Without a sound

Song Reader

Want to hear Beck's latest project? You'll have to work for it. In Song Reader (McSweeney's, $34), Beck composed new tunes and compiled them into a hardbound book of notated sheet music. The project was inspired by his interest in the once-popular medium—the sheet music for Bing Crosby's “Sweet Leilani” reportedly sold 54 million copies in 1937. “Nearly half the country had bought the sheet music … and had presumably gone through the trouble of learning to play it,” Beck writes. Musicians who play by ear shouldn't despair: Song Reader also includes a guide to symbols and notations. Meanwhile, the rest of us must either take music lessons to hear Beck's latest work—or at least wait for our more talented friends to do the work for us.