The orchestrion is a fairly old instrument, going back to the mid-19th-century. Pat Metheny and the mad scientists at the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots have teamed up to create a 21st century version of an orchestrion.
I’ve spent the past few days listening to Metheny’s new CD, Orchestrion. If you’ve been following his work for the past few years, it’s no big surprise musically or harmonically: lush diatonic harmonies and sweetly melodic improvisations. What makes this disc so special, though, is his interaction with a robot ensemble, one which is completely controlled or programmed by Metheny. There is a surprising richness and warmth in these robot-played instruments that one does not find in MIDI accompaniments, and if you like Metheny’s music or you’re interested in seeing/hearing a mechanical instrument out of Jules Verne’s wildest dreams, do pick up the CD or catch Metheny and company on the road with this.
Lots of demos and explanations on Metheny’s web site.