Just a quick update on my next talks:

1) Seacon 2010, HH, June 28

Pecha Kucha "The Why and How of Kanban"

2) it-agile, Munich, July 2, Opening Unconference
Pecha Kucha "Unsere reise ins agile Land"

3) Lean, Agile & Scrum, Zurich, September 7
"Enterprise Kanban at", Session 45 minutes, together w/ Stefan Roock
I am quite proud on this one: Second time I'm talking in the context of the Poppendieck's, Henrik Knieberg is there and it's a very small and very high quality conference.

4) Lean & Kanban 2010, Antwerp, September 23 - 24
"Enterprise Kanban at" 
I am  - again - very proud to be part of this, have a look at the program: David Anderson (unfortunately in parallel to me, Al Shalloway, John Seddon, again the Poppendiecks, Karl Scotland etc - blush!)

Additionally, I am currently submitting talks for:
LESS 2010, October 17-20, Helsinki, Finland
XP-Days Germany 2010 (one on my own, one with Roman Pichler, one with Bernd Schiffer)
OOP 2011 (as above)

Lean Pasta Manufacturing - at Famiglia Martelli in Lari (Toscana)


This time I want to talk a little about pasta. And how to produce pasta in a lean way. But in a very personal, traditional and - yes - strange way too.

Actually about one month ago, we wanted to have a family vacation on Sardinia. But Eyjafjallajökull , that in the beginning seemed to be a bad joke we wouldn't have to fear, after some time became a real threat and finally the killer to that plan. So instead we improvised for Tuscany.  Out of several coincidences we ended up in the small and beautiful village of Lari.

Größere Kartenansicht

In Lari, we lived at a beautiful agriculture that I can only recommend: Il Frutetto, a quiet, peaceful place where Fabio and Tatiana produce exquisite olive oil and some wine. They can not sell too much of it to each family though, as they have only little capacities which need to last for the full year. We are sad already that we do not have too much of the wine left. Olive oil will last for another 6 months, but then what ...?

Anyway, the Frutetto brought me closer to the very traditional craftsmanship of the whole of Tuscany. You do not see a lot of supermarkets there and although it is obviously getting harder to withstand the market pressure of large chains and brands, the Tuscany has impressively held up small stores, small agricultures etc. It is a total different quality of living: You know where the meet, the cheese, the fruits come from - if you want to. And you can taste that!

Soon we were invited to visit the pasta manufactory of the Martelli family in Lari. And now I am getting closer to the point: Following the Tuscany tradition, this family has business objectives that completely differ from anything I have seen and experienced in any of the companies I have yet worked: This business does not want to grow. Rather than that, they want to stand out for all times as the best pasta makers delivering the highest quality ready made pasta available. They don't even want to get that much more efficient until now, as the whole staff consists of family members. (Who knows, maybe one day they get tired of doing that and they will have external staff and everything changes. But to this day, the business feeds the two families of the brothers Martelli).

This leads to interesting effects, as at all the places I have seen lean efforts, it was about savings and lead time optimizations etc. So lean was completely driven by getting faster and quicker and lowering inventory as a proxy for savings by still having quality in place.

The (not so) secret behind the Martelli pasta (and the business model) is that the pasta is produced very slowly on a ca. 50 years old machine and then veery slowly dried at a certain temperature (it is terribly hot in there). So with your whole product drying for 50 hours come to me and talk about reducing WiP!

Another secret ingredient is that the pasta is relatively rough, thus better taking up any sauce that comes with it - this is a feature that is especially liked by the Maitre's of the world as it helps amplify any subtle touch of your sauce.

The Martelli's only sell their pasta in 1 kg packets rather than in 500gr. I forgot the number, but it goes along the line of: What the Martelli's produce in one day, Barilla produces in 5 minutes (whatever).

I guarantee to you that there is no obvious optimization that came to my mind when I looked at the production place. Any further optimization would have compromized the quality and thus the business concept of the Martelli's. Any stupid excel geek would tell them: Let the machines run faster, only dry your pasta for 20 hours and is still good enough. But no, the Martelli's don't buy that. They rather keep their process and win one pasta "championship" after the other and are one of the most sought after pastas of the world.

