is it right for an artist to make his material available only to those who can decode it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.