Robot Band Gives Us So Much To Make Fun Of

[Pat Metheny] has a robot armada backing him up when he performs on stage. They’re going on tour and he’s done an interview explaining his mechanical band. Like the auto-drummer, this setup uses multitudes of solenoids to play the percussion instruments, each getting commands from a computer. It’s pretty wicked to see him use his guitar as a marimba controller; it’s so responsive that he can tremolo and the solenoid follows in kind.

But there’s a lot more going on here. We love to see crazy facial hair from time-to-time, but this guy’s just got crazy hair! This easy listening isn’t exactly hair-band material but more like live-action Animusic. It’s also reminiscent of the automated orchestras at House on the Rock, an attraction you may remember reading about in American Gods. It’s fun to kid, but whether you like the music or not, he’s certainly talented when it comes to this genre.

[Thanks Grey]

14 thoughts on “Robot Band Gives Us So Much To Make Fun Of

  1. Man he’s really coming a long way with that. I wish there were more explanation and credit given to the guy behind the automation (Metheny likely has creative input, but there’s a hidden guru in there somewhere).

    We’ve heard how good a performance the new “player” pianos are capable of. This newest generation of orchestrion is simply amazing, and there’s probably nothing close to it outside Metheny’s room there. You gotta love that such a capable musician was enamored with automation enough to get this kind of thing done and showcase it.

    HAD investigative reporters would do well to dig deep into this story and expose the genius behind the nuts & bolts of those instruments. Who made them and how? I’d love to learn about that. The solution behind what is probably analog audio input and converting it into MIDI (?) signals almost instantaneously would be quite interesting in itself.

    Probably something really cool in every nook & cranny of that room. I want to see more !!!

  2. The guitar has two cables coming out of it. Now, one could be an XLR for a internal mic, but my guess is MIDI. The pickup under his right hand does not look stock, and there are several MIDI capable pickups on the market now.

    As for the geniuses behind it, that would be LEMUR: HAD featured them last year when they built a robotic guitar like device:

    For other odd robotic music makers, check out the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition next month. Should prove interesting.

  3. I’d also like to see every detail of this project.

    MIDI guitar is typically too sloppy to map any decent player, but he really seems to have it worked out. This would have been far easier for a keyboard player, but a finesse player like Pat can work around the varying milliseconds of delay that are surely happening with some instruments more than others.

    Not only is every instrument wired into the grid with solenoids, but it’s all likely professionally mic’d up… and then add some pro recording gear…. mmmmm. I can only imagine how much money and time went into that room.

    It’s the ultimate room for the musician who’s sick of working with other musicians. lol

  4. I’m listening to Metheny’s music for many years. Sometimes it’s a little strange, but most of the time I’ve got some feelings for his music (but I can understand that something like that is very personal).

    This is just an awesome creation.

  5. Metheny has been using MIDI for years…vintage MIDI at that. In the three times I’ve seen him, there was no sloppiness at all. I am sure he has a tech modify the pickups or converter to make it work better than it did originally. I have played a MIDI guitar from the very early 80s that used piezo elements and it tracked better than anything Roland or Yamaha ever came out with. Even followed pitch bends and vibrato correctly. Wish I cold remember what make it was.

  6. It’s great that humans have the intelligence to create such things, but it’s got very little to do with “music”. Yet another machine to put creative musicians out of work. Pat can dink around with his sequencer all day long to get a drum part just right, and then it’s saved forever. He can step on stage and hit the play button, but there’s no music “creation” going on. No improvisation. Perhaps he just stick some solenoids on his guitar and be done with live performances. Send his robot out to do the gigs. I wonder if he’s read Vonnegut’s “Player Piano”.

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