I hope this will go on for a long time. Why this so interesting to me is because the business goals are so different. And this leads to an example which makes Don Reinertsen's approach to PD much clearer to me, again: There are no rules and no lean rules. There are several dimensions to look at your problem and domain and then come up with the suitable solution rather than a recipe: Large WiP must not be bad or waste - here it even is your secret ingredient for quality.

But again: Don't use this exception as an excuse for your "unnecessary" WiP! This is different to most environments but again: It explains that you have to take a closer look beyond the "common" rules - they might not always fit you.

I can only recommend to have a look at Don Reinertsen's (minboggling!) talk on some common fallacies which goes by the great title of "The easy road to FLOW goes through a town called LEAN".

Have fun!

P.S.: Oh, I forgot to mention why the business model works: The price of the pasta has increased from 0,80 EUR to 3,30 EUR in about 10 years. And that's if you buy in Lari. if you buy anywhere else, the pasta is sold at prices up to more than 10,00 EUR. The quality does pay off - if you do not plan to grow!

Roman Pichler's new book on agile Product Management

Roman Pichler published a small but brilliant practical book focusing on agile Product Management with Scrum. Of course, it is focusing on the Product Owner's tasks. This is a welcome counter weight to the predominant developer and Scrum Master focused literature out there on the Scrum market.

Instead of reviewing it and repeating myself here, I simply link to the amazon product pages including my reviews in German and English.

There are lots of books out there where the author just offers a looong list of options, still leaving a confused reader. Not so with this book.

It really is a small, focused and focused book worth every cent. There is another good book out there on product management, which I find to be too general. If you are living in an agile environment, this is your choice!

Apples Constraint Based Product Politics leads to money going to small guys

Actually, I can not understand the whirl around Apples current product politics. Edit: In fact, the way it turns out right now, I think it's more stupidly following the techie vs. business blueprint of "I wanna play" vs.  "I wanna make money" (where in this case the latter can be seen as "I wanna define my product strategy based on a unique usability concept (which some may like but others not) but which is my USP and I'm gonna defend that USP"). Interesting enough most ramblings I see from the tech community are not concerned at all with that USP (which belongs to Apple btw) but with their very own personal freedom of choice of their beloved tools. There are even completely ridiculous comparisons on that, e.g have a look at the following blog ran with a certain twitter fame, calles "Steve Jobs has just gone mad" (but respect due for the great title of the posting):

"Developers are not free to use any tools to help them. If there is some tool that converts some Pascal or, Ruby, or Java into Objective-C it is out of bounds, because then the code is not "originally" written in C. This is akin to telling people what kind of desk people sit at when they write software for the iPhone. Or perhaps what kind of music they listen to. Or what kind of clothes they should be wearing. This is *INSANE*."

Well, there's many things to say about this humble passage. First of all, let's say Apple will really be so strict and enforce this rule (they will sure do that against the flash write once run everywhere thing). What's wrong with that? You don't like it - you don't develop for their platform but for - let's say - Android, because that's just so open as you like it to be, except there's no serious working way do develop a cool application besides Java. But ok, that's not a lock on paper :-) If you think Android is much more open than that, just look at what has to say. It's all about java. No complaint to be heard.

Then again, Apple chooses to define a platform supported by them to support their own product with their very own USP which is so unique that is alone ensures them their margins. So, to me it makes sense that they cover and protect the business and the (tremendous) investments they made on the platform to be sure that the platform just stays what it is. High quality, high usability, unique etc. And of course they are doing everything that is undermining the uniqueness of that platform, e.g. the Adobe write once run everywhere attitude which is, of course, out of a completely different business model the complete opposite of what Apple wants on their platform.

But the most hilarious part is when this all is compared to telling a developer on which desk to sit (heh?), what music to hear (OMG), or what to wear? My goodness, Apple being strict in defining it's product platform is like telling me what music to hear? This is so far off, that this comparison alone could be  disqualifying everything else. (Even if I like Tim O'Reilly's idea and open letter that Apple should come back to the former mode of open communication and involvement in the community.

