Eagle Rock Entertainment // 2012 // 173 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 12th, 2012
Giving new meaning to a "one-man band."
I'm not going to pretend to be a Pat Metheny aficionado. The only thing I knew about this celebrated guitarist is that he had scored the film A Map of the World, a soundtrack that I treasure and listen to with much frequency. It's an ethereal, guitar driven music score that has an almost dream like quality to it. When I saw that Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project was up for review, I was excited to sit and down and see what else this composer had up his sleeve. What I didn't expect was Metheny to utilize an instrument that is more associated with carnivals the 1800s.
Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project is just what it sounds like: Metheny building up this amazing "machine" that makes music, along with Methany accompanying it. For those who haven't heard of an orchestrion, you've most certainly seen one in real life or on TV; many old time salon reproductions have featured these machines, usually playing piano (sans a real life player). It's basically music created by a machine (and programmed by a human). Some are simple, like the piano, and others can be richly complex, much like the machine used in Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project.
The concert -- filmed at a former church in Brooklyn in 2010 -- is Metheny playing his guitar while an orchestrion machine plays in the background. The jazz infused music is solid but the final product sometimes sounds a bit hollow; music played by a machine (even if created by a person) can come off as sounding soulless. This is why we mourn when our favorite musicians pass away; there's something in a human's lips and fingertips that can't be replicated by the cogs in a machine.
I found Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project to be far more interesting than entertaining. While the music itself is slickly professional and well-crafted, it's the intricacy and dedication that went into making this album and concert DVD that is truly impressive. Metheny commissioned builders to create the machine for him, and it's truly a marvel to behold. Directors Pierre and Francois Lamoureux (multiple music videos, including Stray Cats: Ruble in Brixton) offer up a simple, direct documentation of Metheny at work. Fans of the guitarist or of slightly offbeat music are encouraged to check this out.
Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and looks good. The concert itself isn't anything grand; it's essentially Metheny playing guitar while sharing a space with the large Orchestrion machine. Colors and black levels look solid and bold without any edge enhancement or defects marring the transfer. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. This is an exceptional sound mix that envelopes the viewer (or at least those with a home theater) from all sides. Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project sounds great. Also included is a PCM stereo mix in English.
A second disc is included and contains a few featurettes on the making of the concert ("Making of the Orchestrion Project", "Original EPK", "Studio Sessions: Orechestrion / Expanison"), an interview with Pat Metheny, and four bonus songs ("Improvisation #1", "80/81 -- Broadway Blues", "Tell Her You Saw Me", and "Antonia").
An intriguing musical curio.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 173 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Songs