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Editorial Reviews

Grammy Award-winning composer-guitarist Pat Metheny s Orchestrion may turn out to be his most talked-about, argued-over undertaking. It s already his most adventurous. With Orchestrion, Metheny redefines the concept of the solo album. He is indeed the only live musician on this recording, but it s the opposite of, say, his 2003 One Quiet Night, in which Metheny hunkered down in his home studio to explore all the musical possibilities of one new guitar. Here he works with an extraordinary set-up of acoustic instruments, assembled for him by a visionary team of inventors. What they have created in collaboration with Metheny is a veritable made-to-order solenoid orchestra that includes, among other things, bass, pianos, percussion, marimbas, guitar-bots, and a mellifluous cabinet of carefully tuned bottles. Using one-of-a-kind software programs and solenoid switches, Metheny controls each instrument via his guitar and an array of pedals.

Orchestrion was influenced by the primitive but evocative player-piano technology of yesteryear that has fascinated Metheny since he was a child. The player piano inspired inventors of that age to create the orchestrion, a large mechanical multi-instrument device that imitated the sound of an orchestra. Metheny brings this concept into the 21st century, composing and playing five ambitious pieces with his tailor-made, sophisticated, musically dynamic ensemble. Orchestrionics is what Metheny calls this new method of performing. The resulting album, recorded in midtown Manhattan s MSR studio after months of experimentation at home, is a marvel of the digital era, yet the record sounds beautifully, stirringly, human. In other words, timeless.

To witness Metheny improvising on guitar while surrounded by these instruments, digitally triggered to play the scores that Metheny has painstakingly written for each of them, is indeed a wonder. Eager fans have already made sell-outs of the first dates of Metheny s Orchestrion tour. But hearing is truly believing: there is not a single note on Orchestrion that sounds mechanical, and some tracks, like Expansion, have a thrillingly improvisational feel to them.

Metheny has gone into uncharted territory: every day in the studio with these instruments was a revelation as he began to comprehend what they were capable of musically and, more importantly, what he himself could achieve in their presence. They were not a substitute for the interaction of other players and this does not signal a shift from Metheny s other collaborative ventures. In fact, Metheny most recently proved his love for ensemble playing with his 2008 tour-de-force trio release, Day Trip.

Orchestrion is all about innovation. As Metheny puts it, This experience so far has provided me with a self-imposed challenge that has proven to be enormously difficult and time-consuming, but the early results have been absolutely exhilarating. I am excited to share this project... I am hopeful and confident that if nothing else, this will be something truly unique. It feels like progress to me and has gotten some notes out of me that I didn't know were there. That is always a good thing.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 26, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B002U33GTW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,050 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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71 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 28, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've got tickets for Pat's Orchestrion tour in May and I'm bringing my son who is 11 and just starting out his young percussion life. I can't wait to introduce him to one of the finer things in life: i.e. Pat Metheny's Music.

Do I wish he was touring with his band? Yes. Lyle Mays and rest of the crew. I would give anything for a chance to introduce my son to that very rare treat - live especially.

After listening to the Orchestrion CD for the first time, will this be worth it? I think so. I give Pat credit for trying something like this. What the heck: a multi-Grammy winner can step out a little bit I think. I agree with some of the other reviewers that it's definitely Pat, albeit 'mechanized mallet percussion Pat'. But it's okay. It's a project that's close to him and I can imagine the experience of seeing this setup live will be quite original and fun!

The CD is not going to shock and awe you. It's solid Pat Metheny - right on the money in terms of harmonics, improvisations, tonalities, and substance; he's attempting something different here in terms of instrumental backup. I'm giving Pat a 'Hall Pass' on this one. It's decent work!! Go for it Pat!!

There are many like me who slip a Pat Metheny CD into their player while driving to work (or wherever) and are instantly transported back to some of the finer times in their lives. I'm sure I share this sentiment with many, many other people. For this I can't thank Pat (Lyle and various other contributing artists) enough. Pat has laid the background track for many of our lives and it's been a good one. The vibrations have always been filled with inspiration, order, spirit, compassion, kindness, expression, and dare I say Loving Hope. And for the opportunity to let my son feel even a single bit of this, now through this Orchestrion effort, well so be it - I am thankful.

Thanks Pat for another chapter!!! Keep it going man!!!! You make me believe in things I can't see...
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By zargb5 on February 9, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I won't go into any detail about the actual orchestrion itself. Other reviewers have done that very well and there are many links on youtube and Mr Metheny's website which explain and show how it works. Make no mistake though the orchestrion is a major progressive development technologically over the older versions and the player piano.

The orchestrion sounds uncannily like a group of musicians (that is how convincing this new invention is) It does sound somewhat different to Pat's varying ensembles but there are complex interactions going on on the macro scale as well as the micro scale of the music.
In a sense this is a kind of follow up to the old album 'new Chautauqua' On that album pat tried to use the studio as an instrument with overdubbed guitars etc to build up the songs. On that album probably due to the technology available and restricted studio time he came away with a very listenable album whose sparseness was highly appealing. On Orchestrion he is afforded a broader, richer pallette to work from and 20 odd years more musical experience.

The Orchestrion is a machine which has been humanised (or gives the illusion of such) It is a very tight but flexible sounding 'ensemble'all under the control of Mr Metheny.

I felt a little underwhelmed on first listen but several plays later this album really begins to grow in the memory. There are a lot of very complex things going on in this music, structurally, rhythmically and melodically & Pat plays some wonderful melodic solos over all of this.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lavern Ferguson on January 26, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I gave this album 4 stars because I can't get past the notion of the majority of the instruments not being performed by humans. But in my heart I give it 5 stars because of the compositions and Metheny's deft execution. As a chemical engineer in an oil refinery, I see solenoid technology employed on a daily basis and what Metheny has done here is nothing short of remarkable. "Orchestrion" is a brilliant example of what music is and its possibilities.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By N. Robbins on April 15, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I got home from a live performance by Pat Metheny with his "Orchestrion" contraption tonight (at 1:49AM last night technically), and have to report inspiration, a new sense for what it means to be truly creative, playful, disciplined and talented, humble and graceful. The album is great, but you got to see this live if you can. He performed pieces from this album and other favorites from the past, and most importantly improvised for us. He did a spectacular Ornette Coleman sort of improv, and built a piece of music incrementally, from scratch, on the spot before our eyes. It was magic! Absolute magic! The album captures my imagination even more having seen the concert.

In a time when so many artists use digital instruments and techniques, this childlike fantasy-turned-reality creates an incredible warmth, poetry, and nostalgia. The scale at first seemed overwhelming, and then as the evening went on it evolved into something completely intimate and homegrown. There is a spectacular, very American touch of mid-western surrealism in the whole project. It's a creativity that comes from a familiar interior place, and is illuminating. I greatly look forward to the future this direction may lead. What heart!
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Can't wait
I agree with you Hee, this should be a pretty interesting album, been a fan for about 20 years, I was a teenager (14) when I first heard Last Train Home, been a fan since, Can't wait!!!!
Dec 3, 2009 by Shawn S. |  See all 2 posts
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