Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Metheny's metal machine music

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Orchestrion fans — and they are legion — will all be flocking to Denver tonight to see Pat Metheny perform with his ridiculously massive custom-made version at the Paramount Theatre.

Actually, most of us are probably wondering what exactly an Orchestrion is. Especially popular in Germany during the 1920s, they were mechanical contraptions that consisted of a variety of instruments that would all play themselves, kind of like overgrown player piano.

The version Metheny is touring with is 25 feet long and 12 feet high; it incorporates “a large ensemble of acoustic instruments—including several pianos, drum kit, marimbas, ‘guitar-bots,’ dozens of percussion instruments and even cabinets of carefully tuned bottles.”

All of which sounds like a tour nightmare, equivalent to the monolithic ‘70s Mellotrons that became famous for falling apart on the road. And yes, a laptop and a couple of sequencers might have accomplished much the same thing, but it would have been a whole lot less impressive.

To find out more about Metheny’s current obsession — and hear it in action — check out last night’s intriguing 7-minute Metheny interview/demonstration on Public Radio International’s “Echoes” program. You can also click below for a quick video clip:

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