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Pat Metheny's 'Musical Quest' Far From Over

After recording dozens of albums with hundreds of musicians and winning 20 Grammy awards, you might think guitarist Pat Metheny has settled on a particular path he wants to take musically. But over the course of an almost 40 year recording career, he appears to be anything but settled, and his projects seem to be constantly evolving. Pat Metheny performs Friday night in Charlotte.

Kevin: Is it fair to say that you are on a never-ending quest for something musically?

Metheny: You’re not the first person to describe it that way. I mean it’s that fine line between, you know, quest and mental illness. I certainly am very devoted and dedicated to trying to understand music in a way that I think is very personal to me in the way that I have sort of developed as a musician over a pretty long period of time now. But at the same time I hope that there is a kind of identity to it.

Kevin: You’re about to head out on a massive tour. Has performing live changed for you over the years?

Metheny: To me, playing live is in fact the destination. I think there is a certain sense for some musicians that the whole point of going out on the road is to get people to buy the record. That was never the case for me even when people did buy records. To me, the point is to play. The thing of making records in the earlier days was if you made a record, then it was like that person was well-known enough that some record company hired them and they got to make a record. So maybe when you show up in Peoria, some people will come. But for me, the thing of getting to play in Peoria was always the goal. You know? To get the chance to play everywhere, all over the world. That’s what I really wanted to do. As the times have changed, it’s really about the touring.

Kevin: A few years back, you took on what I think was one of the more unique projects in music I’ve ever heard of called Orchestrion. Can you describe the Orchestrion project?

Metheny: I’ve been trying to describe it for five years now, and still nobody has any idea of what I’m talking about. My grandfather had a player piano in his basement up in Wisconsin. And I was kind of obsessed with this player piano. I thought it was just the coolest thing I have ever seen. It was kind of like Jules Verne, but it seemed very modern to me to be able to do all of this stuff on its own. I’ve kind of retained a lifelong interest in this world of mechanical music. So for me, I thought why hasn’t somebody looked at this through the prism of modern technology – writing music that is kind of modern kind of music – using this as kind of the output device. So I found five great inventor guys around the world. I knew this guy was doing things with pneumatics, and I knew this guy was doing this with solenoids. So I commissioned them to do a bunch of stuff for me, and I did this Orchestrion project.


So we did a record…me and dozens and dozens of mechanical instruments which I was controlling from the guitar. It ended up not only working, but it was actually quite interesting. I’ve since brought it into a few other projects.

Pat Metheny will be performing Friday night at Knight Theater in Charlotte at 8 o’clock. His latest album from the Pat Metheny Unity Group is called Kin (ß à).