Release Date: Feb 12, 2013
Record label: Nonesuch
The "Orchestrion" was a 19th century hybrid musical instrument that usually contained a wind orchestra, various percussion instruments, and sometimes a piano played by a pinned cylinder or a music roll. Pat Metheny designed and played his own version of one -- thanks to a commissioned group of inventors, advanced solenoid switch technology, and pneumatics -- on the 2010 album Orchestrion. The guitarist's version combined organic instruments -- various pianos, basses, rows of tuned bottles, bells, cymbals, and other percussion, with digital technology -- guitarbots (including one modeled on Paolo Angeli's guitar), switches, and more.
The orchestrion is a mechanical orchestra, dating back to the early 19th century, which Metheny has reinvented for the digital age. From his guitar, he controls a vast assemblage of musical odds and ends, from pianos to rows of tuned bottles. It is still essentially an acoustic instrument, with the physicality and textures of the real thing. Unlikely as it seems, the music that emerges from this contraption is strangely haunting – antique and jangly, yet at the same time fresh, elegant and surprising.
A pale live release, recommended for the hardcore only. Peter Marsh 2013 Pat Metheny has been working with the Orchestrion for some while now, along with a team of technicians, instrument makers and programmers. It's an automated orchestra, controllable from Metheny’s guitar, allowing him a degree of autocracy he probably couldn't get otherwise. The Orchestrion is comprised of custom-made or modified instruments played by an assortment of computer-controlled hammers, magnets, beaters, bellows and so on.