It’s the time of year for saving money!
By now, you have hopefully heard about — and possibly even seen the live tour of — Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion Project. This is the amazing interactive robot-assisted physical creation that takes the concept of a player piano into the stratosphere. One part automaton miracle…one part futuristic MIDI-controlled computer music making innovation… one part antique player piano, Orchestrion s Pat Metheny’s utterly wonderful and fabulously indulgent stretching the imits of using modern digital technologies in a live, improvisational setting. Last year a Blu-ray slipped out from Pat about this amazing work and it seems any people I know missed it, not to mention even understand it conceptually.
So, let’s take a step back for a moment. Have you’ve ever been to one of those “Pizza ‘n Pipes” type restaurants? You know, one of those places where they rip apart an old time movie theater pipe organ and then set it up in a pizza parlor, placing all the inner workings and accompaniment instruments (like percussion ‘n bells ‘n stuff) all around the restaurant for all to see and watch while the organist plays. It is really quite entertaining and mesmerizing if you can find one that is still open…
Beyond that, the next most amazing robotic type performance artist I ever saw is a guy from here in the San Francisco Bay Area (who I actually played a show with once, btw) who goes by the name of Captured by Robots. He developed his concept after being so disgusted with trying to form a band and dealing with flakey musicians so he built “robots” he could control (Drumbot, Guitarbot) and then built a stage show around them. They are pretty amazing to watch, even if you didn’t like the music they make — inevitably their show is a whole bunch of fun.
Back to Pat, Metheny has taken this concept into the 21st century in a very musical manner, largely inspired by original Orchestrions from the turn of the prior century. For the Blu-ray, at the end of the tour he set up his Orchestrion in a Brooklyn church-cum-studio for a high definition video shoot of the performance, directed and produced by Pierre and Francois Lamoureaux. This live-in-studio film features beautiful production values making it (if you will pardon the cliche) a wonder of of sight and sound. All that would be for naught if the music was bad but Pat Metheny comes through with the goods including the spectacular “Orchestrion Suite” which has melodies and magic on par with many of his past classics.
This Blu-ray is a hybrid 3D/2D disc; I don’t have 3D TV so I can’t comment on it but I can only imagine this would look pretty amazing in 3D! As it stands, the 2D 1080p video looks amazing, with remarkably crisp definition on all the multitude of instruments in the room and lovely dynamic lighting that creates a perfect mood. The lossless Dolby TrueHD surround mix (which I think is 96 kHz/24-bit but haven’t been able to confirm) places you in the room with Metheny for a fully immersive experience up to 7.1 channels. I have a 5.1 system at present, but even listening to it in LPCM Stereo, the mix was lush and enveloping with occasional percussion, piano tinkles and bells leaping out of the speakers in a remarkably 3D manner.
Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion Project is an essential disc to own. ‘Nuff said.
Nice to see you review a Blu-ray music release. One correction; Dolby TruHD is un-compressed. Thats not the same as lossless, which is one generation older, designed by Bob Stewart at Meridian in the early 00’s, known in the trade as Meridian Lossless Packing. MLP is compressed 2 to 1. TruHD and MasterHD are uncompressed bit for bit identical to the studio master, with higher dynamic range than any previous audio format in history.
Thanks for the kind words Bob. FYI, Dolby itself uses the phrase lossless in describing its technology: “Dolby® TrueHD is a 100 percent lossless audio format that ensures you’ll experience movies and music that are identical to the studio masters, soundstage mixes, or concert recordings.” http://goo.gl/26YWp But “lossless” is a relative term because if the original master was made in a lossy manner, then the final sound track will be limited to what that master. So if something was made at, say, CD quality, 44.1 kHz and 16 bit, it will sound good but it could have sounded a whole lot better if they had captured more information going in, at even say, 48/24. Tom Petty’s Mojo is a great example of that — the Blu-ray audio only disc of that album sounds amazing and it is listed at 48/24 (same with the recent Led Zeppelin Celebration Day concert. Thus I put in the caveat above about being uncertain as to whether Orchestrion was made at 96/24 (or 88/24 or 48/24). At the end of the day the bottom line is whether the artist’s surround production sounds good and in the case of Orchestrion it is wonderful. Oh, for the record, I was the external publicist for DTS for 8 years and worked on the roll out of DTS HD Master Audio. I am no longer working with them however. http://www.smotroff.com
I don’t have any opinion or expertise about Dolby, or as I hear in “Spinal Tap” last night, “Dobbly.” But what really baffles me is how this historic, groundbreaking experiment in musical tech landed on such deaf ears and barren imaginations. There’s not a discussion about how this was accomplished, or even a fretful gripe session about how this might someday make live musicians obsolete. (My own, sole regret over the Orchestrion is that it appears to make the Pat Metheny Group obsolete– will Pat ever tour with eight musicians again? Not to mention … WHERE”S LYLE?) I’m glad the reviewer appreciated Metheny’s magic show. I was lucky to see it twice, in two countries. One last thought– given this work, and all Pat has done to devise and develop alternative guitars, including fretless nylon-strong electric/acoustic, sitar, synth and the incredible Pikasso, I’d propose that he’s become the Les Paul of our time, and then some.