News, Commentary on Classical Music, Jazz, Theater, Dance & More
Nov 30, 2013 02:35 PM EST | Louise Burton
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Beck hosted a recent concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, devoted to a performance of songs from his sheet-music album, Song Reader. Celebrities including Jarvis Cocker, Jack Black, Anne Hathaway and Jenny Lewis performed their own unique versions of songs from the 2012 album. Beck's father, the composer and arranger David Campbell, led the L.A. Phil.
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Beck's unusual album features 20 of his songs in folio form only. The "album," which is really more of a songbook, can be accessed at songreader.net. Beck invites visitors to download his songs, record their own versions and then share these recordings on his website.
Beck's November 24 concert in Los Angeles was the most recent in a series of Song Reader shows he has hosted in other cities. A highlight of this show was Anne Hathaway and Jenny Lewis singing a duet of Beck's "Last Night You Were a Dream" from Song Reader:
Beck worked on the Song Reader album for a total of eight years. "This book was much more challenging than any other record I've made," the singer told Pitchfork writer Ryan Dombal, "and it took a lot more time and energy to complete than if I would've recorded it as an album."
The songs on the album range from dance numbers to patriotic songs to somber ballads. According to Dombal, Beck released these songs as sheet music because he wanted to capture the spirit of late 19th and early 20th century popular music--when music was often distributed in the form of songbooks. "Back then, if you wanted to hear a new song, you often had to play it yourself, or find somebody else who could," Dombal writes.
During the Song Reader show, Beck also gave a preview of music from his upcoming album, Morning Phase, which will be released in standard album format in February 2014. Here, he debuts "Wave" with the L.A. Philharmonic.
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