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Beck's Next Album "Song Reader" Will Just Be the Sheet Music

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You've got from now until early December to learn how to read and/or play music if you're planning on taking L.A. musician Beck's next album for a spin. That's because Beck is going so retro, he's not eschewing the download for vinyl, he's going all the way back to basics: sheet music.

Beck's "Song Reader," which is available for pre-order today, is something you're going to have to play for yourself, literally.

Like the L.A. Times Pop & Hiss blog, we've got some questions about the December 7 release. Here are theirs:

How to present the work on its release date? Will Beck commission musicians? Will he pre-release any copies so that on that Tuesday artists across the world will participate in the performance of the music? Will YouTube explode with personal renditions? Do any pop musicians even know how to read music anymore?
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We wonder: Will this work?

Beck hasn't had a major presence on the music scene recently (though we loved his little boy getting down on stage with his pop at a May performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl), so it's quite the gamble to release an album of songs that can't be played on iTunes or the radio.

The musician does have a cult appeal and a strong fan base, from which the fan-created versions of the 20 tunes will likely emerge, "some of which will be featured on the McSweeney’s website in the future," notes Laughing Squid.

Of course, it could play out as a quirky, creative, boutique success--a sort of nouveau performance art. Speaking of art, Pop & Hiss notes that for the album "Beck has commissioned artists including Marcel Dzama, Leanne Shapton, Jessica Hische and others to design covers for the individual songs." The album itself--the collection of sheet music--is being published by McSweeney's, and the site is now taking pre-orders. It will run you $34, though a few signed copies are available for $50.