Good grief. I am gobsmacked. My gob has seldom, if ever, been so soundly smacked.
I am a really big fan of Pat Metheny, guitar player, composer and good all-round working genius. You may not care for his music, you may not even be aware of him – he’s not everyone’s cup of
Darjeeling, to be sure, and much of his work
falls between categories in a way which some people find uncomfortable. That’s
all OK – I would like to direct your attention to The Orchestrion.
I was aware of his Orchestrion Project, which he has been working on for a while. In addition to his work with his own (and other) groups, he has done a number of solo albums in recent years – including film soundtracks, which involved a lot of multirecording. I don’t know enough about it to attempt to explain exactly why the Orchestrion concept came up, but he appears to have become seriously interested in (obsessed with?) the idea of building a monster music-playing machine – a big robot thingy which plays lots of real instruments. I guess it is computer controlled, but the instruments are real things made of wood and brass and stuff. It now exists – he even does concerts with it.
What a brilliant thing to do – look at it! What a fantastic, mind-blowing, overgrown kid’s fantasy. Imagine just being in the room with it – wow. Metheny must be up there as a serious nomination for Loony of the Century So Far, certainly in the sub-category Musical Loony. I am mightily impressed – but it’s more than the technical ingenuity or the quality of the kit, it’s the in-your-face, over-the-top scale of the thing. In the heart of every small boy worth his salt, there must always have been the seeds of this kind of crazy dream. It’s a wild extrapolation of all those wonderful old fairground organs and polyphons that have always fascinated me. God bless anyone who has the ability and the resources to make such a thing manifest, and the more pointless – and expensive – the better.
Of course I would like to have a shot on it, and of course it would take me about five minutes to realise that programming it must be a colossal chore – I imagine Pat has a crew who help him with it. But just look at it – and see if it puts a stupid grin on your face, as it does on mine.