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Beck’s ‘Song Reader’ Fan Interpretations Posted Online

Michael Kovac,Getty Images

Earlier this year, when Beck announced plans to release his ‘Song Reader’ book, which features sheet music for 20 songs he wrote but hasn’t recorded, he hoped other musicians would take on the challenge of piecing together the tunes and maybe even try recording them. Now that ‘Reader’ is out — it hit shelves earlier this month — some musicians are doing just that, and Beck has started a website,, which features videos of various musicians — most of them amateurs — trying their hand at interpreting the songs.

The recordings featured on aren’t the only versions out there. Recently, Full Sail University, a for-profit college located in Winter Park, Fla., invited several local artists and bands to record songs from ‘Song Reader,’ and the school has since posted the results on YouTube. Bands such as Andy Matchett & the Minks, Beef Wellington, the New Lows and Franchise took part in the project.

And it hasn’t just been amateur and local musicians interpreting ‘Song Reader’ jams. Singer Stephin Merritt of veteran indie act Magnetic Fields took on a tune titled ‘Old Shanghai’ during a recent performance on WNYC radio in New York City, bringing some of his own distinct style by performing a stripped-down version on a toy piano that was sitting on an off-kilter tambourine. Scroll down below and fast forward to the 10:30 mark to check it out — or start the at clip at the beginning to hear Beck talking about the project.

“It’s something that was part of what brought people together,” Beck tells the AP, recalling the era of the ’20s and ’30s when families would sit around a pianist playing off sheet music and sing along. “Playing music in the home is another aspect of that that’s been lost. I’m not on a campaign to get people to take up songs and play music in their home or anything. But it is interesting to me, the loss of that, what it means.”

Listen to Stephen Merritt’s ‘Old Shanghai’ (At the 10:30 Mark)

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