Orchestrion (Nonesuch Records, 2010)
Pat Metheny is an outstanding musical innovator and guitarist, who is always exploring new ideas, blending contemporary jazz with world music, classical and electronic elements. His latest project, titled is Orchestrion, seems to belong in a Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam fantasy world. Orchestrion is an idea that was conceived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The project consist of a large mechanical multi-instrument device that utilizes actual orchestral instruments of various types, called an “Orchestrion.”
Pat Metheny takes advantage of today’s technology and he has created his own Orchestrion, which includes a large ensemble of acoustic instruments: several pianos, drum kit, marimbas, “guitar-bots,” dozens of percussion instruments and even cabinets of carefully tuned bottles. Metheny worked for months with a brilliant team of scientists and engineers to develop and assemble the “New Orchestrion” for this project.
Metheny controls the entire orchestra through his guitar. With his signature guitar sound and the Orchestrion, Metheny has composed five mesmerizing new original pieces. “As the instruments started to trickle in from the various inventors,” Metheny says, “the experience of writing for them and figuring out what might be possible with them provided a self-imposed challenge that proved to be difficult and time-consuming, but absolutely exhilarating. I am excited to share this project. If nothing else, this has turned out to be something unique.
And in the process of developing all this music and these instruments and discovering what they can do and what they are good at, I learned so much. It feels like progress and has gotten some notes out of me that I didn’t know were there. But the surprise was just how far I was able to go with it all. Within this new environment, I found something in there that took me to some new places.”
Orchestrion is an impressive and beautiful album by one of the United States’ most important musicians.
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