Today, Beck penned an article for The New Yorker introducing his upcoming sheet music album Beck Hansen's Song Reader, which is out in December via McSweeney's. He outlined his thoughts about releasing a series of songs that have to be played the old fashioned way. (Read the entire thing here.)
On the book as an object:
"Writing the songs included here, I began to wonder: How do you ask people to take the time to learn to play them? Part of the answer involves acknowledging that some people won’t be interested in making that leap. We’ve attempted to make a book that’s able to stand alone as an object, aside from the music. Traditional album releases can have a self-contained value in their physicality; the photos and art and titles can draw you in before you ever hear the songs. This is a book that takes inspiration from that feeling. The art, the ads, and the other text hopefully convey something all by themselves."
On the Song Reader songwriting process:
"The songs I would write for one of my own records began to seem less appropriate than songs written in a broader style. At times, I struggled against my own writing instincts—where was the line between the simplistic and the universal, the cliché and the enduring? Classic songs can transcend and transform a cliché, magnifying a well-trodden phrase or sentiment and making it into something elemental. But often that approach descends into banality and platitudes. My appreciation for the ability of songwriters to avoid those pitfalls drove a lot of the writing here; still, I have little idea whether any of these songs managed to find that line. In the right hands, maybe they’ll be able to come a little closer to it."
Below, watch a bunch of New Yorker cartoonists and staffers perform the Song Reader track "Old Shanghai".