Originally Posted by rdclark
Probably bad form on my part, but I'm just going to paste my Amazon review of Pat Metheny's "Orchestrion Project" BD here:
5.0 out of 5 stars
Like Nothing You've Ever Seen,
October 11, 2012
By R. D. Clark (Wide awake on the edge of the world.) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Orchestrion Project [3D/Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Note: My review is based on viewing the Blu-ray Disc in 2D only; I have not seen it in 3D.
This is a fascinating and unusual performance, unlike anything else you've ever seen. For those who followed the progress of this project from its inception and hoped to see it thoroughly documented, it will be very satisfying.
Very briefly, the "Orchestrion" is an immense assemblage of mechanized musical instruments, largely custom designed and built specifically for this project by a number of different artisans in consultation with Metheny. These instruments are "played" in real time by a combination of computer-controlled scores and realtime control. In performance, the majority of the music (all composed and scored by Metheny) is played on the Orchestrion by a computer, while Metheny plays the guitar parts (and some other parts, remote-controlled from his MIDI guitar) live.
This disc, then, is a film of Metheny and the Orchestrion performing the same program seen on his 2010 concert tour, but it's not recorded live in concert. Instead, the rig was set up in a former church in Brooklyn (the same space where he had originally set it up to rehearse for the tour), in such a way as to put Metheny at the center of the sound while optimizing the Orchestrion visually for the camera.
Standing at the center of this amazing construct of tuned and untuned percussion, modified guitars and basses, a "wind organ," pianos, electronics, invented instruments -- dozens, hundreds of individual sound sources -- Pat performs each piece complete, with no audience but the cameras and crew. The performances are as they would be in concert, but knowing that re-takes were possible, he says, allowed him to "take chances," to give each piece everything he had, all informed by the experience of hundreds of live performances over the previous year.
The result is a unique document. The filmmakers never lose sight of Pat Metheny as the living soul and central performer, but as the program progresses you will get clear visuals of all the various mechanisms, instruments, and devices that are the Orchestrion in a way that was never possible at the concerts (even from the fourth row, as I can testify).
The 1080p video is framed at 1.66:1 (sometimes seen in European theatrical films, not sure why it was used here), so on a standard HD screen there are narrow vertical black bars at the sides. Quality is top notch, with well saturated color and very little grain. There are some stylistic choices that one might quibble with -- more hand-held camerawork than some might like; some overly dramatic lighting at times -- but these aren't quality issues. In general, throughout, you can see everything, and it remains visually interesting.
The lossless 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is spectacular. It's mixed as true surround, with instruments in every channel, and it's never less than perfectly clear, and perfectly balanced -- which is an incredible achievement given the number of sounds going on at once, the similarity of many of their timbres, and the unusual nature of some of them. Pat's guitar is always clear and centered but never overpowering.
There is also a PCM 2.0 track which I sampled to confirm that it seems to sound correct, but didn't listen to.
The program is divided into two parts. The first replicated the content of the original Orchestrion CD; the second, "bonus tracks," consists of pieces Metheny worked up for the concert tour, in which he works more interactively with the Orchestrion.
There are a number of excellent extras as well. Those that explain the project and how the film was made are so well done and informative that I might recommend they they be viewed first by people completely unfamiliar with the project. Others include two complete videos of the studio recording of pieces for the original CD -- and it's instructive to compare how those pieces have evolved between those versions and the "mature" ones performed in the finished film.
I understand that not everyone is a fan of this particular Pat Metheny project, for various reasons. Personally, I think Orchestrion accomplishes several goals. First, It showcases his talent as a composer, which he demonstrates by not just writing music for a collection of instruments that never before existed in the world, but also by actually causing those instruments to exist. Second, it's a unique context for listening to him play in a way that's very different from the way he plays with other musicians. Finally, especially in some of the improvisational pieces, it highlights a dimension of his genius that might have gone otherwise unnoticed: his ability to multithread musically, to hold more than one musical voice in his head at a time and to improvise between them. It's something you have to see and hear to understand, and something like Orchestrion is perhaps the only avenue for this sort of ability to be expressed.