One Man (not) Banned
August 21, 2009 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Jazz phenom/guitarist Pat Metheny is re-inventing the Orchestrion, using a team of engineers and all the gizmos they can hook together, to create the ultimate one-man-live-performance-band.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the advent of the phonograph, radio, or other means of mechanically recording and reproducing music, a number of Orchestrions of various sophistication were built, extending the idea of the paper roll controlled player piano, to a whole orchestra's instrumentation. Because of their mechanical complexity and cost, they never caught on as commercial products (except at the cheaper end of the scale, as extended player pianos), but many survive and continue to delight listeners.

But Metheny is thinking anew about the "one man band" from a performance aspect:
"Postscript -

I have realized by now that as much as I can describe this project, even the people closest to me have had no idea what I was talking about until they have actually heard the music and had an encounter with it all in action. So, even having written all of the above, I know for sure that you still have to experience it yourself to really know what it is. "
In 2010, he plans to release a new CD on the project, and bring it out on the road.
posted by paulsc (16 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
reminds me a bit of the trons...a group of entities that are all set to go skynet on the music world...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:44 PM on August 21, 2009

While you wait for them to be done, go to YouTube and watch State Shirt, Jonny Wright, or any other other folks doing live one-man band performances with echoplexes or loopstations or whatever.
posted by davejay at 2:01 AM on August 22, 2009

Cool, and coincedentally Pat is playing on the telly in front of me right now with Jim Hall, but just a regular guitar.
posted by caddis at 6:21 AM on August 22, 2009

I have no idea what this project is going to be like, but I have to say, I really REALLY liked Metheny's This Way Up album. I'd never heard a blending of rock, jazz, and minimalism executed quite like that before, and even now, having not listened to it for quite some time, I find the theme rattling around in my head as I type. Brilliant album, great stuff. It seems Metheny is transcending his own self at this point in his career, and I applaud him for it.
posted by hippybear at 7:13 AM on August 22, 2009

davejay: I also do solo looping performances, but there's a big difference - from Mr. Metheny's site:

Yet, at the same time, as much as I have been enthusiastic about the orchestrational potentials of synths and electric instruments in general, and even as those instruments have improved enormously and continue to develop, the whole idea of jamming a whole bunch of combined sounds into a single set of stereo speakers has never been as satisfying to me as a single instrument into a single discrete amplification system (electric guitar) or especially, the power of acoustic instruments and sound.

The energy of sounds mixing acoustically in the air is something that cannot be compared with anything else.

It appears that all the sound will be mechanically, physically generated. That's a big difference!

Quite a few musicians in my extended circle are already doing this: Zemi17's Gamelatron, Eric Singer's LEMUR.

However, this doesn't mean it's not a potentially top-of-the-line idea. It's certainly a stretch for a jazz musician...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:28 AM on August 22, 2009

this post really should have more tags. how about patmetheny, jazz, guitar, robotorchestra?
posted by hippybear at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2009

I can't think of anybody better than Pat Metheny to pull off something like this. (Bobby McFerrin, maybe equally.) Good post. Thanks.
posted by cribcage at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2009

"... Quite a few musicians in my extended circle are already doing this: Zemi17's Gamelatron, Eric Singer's LEMUR. ..."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:28 AM on August 22

Singer's LEMUR is actually building a number of the modular instruments for Metheny, as well as creating some of the MIDI controls. Some pictures of these devices are available from the fourth link of my post, along with some comments from one of Singer's interns, Joe Saavedra, who is actually building them.
posted by paulsc at 11:09 AM on August 22, 2009

This is so exciting! Thanks!
posted by giraffe at 11:42 AM on August 22, 2009

What about interplay ?
posted by nicolin at 1:04 PM on August 22, 2009

"What about interplay ?"
posted by nicolin at 4:04 PM on August 22

I think seeing what Metheny does in performance, to develop as a live show, is bound to be interesting, and I can see a couple of avenues. First, is a kind of temporal interplay with himself, using the abilities of his MIDI control systems to record and playback, exactly, any given performance. That allows show.Metheny(20) to be contrasted against an earlier show.Metheny(5), such that the development of the work through time even becomes the work itself (strange loop), or builds and expands to greater complexities. That would really be Metheny interplaying with earlier versions of himself and his robotic ensemble. Another kind of interplay, is to bring the audience into the performance, by riffing off the reactions he gets as he demonstrates the capabilities of this new Orchestrion.

In these, or any other cases of possible interplay, I think Metheny has a real opportunity to avoid becoming the kind of human jukebox so many touring musicians are expected to be, by their ticket buying concert customers. And I think that's a big part of the excitement of this project for him.
posted by paulsc at 1:39 PM on August 22, 2009

Automated music is as old as the music box. What needs to happen here for genuine new-ness and not just another gaudy toy is interaction. If Pat can kick or punch something to get the drummer to do a fill or make the organ solo get funky, he stands a chance of creating a real-time performance instead of a ridiculously expensive live-action CD.

The problem with that is the interface. One-man bands are notorious short on nuance, because the performer is too busy keeping the whole menage in flight to put any soul into it. This is the case whether the "band" is a clown with a rubber nose on one end and a bass drum on the other or a guy in a lounge with twenty grand in MIDI kit tucked under his keyboard. Sooner or later, usually sooner, multi-instrumentalism by whatever name becomes a parlor trick, not an art. When the novelty wears off, it's all over.
posted by tspae at 1:43 PM on August 22, 2009

Hopefully it has Thunderclap 14, or maybe Wolf Howl 5.

This seems very cool. I have a midi based accordion, and I keep wanting to find ways of organizing it such that I can play a bog-standard guitar&drum song on it, but never get around to it. Hopefully he manages to get some neat works out of it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:04 PM on August 22, 2009

I agree with Pat Metheny.
posted by redsparkler at 10:07 PM on August 22, 2009

This kind of thing always reminds me of "Pipe Dreams" from AniMusic.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2009

Uhm, yeah...okay.

Using MIDI to trigger pre-set sequences isn't the same as live looping...I have faith that Metheny won't fall for the karaoke approach...but I'll wait until my eyes and ears experience to decide whether this is everything is touted to be.

Looping live from Laramie,

Best to you all!
posted by aldus_manutius at 9:45 AM on August 23, 2009

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