But the main point: Why should anyone be in a position to tell Apple what is best for their product? 
At least, there are some sportsman out there. I really liked this posting regarding hacking the devices! 
To me it seems, Apple is applying constraints to realize the following properties for applications on it's mobile devices:
  • Great Usability
  • Same Usability patterns across all applications
  • A certain quality
  • Performance
So, the overarching goal is to achieve a unified, seemless and good usability and performance across all possible applications on their platform.

You may share those objectives or not. But if you share them you have to be honest in admitting that this is the major selling point for these devices for the masses. (Thats why my wife likes those devices, that's why I even dare to think of my mother using an iPad). More than that, this product philosophy (again: like it or not) leads to certain people buying other Apple products after getting hooked on an iPhone. Like lots of people bought MacBooks after having the first real good mp3-player experience in their life with any product from the iPod family.

It's easy to see that such a well defined and user centered product philosophy pays of well for apple. And it doesn't because they want to do evil. It does because people are happy with the devices they buy. Which should be one major target for any product company. Are you happy with your Dell? You may not kill yourself over it, but: Are you happy? I myself die a little death each and every day I have to open my Dell which is provided by my employer!

I can very well understand why Apple is banning Flash from the iPhone. If you don't understand, visit me and listen to the fan of my 3 1/2 yr. old MacBook whenever I open a site with flash on any modern browser. It's killing me. It's killing me for each small little animation where I think - good god, why did they need to use flash for that little silly thing. Is it appropriate to shoot with flash when all you want is some glue to quickly hack some nifty little gadgets together? For simply showing a video? Edit: So - yes  - basically one has to say that Adobe screwed itself.

I can also understand that Apple is limiting the way how applications are developed for these platforms with their limitations, because they worked hard on constraining the developer tools to be able to develop something with high quality for the platform. And this is actually the art that was performed in developing the mobile platforms of Apple - to create so much power on these little devices by bringing up so many possibilities but also lots of perfect little constraints so that the developer can not kill the good experience on that platform.

So, what Adobe and other platforms are planning with their write once run everywhere philosophy is quite the contrary: No matter what your device looks like and what constraints i has - just develop one application. Why should Apple, given their product philosophy, be so stupid and allow such a thing? (Especially in the case of Adobe which couldn't have cared less in the last ten years to support apples wishes and bug and performance reports).

And don't forget - everybody can go and grab a phone nearly as or even more powerful like the google Nexus One, which is more open (although some doubt that) but not as nice in it's UI and not as aligned across the offered applications. And yes, you can change the UI whatever way you like.

What I want to say is: If you love the Apples mobile platforms work, you need to understand that they work this way because Apple protects exactly this platform in this way. If you don't like it - buy another product. Which is completely fine. But you will not get the experience of the iPhone on such a small, weak mobile device by being open. (I tried it - i installed so many free programs on my jailbroken iPhone I got sick of them. They destroy the fun of the iPhone.)

And remember: You develop any way you want on the powerful Notebook and desktop platforms of Apple.

What's more and what seems a little forgotten is that I do not see any mobile platform out there with such a lot of programs. I simply do not know of any platform out there with such variety and diversity in depth as well as in width. Whenever I was looking for an application for a certain purpose I found it. Mostly I had the coice of several free apps vs. some offered for purchase (mostly even the free ones winning).  So, in effect the iPad and the iPhone are not closed regarding purpose of the applications but the way they are developed. As John Gruber put it: Every halfway gifted 13 year old can get his app on the iPhone. In fact the much debated effective distribution channel over the iTunes AppStore has led to a very strange effect that effectively those who are making real money with iPhone apps are only very few large corporations but mostly individual developers and very small companies. Think of Tweetdeck, Things, etc. And even if the app bears the name of a big company, the market is so young that have not insourced that skillset yet. If you look closely, the so called closed system has led to individuals making the dollars rather than enterprises. Actually, I like that.

