Beck’s newest album is nothing like what you’re used to and yet exactly as advertised. There’s no CD in the box and you won’t find it on iTunes because the twenty songs that make up this collection are sheet music only. If you want to hear Song Reader you’ll have to play it yourself (or befriend some musicians.)

We quite like this experiment. It harkens to a time when all music was communicated visually and reading and playing (unless you’re Mozart) was a required skill. Although rarely mentioned outside musical circles, there’s a visual aesthetic to music. In the same way typography adds a feeling to the text, musical notation communicates something about the music.

Another fascinating aspect to this experiment is that this will be an album entirely of covers. Beck has made no indication that he’ll be recording a version of Song Reader so every song you hear from it will be an interpretation of an artist playing. Beck has provided everything and nothing – simultaneously all the notes and a blank canvas.

Song Reader is being published by the famed McSweeney’s and is available for pre-order now. You can download one of the songs (in sheet music form of course) from, check out some of the renditions already recorded, and post your own (maybe recorded in Sound Shapes?.. jk)