Just Noise: A Concert Recording Session for Beck’s Song Reader


Great news! I am hosting (and playing a number) in this unique event tomorrow night at the Brick Theater!

Preparing for this event has been a hugely rewarding experience. In case you haven’t heard, Beck (Hansen) released his most recent album ONLY in sheet music form, just as used to be done in the days of, well, vaudeville (and before radio and recordings eventually let the air out of the sheet music business in the middle of the last century). While gramophones started to impinge early in the 20th century, prior to that (and for many years overlapping) music for the most part was live, either played by families themselves in their own parlors, or performed by professionals in theaters. Song-writing went hand-in-hand then with INTERPRETATION. There was no such thing as one, definitive recorded version of any song.

The electronic media for decades has been operating in a reverse direction: they hand these recordings down like tablets from Sinai and then brainwash the public with repeated playings until the song and the recorded version are one and the same. It’s all very top down, all very directed from above, and frankly even sort of Fascist! “The corporate state has ONE authorized version of this song! No deviation will be tolerated”. For someone who cares a great deal about the folkish in art, it is worrisome. At its bottom, it is intolerant, and it stifles art, locks it up in a straightjacket. It’s about conformity.

It’s too much to expect it to be a trend that will be followed henceforth throughout the industry, but on this particular occasion, Beck has done a beautiful thing, and I discovered its power quite by accident. Assigned one of the songs to sing, I duly downloaded the sheet music and began to learn it. The chords are easy but I’m a slow   reader of notes on staves – – I can do it, but it’s slow going. As a crutch, I use recordings. So I went to Youtube…and there found scores of versions of the song in question, professionals and amateurs all throughout the country all doing their own versions of the same song. Going through them, playing everyone’s version was a beautiful, moving thing. There’s just a wonderful populist feeling of “Music is for everybody” – – a celebration of the common man that the modern music business with its concentration on the ideal and perfection doesn’t tolerate.

Frankly, that’s what my musical philosophy is about. I have been holding my tongue throughout the Les Miserables debates — but I thought Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway were just great. I thought their performances were moving. I’ve always detested American Idol with it’s rotten, mean-spirited ethic of throwing human beings overboard in pursuit of the ONE singer who is “the best”. How is it different from Donald Trump‘s marvelous philosophy of “You’re fired”? I believe in embracing the different and the unique — that’s what America is about. Antiseptic ideals and intolerance of imperfection are what Nazi Germany and the Soviet Russia were about. You really can’t tell me any different (uh, and please don’t try). “This machine,” wrote Woody Guthrie on his guitar, “kills Fascists”. The aesthetic is political.

That said, we’re doing a concert tomorrow night at the Brick. This concert will be recorded and uploaded to Beck’s site, www.songreader.net.
“These songs are meant to be pulled apart and reshaped. The idea of them being played by choirs, brass bands, string ensembles, anything outside of traditional rock-band constructs—it’s interesting because it’s outside of where my songs normally exist. I thought a lot about making these songs playable and approachable, but still musically interesting. I think some of the best covers will reimagine the chord structure, take liberties with the melodies, the phrasing, even the lyrics themselves. There are no rules in interpretation.”  — Beck Hansen

I’ll be hosting and doing a number and joined by a bunch of awesomely kooky, theatrical, musical friends including:

Pendulum Swings!

Killy Dwyer!


Bathtub Jen & the Henchmen!

Deacon Bishop Revival!

Bobby Oahu & His New Year’s Regret!

and also:  Gyda Arber (the organizer of the evening), Maria Dessena, The Expendabelles,  The  Andres Quintero with Adam Hecht and Meg Dudley, The Roly Polys, Steve Sabaugh, The Starr Kendall Experiment, Three Door Mall, Alexis Thomason, Tux & Tom Productions, and Ben Williams

Just Noise:
A Concert Recording Session for Beck’s Song Reader
Audiences are invited.
Tickets will be free.

January 11th, 10:30pm

Brick Theater, 579 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn

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