Edit: What I would really like apple to do is open the AppStore to all the crap that is supposed to be running on the device. Just open the gates. Let any mediocre flash implementation get on the iPhone on any OS update (but just for me: I want to be able to opt in first, 'cause I won't). And then activate flash and look on the responsiveness of your phone and on the battery. Yes, that's what's gonna happen ... it will be unusable (remember the processor is weak, the battery small etc.) So, if you think about that before, why not simply remove that trash from the iPone in the first place? (Like Apple did.)

Edit: Stanislav Datskovskiy published a briliant blog post from a quite different angle, hinting on the non-apples letting this happen out of sheer dumbness. Nice excerpt: "... For the Apple-imitators to turn into genuine “Apples” would be as fantastic and unlikely as it would be for a slime mold to spontaneously become a true multicellular animal, equipped with a central nervous system.  It is also unclear that, from their own perspective, they should want to grow brains – for a creature with that kind of centralized point of failure is decidedly no longer immortal ... " Haha.

Who is a member of Toyota Cult

@andybrandt just published a post on "What’s wrong with Toyota fascination". As he states that his article is inspired by the wonderful Winter Agile Tunnig micro conference (by the way an incredibly brilliant idea and organization form) which took place last Saturday in beautiful Kraków, Poland and given that and the fact that I was the only person mentioning Toyota (once) and manufacturing (several times) in my talk I would like to comment on that post.

His basic statements are that there are 

i) a bunch of lean guys out there - in another blog post and on twitter referred to as "“fad boys” of the Internet Web 2.0 community" - are real fan boys of Toyota and by liking Toyota so much they had the stupid idea of unreflectedly and simply copy 1:1 the Toyota Production System ("mimic Toyota’s assembly line") and were indeed so short sighted as to not realize at all that cars manufacturing is something completely different than software development. (Variability, creativity, etc.)

ii) Toyota is actually one of the lamest car producers out there without any sense of innovation and merely coming up w/ boring small and family cars

So, let us have a look at our feet to explain the "mimicing" part of his post. The thing with feet is: They are useful. And guess what - they have not been invented for human beings n the first place. They have been invented for insects, small animals, never walking around on two feet, no balancing involved etc. So, the original intention was, yes, transport of living beings, but far from what we are doing with them now.

It is clear to everybody that his feet, my feet everybody's (Spiderman being an exception?) feet are a lot different from insects feet (they don't stick, they have individual toes, etc). And that's because evolution (how creationists explain that, I don't know) changed feet by external pressure to what makes them useful tools for us, walking upright, successfully doing crazy things like high jump, long jump, 100m sprints in crazy speed, cycling, climbing, marathon, ultra marathon, Phelps' swimming style, you name it. In myself had some success in one or the other of the mentioned activities and I would never deny the success of the concept of feet.

So, all the smart people (and it's not me to blame for that) who looked at Toyota Production System at the time looked indeed at a manufacturing production system. And with good reason. Like the compiler theory guys at their time looked into industrialization of our "science" and trying to bring something like engineering practices into CS for the first time, these guys looked at a mature industry and especially into a production process that did nothing else than revolutionize cars manufacturing across the world (successfully).

And of course these "fad boys" (what respect towards colleagues lies in these words) did NOT just copy the TPS because, guess what, you simply can not do it. Instead what they did was look into some principles behind it AND some production theory AND the management theory of Demming (I guess another poor old "fad boy") and thought hard about what that means to software development in a transfer process. (When I was in school the principle of transferring an idea or concept from one domain to another made the difference between good and very good. And it didn't mean "copy" or "mimic").

They basically came up with some lean principles such as "build quality in", "Stop the line", "reduce work in progress", "apply the pull principle" etc. Some guy went as far as studying Queuing theory and ToC really seriously and applying the drum-buffer-rope to SE (which was the start of Kanban).

In the case of Kanban, David Anderson did all this with good reason: To establish a sustainable pace in the organizations in a transparent manner to withhold the vicious "can't you simply do more in less time" cycle. And he and his adopters and even a fad boy like me, did this with good success. Believe it or not. 

