Doug Opel

Mar 11, 2013

The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble's Project Beck

I'm excited to have been invited to take part in The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble's PROJECT BECK. As the title suggests, the premise of this venture originates with artist, musician and songwriter Beck who has opted for the rather novel approach of putting out his most recent album "Song Reader" in sheet music form only! Jody Rosen best describes the premise in her introduction to this music: "Beck Hansen has been thinking about sheet music, off and on, for much of his life. As a child in Los Angeles, he picked through song sheets at the public library and in thrift stores. Years later, when reading notated transcription of his own records, his thoughts turned back to song sheets. What, he wondered, would it be like to make a whole album-as-sheet-music? He began writing new songs that he thought would translate to the old medium. It was an experiment in ventriloquism: a chance to throw off the mantle of singer-songwriter, to channel the voice of an earlier age, to merge his own singular songwriting accent with that of the tunesmiths of yore. It was an exploration of a cultural role that pop had left behind, when professional songwriters and music amateurs engaged in an intimate conversation. The challenge was to write songs that could travel: songs durable and pliable enough to stand up to multiple interpretations, songs that could go out into the world on printed pages, be gathered up by the audience, taken into their homes and lives, and turned into music. The result is "Song Reader, a new Beck album, and a trip back to pop's primordial past." Hop on the web and you'll find that even though Beck only released "Songer Reader" in December of 2012, artists and musicians from all disciplines and walks of life have jumped on the bandwagon, amassing a body of interpretations to these 20 songs that continues to grow. The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble has joined the ranks but with a wonderful approach of their own. From ACE's website: "ACE has assembled a list of 20 of the most influential American composers of this generation, and each of them has agreed to arrange one of Becks new songs for our ensemble. They will use the sheet music, the lyrics, and the songs artwork as a jumping off point for their creation, and the end result will be an incredibly unique performance (and recording) of this album; a menagerie of sound worlds, inspired by the music of Beck Hansen. This project will connect the rock music and classical music worlds in two ways. First, classical art composers are being asked to use the music of a Rock Star to serve as inspiration for their compositions and will only have access to instruments in our classical ensemble. Secondly, Beck fans who know and love his music will be introduced to the creativity of contemporary composers as they experience these classical covers of the music they love." My contribution to this project is an arrangement of "Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings". I had a lot of fun putting it together, indulging in quite a bit of stylistic play and utilizing a lot of non-classical techniques. This gig was so enjoyable, not only for the challenge of necessarily thinking differently about creative approach and process, but for the genuine enthusiasm and professionalism I have encountered from ACE and its members throughout. Thanks so much ACE!