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Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ

Peterson Bottle Organs - The Pat Metheny Orchestrion Project

Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
In the early months of 2009, the renowned jazz guitarist Pat Metheny contacted us with an interesting project. He was putting together a collection of automated acoustic instruments to serve as his band for an upcoming album and tour.
He explained that he had found piano, strings and percussion type instruments or at least he had found people to build them, but he also wanted a midi-compatible automated wind instrument which is less common.
We discussed the requirements and worked out a suitable design for a pair of Peterson Bottle Organs capable of withstanding the rigors of the road.

Peterson craftsmen Joe Farmer and Bill Bernahl chose cherrywood as the material for the two organ enclosures and both were carefully constructed. Both men were mindful that these instruments would need to be quickly set up for a concert and also rugged enough for the thousands of road miles involved in a world tour.

ATA hardware and microphone storage compartments were built-in, as well as quick access panels on the rear side for trouble-shooting, should the need arise.

Illumination panels for each bottle were installed in the floor of both bottle ranks in each organ, to give visual cues to the audience as to where the sound was coming from onstage.

Peterson Strobe Tuners - Peterson Bottle Organ BBO
Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ

Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Peterson Strobe Tuners - Peterson Bottle Organ BBO
The rear and internal areas of both organs were prepared, circuitry designed and constructed for the midi control and operation of the wind chest.
Provision was made for foreign voltages which the instruments would undoubtedly encounter in the course of their trek around the globe.

The individual nozzles for the bottles were constructed, this part of the operation is crucial and the many years of bottle organ manufacturing have afforded us a particular expertise.

The quality of voicing of a bottle organ is a combination of the bottles, the nozzles which blow air over them, air pressure and the tuning which determines the harmonic character of the instrument.

Great care and skill is required to balance these elements so that the optimum results are achieved.

Many of our previous Bottle Organs featured branded bottles (Guinness, Coors, Tito's, Leinenkugel etc.), however for this project we wanted to give the organs a different character, a mixture of the musical and the scientific, a cross between Dr. Phibes and Indiana Jones.

Bottles from a glassworks in Philadelphia were chosen and ordered after we tested them for harmonic content and suitability.

White was the color of choice for the tuning medium and extra quantities were prepared and put in storage in case any emergency should occur later during the tour. Peterson has been involved in servicing the concert touring industry for decades and these precautions are routine.

Having fitted everything in its place, the cherrywood enclosures were stripped and stained a rich deep tone.

Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Peterson Strobe Tuners - Peterson Bottle Organ BBO
Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
While the enclosures were in the finishing stages, the transport cases had to be designed and made. Each organ needed to have its own ATA case with an additional heavily insulated case for the bottles.
We had to arrange it so that one or both organs were compact enough to fit through narrow backstage corridors and could quickly and easily be set up according to the stage dimensions at any given venue.
The organs were then finally assembled and the bottles arranged in specially designed guide fixtures.

After this, the final tuning was carried out by the Peterson Strobe Tuners staff and a celeste tuning was applied whereby a slight variation causes the sound of the singing bottles to oscillate slowly giving a chorus effect when both organs are played together.

Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
Then came the day when the Orchestrion Project Bottle Organs took their first trek across the country to the recording studio.
Our part was done and the album which became Pat Metheny's Orchestrion would begin.
As the recording progressed, we would hear from Pat Metheny occasionally, and were delighted to hear that the Peterson Bottle Organs had exceeded his expectations.
Orchestrion by Pat Metheny is now on sale and Pat and his band of musical bots and bottles are currently on tour in the US, check them out at www.patmetheny.com!

Peterson Strobe Tuners - BBO Peterson Bottle organ
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