Anyone having doubts or really going for the ugly picture of us guys having installed a software engineering assembly line, Toyota style, I invite to visit me at work and search for that. You will not meet the ugly face of 1920 taylorist assembly lines ...

And yes, we are not at the end of lean or Kanban, it is evolving and in fact that is what I like about it - we are getting smarter every year. Actually that's what I like about Kanban, that I can now start to look at SE or product development from totally different angles, I simply didn't see when I only worked in Scrum. (E.g. to completely refrain from projects and start a transformation towards features along a strategy rather than managing a timeline for a standing organization like that I'm working in is quite appealing to me: Does anyone here really care about the timeline of small features that amazon is pushing out all he time? I can easily plan marketing and communication along those features without an exact timeline but along the strategy and features derived.) 

So, what we are looking at is a nice example of evolution through external pressure of ideas and principles behind production (insects) to SE (men). How could anybody have a different impression on that.

Oh, and even the manufacturing guys are going for variability. One large part of the success of Toyota (or Zara or ...) is indeed to work on minimizing set up times to be able to create very different pieces of product on the very same production line, because that simply is the art of lean to produce just-in-time what was just ordered. (The Zara case is btw indeed an incredible story of urning a hole business concept upside down by simply treating clothes and design just as perishable food in a lean way). And I'm telling you - these guys are really clever in parts, they have shown some adaptability and of course, they come up with different solutions in a different context by applying similar principles to their domain just as we come to different solutions in our domain.

The power of Kanban is actually that it enables us to learn from those principles by playing around with them. And you only can do that because there is a relatively fine grained model of your process.

As a final word on the potential power of Kanban, let's see what happens when I synchronize the Input and output cadence of a Kanban system at three weeks. (Yes, and I apply my WiP Limits and establish my pull principle). What I modeled in this special case is the good old Scrum, but already a very good one with WiP limits in place and so on. The missing roles I can define very well as additional rules. But in an Kanban environment what would happen to that special case of a 3-week-sprint Scum model is: that it won't last long, because given the special context it would plain simply modeled to something fitting the environment better. And the changes would be suggested by the actual developers who designed that Kanban system anyway. So, it's about empowerment of the people doing the actual work (another principle from lean manufacturing).

As to the second point, Toyota being quite uninspired and boring. It's all a matter of taste and indeed I never bought a Toyota, but I sure give them credit and respect for: the Prius, as the first mass market hybrid car, developed in at the time revolutionary 18 months; changing the luxury car market by introducing the Lexus; being the first company to introduce the SUV concept to the mass market instead of the military etc.; and again, changing and revolutionizing the way cars are manufactured today across the world.

I think the observations in "What’s wrong with Toyota fascination" are too simple. Additionally it can not be ignored that what Andy calls "mimicking" has been done with success in lots of companies. (Feet are good, if you like it or not.) But for sure, no one needs to like the ideas behind and I like the discussion about that. About the "fads" everybody needs to decide for himself.

Disclaimer: I do use Scrum in my company and we do so with success and love it!

Pat Metheny's Orchestrion

So, I'm starting off this blog on agile topics with a little musical diversion. Starting off, you might start the short video for an impression of what I am talking about.

You could always say that what Jazz musicians are learning and doing, namely improvising across unheard of scales and quirky chords and scale and chord progressions, is learning to be agile. But to hell with that metaphor. (But then again - the more I think of the metaphor, the more I am tempted to stick to it: Again it's not magic to improvise, but lots of practice and skills (craftsmanship) and lots of just doing things until you're good at it - with enormous patience). 

In the case of Pat Metheny, we are talking about one of the absolute masters of Jazz Improvisation, not only on the guitar(s) but in the general field of modern jazz since the mid 70s. He is perfect in playing classic jazz, post bop improvisation and all the classic stuff but more than that, he brought new styles into jazz and helped keeping jazz alive for some decades now by doing where jazz is best at: Taking up new flavors and styles and ever more broaden the meaning of jazz. Pat Metheny is one of the guys who kept Jazz from starting to smell.

