Beck’s Song Reader: Open to Interpretation

Interview

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beck Beck (Gina Ribisi)

Beck has always been an unpredictable musician: from the folk-rock of Mellow Gold, to the digital sounds of Odelay, to the raucous funk of Midnite Vultures. But for his latest project, there’s no music at all — unless you want to make some yourself.

Song Reader, published by McSweeney’s, is a collection of sheet music. It contains 20 individually printed songs, each one presented with its own distinct artwork. Beck hopes that fans (especially those who play instruments) will learn the songs and share interpretations online via sites like YouTube and SoundCloud. “The more far out, the better,” Beck tells Kurt Andersen. "I really feel like the sheet music versions are a rough sketch of what it could be."

Taking liberties with the music of such an established songwriter may seem ill-advised to purists. But Beck says some of his most commercially successful work has come out of experimentation. “I’ve rarely gone into the studio thinking about the bigger picture. It’s very much whatever’s happening in the moment,” he tells Kurt. “For me, being in the studio is like a laboratory." Although the odd element may not have immediate use, "maybe it does feed into something down the line."

Beck attributes much of his success to low expectations and autonomy: “As a solo artist, I had that agency to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted."

Studio 360 put together a band to rock Song Reader's "Saint Dude" — and Kurt plays it for the composer himself. “Very triumphant,” Beck calls the 360 rendition. Although he admits he had a more pensive take in mind when writing the song, Beck says he’s happy to hear the changes. "That's one of the aspects of this project — to hear your own songs back in different ways that you hadn't expected or thought possible."
(Listen to more of 360's covers below.)

 

Video: Kurt Andersen & radio friends perform "Saint Dude"

The Band:
John DeLore (Studio 360) – lead vocals, guitar
Rob Christiansen (WNYC) – lead guitar, vocals
Dylan Keefe (Radiolab) – bass, vocals
Jason Isaac (WNYC) – drums
John Schaefer (Soundcheck) – acoustic guitar, vocals
David Garland (Spinning on Air) – clarinet, feedback guitar, vocals
Kurt Andersen (Studio 360) – glockenspiel
Aya Kato – piano

The Saint Dude Choir:
Brooke Gladstone (On the Media); Soterios Johnson (Morning Edition); Terrance McKnight (WQXR); Irene Trudel (Soundcheck); Jenny Lawton, Leital Molad, and Michele Siegel (Studio 360)

Video by Amy Pearl
Recorded and mixed by John DeLore

 

More tracks from our Song Reader:

    Music Playlist
  1. Saint Dude
    Composer: Beck
    Artist: John DeLore & the Three Six Oh’s
  2. Hell Yes
    Artist: Beck
    Album: Guero
    Label: Geffen
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. The New Pollution
    Artist: Beck
    Album: Odelay
    Label: Geffen
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Sweet Leilani
    Artist: Bing Crosby
    Album: Blue Hawaii
    Label: GRP Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Where It's At
    Artist: Beck
    Album: Odelay
    Label: Geffen
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Lost Cause
    Artist: Beck
    Album: Sea Change
    Label: Geffen
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. Debra
    Artist: Beck
    Album: Midnite Vultures
    Label: Geffen
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Loser
    Artist: Beck
    Album: Mellow Gold
    Label: Geffen
    Purchase: Amazon

Guests:

Beck Hansen

Produced by:

John DeLore and Sean Rameswaram

Comments [4]

Russ from Birmingham

Very well done segment. Makes me wonder: Who gave us Tommy, Floyd gave us Wall. With all of his talent and tools, when will Beck give us his opus? Just sayin'...and hopin'...

Dec. 23 2012 07:33 AM
Patric Shaw from Brooklyn, new york

love it! Brilliant!

Dec. 19 2012 10:00 AM
Mike from Newark, De

Very nice ! Good version. would love it if we could buy that on itunes ;-)

Dec. 19 2012 07:16 AM
pastor pete

john delore is god on earth

Dec. 18 2012 01:34 AM

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