Hear Beck’s Song Reader Songbook Performed by the Portland Cello Project

Beck Hansen is the ulti­mate musi­cal changeling. His career has tak­en him from ear­ly anti-folk begin­nings to the lo-fi col­lage art of his major label debut Mel­low Gold.  He has per­fect­ed tongue-in-cheek white-boy funk on Mid­nite Vul­tures and sad sack coun­try trou­ba­dourism on Sea Change. His mas­tery of gen­res and styles and abil­i­ty to shift from rev­er­ent homage to irrev­er­ent par­o­dy on a dime is per­haps matched only by the sad­ly now-defunct Ween. But with his lat­est release, Song Read­er, Beck leaps out of the ranks of pop chameleon and into that of the Amer­i­can Com­pos­er.  In per­haps the great­est exper­i­ment in retro musi­cal crowd­sourc­ing, Beck released his last album as a book of sheet music—20 songs in all, with lyrics—and asked the fans them­selves to arrange, play, sing, and record the songs.

Plen­ty of peo­ple have tak­en up the chal­lenge. A col­lec­tion of Song Read­er interpretations—from sim­ple acoustic gui­tar treat­ments to lush piano-and-strings arrangements—is avail­able here (each with accom­pa­ny­ing videos). Most recent­ly, an ensem­ble called the Port­land Cel­lo Project has tak­en on Beck’s “album,” enlist­ing the tal­ents of a hand­ful of vocal­ists. In the video above, watch the cel­lists per­form “Title of this Song” with Lizzy Elli­son at Portland’s Aladdin The­ater. You can hear the full record­ing of the Port­land Cel­lo Project’s Song Read­er below, and lis­ten to Beck explain the gen­e­sis of Song Read­er on NPR’s “All Things Con­sid­ered” here.

via NPR

Josh Jones is a writer and schol­ar cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion on land­scape, lit­er­a­ture, and labor.

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