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Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project

Pat Metheny’s setup for his Orchestrion tour looked like a cross between a ransacked orchestra pit and an elaborate stage show from the excessive ’70s. For those late to the game, the Orchestrion is based on the elaborate, century-old contraptions of the same name that functioned like player pianos, reading music on a roll of paper that triggered different instruments. Metheny worked with a modernized version of it on his 2010 Orchestrion album, a five-part suite that combined his guitar with an array of pianos, marimba, blown bottles, guitarbots and “custom-fabricated acoustic mechanical instruments.”

The Orchestrion Project is the soundtrack to a film made in the vacant Brooklyn church where Metheny rehearsed with his machines. He recorded it following the tour in support of the original album, interspersing the entire suite with versions of a few Metheny standards, a brief Ornette Coleman tune and two improvisations. The latter two tracks are especially significant, as they prove this music does not have to sound mechanical, but can be quite lively and expressive.

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