Now, Pat Metheny's style is not embraced by everybody and some critics might even say that some of his stuff is a bit too "kitschig" for them, but as for me: I don't care. I remember certain holiday trips with nothing else on the walkman or car CD player than Pat's newest album and I am afraid (for my family too) that I spent hours and hours singing along to those, sometimes loud and in the wrong key, of course.

Especially live, Pat's performance is the closest experience to a perfect live rendition I have ever seen. Being a close friend to 'First Take' Jaco Pastorius (RIP) in his youth, he sure has some entertainer blood in his veins, too.

The last and coming weeks, Pat is touring the world with his Orchestrion project. Beginning last autumn he started to write a little about it, to promote his new album and tour. From what he wrote, I guess (and he says), no one could really know what he's up to. What he did was to build a whole homunculus-like machine, which should be the band for his new project. The Orchestrion machine would be controlled by him and his guitar as well as some sequencers (I guess ableton live from Berlin). For a song or two, this sounds like a funny idea, but as a fully worthwhile musical project of one of the geniuses of our time - who knows?

I wouldn't write about it if it were a failure, so yes: It is an incredible achievement what Pat did here. In February the album was released and just sounds like any other Pat Metheny album, closer to his band than his trio or solo recordings.

On that album some more things were revealed on how he did that. The Orchestrion was build by some professional instrument builders - mainly at LEMUR - concentrating on acoustic instrument being controlled by MIDI. That explains for the natural, unsynthetic sound of the orchestrion: We are dealing with actual, acoustic instruments, like drums, bass, the Yamaha Disklavier, some bells, glass bottles as whistles amongst others.

Throughout the article there are some pictures to only get a small glimpse of the orchestrion.

So, let me switch to the live performance now. I watched the concert at the Philharmonie Berlin on 2 March 2010.

The concert started of like any other Pat solo concert, him grabbing one of his gorgeous Linda Manzer guitars, this time a baritone guitar w/ nylon strings. For everybody never having been to a Pat concert this already is a moment of magic (for me too, after all these concerts I've seen). When he sits down and starts plucking the strings, with the first tone of the guitar, lots of Pat's qualities come to a full shine: The simple sound of the nylon string guitar is so much larger than life, you really wonder how he does it. And, no, it's not easy. Lots of things play together here. Yes, he has a very unique styla and technique of playing the guitar (picking the nylon string w/ a plectrum for instance. But adding to that, how he mics and amplifies and processes the guitar is so perfect and a science in itself. So, why doesn't he just do it any other way? Because he is a perfect musician and entertainer. he doesn't only want to play on the highest level, but he wants every note he's playing to be an experience for the listener (fur us: the client!). So he does not rest until the guitar sounds better than any guitar could ever sound live and direct in my own 4 walls. He did this all the time, when he reinvented the electric guitar sound on stage by putting up two amps, combined with heavy effects for just getting  a special spacial distribution in the concert room, when he started playing the guitar synth and did not take up to playing all the voices available but just came up with that one perfect, trumpet like sound on the pre-Midi Roland guitar synth that he still uses until today, etc.

I am really sorry and embarrassed to sound like a fan boy, but the guy simply is that good.
So, next he played a solo impro on the steel string guitar and then on his famous Pikasso guitar, all made by Linda Manzer.

All the time you saw some strange instruments standing around on stage. But you couldn't really make out what it is. What we didn't know yet: The main part of the Orchstrion was covered by a red cloth. So what we saw was not the complete Orchestrion.

As a next song, he started an improvisation again, kinda bluesy and I really didn't like it at first because it really sounded like a cliche and I thought about the worse times of Louis Armstrong. But then, something funny happened. Small parts of the Orchestrion started moving and adding to the music. Namely Mr. Fingers, a small finger cymbal and a high hat just giving a nice small beat for Pat to groove to. 

Each beat of any instrument was accompanied by a little LED flash coming up, so that you couldn't only hear what's happening, but also see. This would become an important feature of the Orchestrion later on.

