You'll need something to play the new Beck album on (and a stereo won't do the trick...)

The singer's latest work is out on sheet music only, 'to enlist the listener in the tone of every track'

For some music fans, digital MP3 files aren't a patch on old-fashioned vinyl. But now the singer-songwriter Beck is delving further into the past by releasing an album solely as sheet music.

Song Reader, the latest release by the artist who defined the mid-90s "slacker" era with Loser, will comprise 20 individual song booklets, containing lyrics and musical notation for instruments including the ukulele.

The songs themselves have not previously been released, or even recorded, by Beck Hansen.

How are Beck's fans expected to hear songs such as "Do We? We Do" and "Don't Act Like Your Heart Isn't Hard"? "Bringing them to life depends on you," argues the singer, whose latest release will be presented in an elaborate hard-cover carrying case and illustrated with designs by a dozen artists.

Published by McSweeney's, a San Francisco house noted for its lavishly packaged books and support for new writers, Beck's Song Reader "is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012", according to a post on the Los Angeles-based musician's website announcing the project.

Beck's album is "an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that's as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together". Renditions of the songs by fans and "select musicians" will be featured online.

Instead of being released by a traditional record company, Song Reader will be published in Britain in December by Faber and Faber and sold for £18.99. Beck's reversion to sheet music harks back to the days when a song's popularity was judged from sales of its manuscript.

The music industry was dominated by sheet-music publishers in the 19th century. The development of the gramophone and the rise of recorded music led to the sheet-music chart being replaced by a tally of physical record sales.

With downloading now failing to offset the decline in physical sales, artists hope to entice their committed fanbase with high-value "special edition" versions of their albums.

Blur, who used to include sheet music notation in their CD inner sleeves, last week released a 13-disc vinyl box encompassing all seven of their studio albums plus live DVDs and rarities, which is being sold for £150.

Lee Brackstone, publishing director at Faber, said: "Song Reader makes a radical statement about the value and importance of performed and recorded music at a time when these very things are under threat." He believes Beck, an artist who mixes folk and hip-hop and will also release an audio remix album with composer Philip Glass, is offering a new future for the traditional album.

He said: "Tracks are leaked – intentionally, legally, and unintentionally – and the idea of an album as a unifying statement about a band's style, future direction and present gnostic preoccupations are long consigned to the dustbin of history.

"There are multiple ironies about a pre-analogue project arriving in digital form, but Beck is an artist who has always embraced contrary impulses. He is at once folk troubadour and cut-up po-mo enthusiast. He is artist as chameleon: one of the few remaining global rock stars who glows with untouchability, about whom you are expected to hold an opinion – good or bad."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor