Books and Music at the Heart of Independent Publishing

Beck to perform Song Reader Live at the Barbican with Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton and more

May 16, 2013 | by Faber Social

Tags: Beck, Events, Franz Ferdinand, Jarvis Cocker, Song Reader

A stellar-line up of artists including Beck, Jarvis Cocker, Franz Ferdinand, Beth Orton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joan As Police Woman, Conor J O’Brien (Villagers), Michael Kiwanuka, The Staves, The Guillemots, Pictish Trail and James Yorkston bring Beck’s critically acclaimed catalogue of sheet music to life.

In association with The Barbican and Glenn Max Events, Faber Social brings together an eclectic mix of high profile musicians for a very special night of live music, in which they perform Beck Hansen’s unique publishing project Song Reader.

The line-up includes:

Beck himself
Pulp frontman, Faber Editor-At-Large and solo artist Jarvis Cocker
Glasgow’s finest Franz Ferdinand
Singer-songwriter Beth Orton
French icon Charlotte Gainsbourg
Joan Wasser aka Joan As Police Woman
Villagers front man Conor J O’Brien
Acoustic indie trio The Staves
Indie mavericks The Guillemots
Soul stylist Michael Kiwanuka
Singer-songwriters James Yorkston and The Pictish Trail

With more guests to be announced. At the heart of the evening will be a specially-assembled house band featuring Seb Rochford (drums), Tom Herbert (bass), Dave Okumu (guitar), with music direction by Ed Harcourt and David Coulter.

Beck has always been one of music’s great pioneers and Song Reader is an experiment in what an album might look like in the digital age: 20 songs, including two instrumentals, existing only as a book of individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded. The songs are meant to come to life in a new golden age of home performance, leaving the listener, essentially, to be the performer. Current interpretations can be found here.


Song Reader

Ten years in the making, Faber published Song Reader at the end of last year, and it comes complete with full-colour, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and, where necessary, ukulele notation). Beautifully illustrated by Marcel Dzama, Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische and others, Song Reader was designed by Beck with the help of McSweeney’s Publishing Company in San Francisco.

Beck says: “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 re-imagine the chord structure, take liberties with the melodies, the phrasing, even the lyrics themselves. There are no rules in interpretation.”

In the lead up to, and at the event, The Barbican and Faber Social will celebrate the life of Beck’s Song Reader so far, with an exhibition of the artwork and a presentation of a selection of some the very best amateur interpretations of the songs.


Barbican in association with Faber Social and Glenn Max Events presents Beck: Song Reader Live, Thursday 4 July 2013, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall. Tickets Now on Sale.

Tickets are on sale now from the Barbican website.

In the meantime, take a look at our Song Reader event at Rough Trade in December 2012, featuring Carl Barat, Ed Harcourt, Steve Mason, Stealing Sheep and Leila Moss.