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Oct 09th
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Metal Machine Music

music_PatMethenyPat Metheny’s robot band rocks the Civic
In the music documentary film Dig!, a member of the neo-psychedelic rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre comments that the group’s vocalist, Anton Newcombe, would love to be able to clone himself so as to be able to play all the instruments himself. Science might have a little way to go before such a scenario can be actualized, but the ever-inventive Pat Metheny, a pioneering jazz guitarist who’s won no less than 17 Grammy Awards in 12 different categories, has done the next best thing: He’s created the “New Orchestrion,” a device that uses the technology of solenoid switches and pneumatics to control instruments such as vibraphones, percussion, keyboards, glass jugs and a “guitar-bot” with four single-stringed necks. By commanding his robot army via a MIDI-equipped guitar and programmed computer sequences, Metheny has the enviable ability to be his own backup band. “For me, what is represented in this project is organic to my personal interests and is intrinsic to the fairly odd skill set that I have had to develop, not just with this project, but with everything I have had to do to be the kind of musician that I ended up being,” Metheny offers. “Knobs, wires, electricity, and all the rest are kind of part and parcel of the world I have lived in over the past 40 years or so—not unlike what reeds are to sax players and mouthpieces are to trumpet players. All of this, including computers and everything else, kind of makes up my instrument.”
The 55-year-old musician, whose New Orchestrion functions by way of devices created by such inventors as New York’s Eric Singer and California’s Ken Caulkins, says this project is simply the latest manifestation of his constant search for the possibilities that this sort of technology offers. “But again, this is a very personal thing for me,” he notes. “Most people have thought I was nuts all along the way for even trying to do something on this scale.”
Metheny’s latest undertaking is hardly his first groundbreaking musical endeavor: He’s credited with introducing alternate 12-string tunings to the jazz idiom, was one of the first jazz musicians to make extensive use of the Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer, and has turned heads with his custom-made Pikasso I, a 42-string, three-necked guitar created by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer.
Though the guitarist’s ambitions have led him into seemingly futuristic terrain this time around, his new creation actually has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when a large, player piano-like contraption called an “orchestrion” played various orchestral instruments by way of a large pinned cylinder or a perforated music roll.
In spite of the cutting-edge nature of the New Orchestrion venture, Metheny stresses, “Behind this or any other musical effort, the basic qualities of spirit, soul, feeling and, of course, a high level of content—harmonically, melodically and rhythmically—must be there, at least for me.” He adds that the use of the orchestrion still leaves plenty of room for spontaneity: A performance with his mechanical band can be “whatever I want it to be, from extremely detailed composition to 100 percent purely improvised and every shade in between at any time.”
Does Metheny notice a difference in his guitar playing when he’s being backed up by his cyber-selves? “Each setting offers different demands and challenges as well as opportunities to discover other aspects of music,” he states. “I always try to find something in each setting that gives me the chance to tell a story. The narrative, communicative aspect of music is endlessly fun and fascinating to me, and that pursuit is what everything I do revolves around.”

Pat Metheny plays at 8 p.m. Monday, April 26 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $68.25 Gold Circle or $47.25/  $36.75 general. For more information, call 420-5260 or go to
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Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


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