A soon as the instruments started playing a funny thing happened with the audience: Everybody started smiling mildly as this was such a sensation. And here the magic starts. This is actually easy. Instead of triggering a beat box or a synth by midi, all that happened was that little instruments driven by little solenoids.

Now imagine what happened one or two songs later when the red cloth was taken off and the whole Orchestrion was revealed, something like that was to be seen on stage now:

Without further ado, Pat now started to pay his Orchestrion suite as can be heard on his new CD. And this moment was simply incredible, Everybody, EVERYBODY in the audience now had just a big kid smile in his face and simply no one could believe what's going on. As you can hear on the CD the suite starts with quite a modern and complex piece of fusion jazz with all kinds of complex harmony behind it. It's not just just that it sounded like on CD, no it sounded really alive and not at all as replayed by a sequencer with some guy doing live guitar to it. This was MUSIC. Live music.

So again, Pat is not stupid and a perfect entertainer and a perfect musician at the same time. So every piece of what he did here was so elaborate. The blinking LEDs added to that impression as much as the concept that he could influence everything any instrument played by controlling all the instruments loops with the midi signals from his guitar. Every instrument just looked terrific. The stage is dominated by a large drum rack in the background where the individual instruments are not simply put together but separated on the whole wall. On the rights side you see a bass being plucked, the notes of the bass triggering a nice lamp changing her colors according to the pitch of the bass note (Another optical effect which makes it easier to resolve what's going on. And that's another thing that's going on - it all looks so incredible that your mind always tries to solve just how it works. A little explanation at the end).

The front of the stage is dominated by two cupboards full of tuned glass bottles which are used as kind of organ pipes. (Incredible sound). You have some strane 8 pieces of guitar strings being manipulated by other selenoid triggered rotors, sounding a bit like an 8 voice choir. A whole lot of little percussion gimmicks around the stage cater for lts of diversion, fun and diversity in the sound. And so on and so on.

As music is hard to describe I'll add some links to the videos available and maybe, you can try to grasp a little of the magic and how it works.

The end of the show consisted of some tunes where Pat started with a blank piece of paper - nothing at all - and built complex songs by playing in all the instruments' loops liva and alone on stage. So yes, he could play al those songs on stage on his own, given time to enter the loops, if he wanted (Which he doesn't, as some of the musical pieces are just too complex to do that in short time).

What became clear to me was that his guitar can trigger any of the instruments. Given the nature of the instruments there are two ways to trigger them. Instruments like guitar and piano can only be triggered one at a time as the whole fretboard of the guitar is used to play whatever needs to be played.

For the drums, he uses certain fretboard positions (or pitches or notes) for a single instrument of the drum set, say the low E string is the bass drum, the G in the middle of the guitar a snare drum etc. So, he can play quite complex rhythms at once on his guitar. 

He does that by entering loop after loop and instrument after instrument for a certain harmonic turnaround. That's impressive enough and: try this at home just for guitar. You must be incredibly precise for such a load of instruments to still sound good and on point.

But then, another thing seems to happen, which is that when dynamics change, it seems to me that parts of the patterns of the loops are changing too. So when the whole piece gets louder, obviously there are some changes in what the loops play back. And this is really what makes the trick of this being a musical experience rather than a bunch well played loops.

The crazy thing about this is that Pat does this again so perfectly and with such imagination that you can not believe that he able to still have the overview of this complex musical monster on stage and at the same time control it. And again, this all looks so flaw- and effortless that I am still wondering today, how many time of his life Pat devoted to the concept of the Orchestrion and then to practicing with it to come to that level of perfection.

So, coming back to the unloved metaphor of jazz and agile, this performance just again makes clear to me how hard it is and how much effort and devotion and phantasy and love and care you have to put into something like this to make things seem effortless in all that diversity. Part of this is to really understand the whole idea and history of Orchestrions from the last century all through the Yamaha Disklavier and making best of what's available today. And only all of this together leads to the effect of grown up people sitting in the Philharmonie with a constant smile on their face - just likes kids - during the whole performance. 

I don't get it at all if anything experienced comes across in this article, so tell me about it.

Thanks for your time,


All pictures copyright Pat Metheny and Lemur