Self-Improvement Note:
Performance Art
25 June 2014

¶ At 3 Quarks Daily, Misha Lepetic makes a mildly jaw-dropping proposal: What if we accepted the fact that the world of recorded pop music has come and somehow gone, and learned once again how to read music and play instruments? The idea is embedded in a recent project by Beck.

However, there is another, more generous provocation that was offered by Beck in 2012. Beck, conjunction with McSweeney’s, released a new album, except he didn’t record a single note. Instead, he released 20 songs as sheet music, and invited everyone to create their own interpretation. You can view the results at Song Reader, the site set up to collect all these contributions. This may seem precious and retro, the kind of winking irony that would be at home in a snooty Williamsburg coffee shop. But this gesture is not dissimilar to the kind of “instruction art” that was refined by John Cage and Sol LeWitt, where the fundamental idea is that people can – and should – create the work for themselves.

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