Beck’s Song Reader at Sonos Studio

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Beck Song Reader Exhibition Opening At Sonos Studio
At the Sonos Studio (L-R) Jordan Bass, Beck and Jason Bentley. Photos: Jerod Harris/Getty Images (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Beck Hansen never stops thinking about music.

I know this because reason suggests that someone who continually challenges our perception of music is constantly recreating and challenging their perception. Thus, Beck Hansen is always thinking about music.

songreader_mockup_loresTake for example his latest project; a collection of 20 songs written by Beck that have never been recorded, choosing instead to have them live solely on paper as sheet music. Almost two albums full of work with new material form the Midnight Vulture himself.

Published by San Francisco based McSweeney’s, the “Song Reader” is a beautifully crafted book that harkens back to an era when households were full of people interpreting and playing the chart-topping hits of the day, instead of downloading and sharing them on twitter.

Sheet music isn’t a new concept by any means, but by stripping away everything and just presenting notes on paper, Beck is challenging us to rethink what music is in 2013.

Last week, a lucky group of people were on hand to witness Beck explain the reader itself and watch a chosen few artists perform their own interpretations. Held at the acoustically tuned Sonos Studio on La Brea in Mid-City, it was a kick-off for the exhibit which runs until March 24th (open to the public!)

There were two parts to the evening; a conversation with Beck and Jordan Bass of McSweeney’s moderated by Jason Bentley (with a very weird Q & A at the end to round out the eclecticism) and performances by three artists bringing the songs to life.

One of the artists chosen was the “fan winner”, a contest for people who had uploaded their interpretations of the Song Reader to a dedicated website for fans. The woman, Amy Regan had learned all 20 songs in about two weeks then put together a showcase in New York.  Her play on “Do We? We Do” was easily my highlight of the evening. There was also a great showing from End of America, playing “Please Leave a Light on When You Go“.

We all wondered if we would get to hear Beck play any of these songs live and after it became evident he wouldn’t, we wondered if we ever will. But for now the miracle of YouTube exists just for this reason. And maybe it’s not the family gathered around the piano in the parlor but you can still watch and get the feeling of creating and contribution.