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Crowdsourcing the Beck songbook

In an NPR interview with Jacki Lydon, songwriter Beck explores the changes when he released not a new album but a collection of new sheet music. The songs live a different sort of life, less isolated within the private realm of the composer or expert, with more input from those usually thought of as the audience:

BECK: You know, when you write a song and you put out a record, it’s kind of, you know, sending a message in a bottle. It’s kind of a lonely activity. You don’t really get a lot of feedback. This is a way of sending that song out. You just get literally thousands of bottles sent back to you. So it’s interesting that way to me. It’s a completely different way of, you know, relating to one of your songs.

The former audience accepts the invitation to participate on their own terms:

BECK: You know, I think when I was putting the arrangements together, I mean, I was really trying to make the songs stylistically as transparent as possible so somebody could do a kind of Beatles version of that or, you know, they could do something more folky or blues, like that. You know, hopefully, the songs can be taken in different directions and, you know, people will take liberties with them.

And the songs become richer as they are recreated, adding value even for the original artist, the expert:

BECK: Well, I think that era’s songwriters, I mean, – they constructed their songs. They were architects of a certain kind of song that was meant for many people to play, you know? And that was something that I think I learned in this project. You know, like that last song you played me, there was a – there were a few things melodically that aren’t in the original song that I thought were better than what was in the song, you know? And I think that as I hear these versions back to me, and I think I’ll probably learn a lot about my songwriting or kind of open me up to possibilities that I hadn’t really thought of.

(Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, 12/29/12)

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