Ulrich Krieger & The Great Learning Orchestra:
Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music

photos: ingvar loco nordin

New arrangement for The Great Learning Orchestra by Ulrich Krieger 2005/2006.
Original arrangement by Ulrich Krieger and assistant Luca Venitucci 2002.
Transcription by Ulrich Krieger and Luca Venitucci 2002

World premier of the orchestral version in its entirety.

Krieger, Lilja & Jordansson in the Stockholm Culture House
on the day of the concert, 28 Jan. 2006

The Great Learning Orchestra at the Culture House Concert 28th January 2006:

Andreas Hedwall [trombone] – Charlie Malmberg [baritone saxophone] – Yann Le Nestour [bass clarinet] – Sebastian Svenberg [trumpet] – Andreas Färnlöf [trumpet] – Lisa Hansson [recorder] – Einar Baldursson [electric guitar] – Gustav Nygren [tenor saxophone] – David Liljemark [alto saxophone] – Pelle Halvarsson [cello] – Robin McGinley [cello] – Sören Runolf [cello] – Peter Bryngelsson [electric guitar] – Sven Bjerhall [electric guitar] - Stefan Stenberg [contrabass] – Petter Wästberg [contrabass] – Janne Liljekvist [violin] – Björn Eriksson [violin] – George Kentros [violin] – Jonna Sandell [violin] – Anders Erkéus [violin] – Åke Näslund [violin] – Malin Bång [viola] – Girilal Baars [Theremin] – Ingegerd Harcvard [accordion] – Rickard Friberg [melodica] – Gunnar Rosengren [bandoneon] – Lisa Ullén [piano] – Tobias Ståhl [Chapman stick] – Johan E. Andersson [percussion] – Lise-Lott Norelius [percussion]

Leif Jordansson [mix] – Ulrich Krieger [mix] – Jan Lilja [mix] – Tomas Nilsson [lighting]

Pelle Halvarsson, Sören Runolf, Robin McGinley


Jan Lilja

In January 2006 Ulrich Krieger – composer and musician from Berlin – came to Stockholm, Sweden, to work out a version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music with The Great Learning Orchestra, aiming at a concert performance at the Stockholm Culture House.

George Kentros & Jonna Sandell

From the Culture House leaflet:

Lou Reed’s experimental – and controversial – guitar music from 1975 in a version for 30 – 40 musicians of the Great Learning Orchestra; a minimalist sound world which doesn’t sound like anything else.
The Great Learning Orchestra does
Metal Machine Music with a great variety of instruments such as wind, celli, double basses, guitars, percussion, piano, accordion, Theremin, recorders and violins, which are distorted and run through guitar amps. Ulrich Krieger – originally a saxophonist – who has played in The Berlin Philharmonics and Ensemble Modern, has done the orchestral arrangement.

Leif Jordansson - artistic director of The Great Learning Orchestra – says about the concert:

“The important thing is that you dare sit down to listen to a sound and its content. It’s something that exists for only an hour, which I believe can become very beautiful if you dare enter.”

”Most of you won’t like this, and I don’t blame you at all”, Lou Reed wrote on the LP jacket of
Metal Machine Music in 1975. He also said: “This record is not for parties/dancing/background, romance. This is what I meant by real rock, about real things.” Metal Machine Music is one of the most controversial rock records ever released. The work doesn’t resemble anything that you associate with Lou Reed today, but it has its beginnings in the excess of noise that The Velvet Underground were involved in.

Behold the wistful GLO Briton with apple...

When Ulrich Krieger almost unnoticed sneaked in to Fylkingen’s large, dark and murky hall in January 2006, I saw the distinct, silent man enter, his black hair falling heavily around his face, like was he entering a cellar club in Stockholm’s Old Town in 1965, Brian Jones-like.
However, this impression of a silent, withdrawn man soon ruptured, as Krieger got into his introductory speech. He is a soft-spoken but determined person, getting right into intense deliberations with the members of The Great Learning Orchestra, setting out to work through section after section of
Metal Machine Music.

The following days were crammed with intense rehearsals, because Krieger and the GLO had less than a week to get a coherent contour out of the wildly sprawling sounds of the idealistically powered orchestra.

After a couple of days the rehearsals moved over into the concert hall of the Culture House, and the execution of the work could get its final adjustments. Everything was miked up too, and the legendary sound technician Jan Lilja sat at the Mischpult with Leif Jordansson and Ulrich Krieger.

I had the opportunity to record much of the proceedings on an Edirol R4 harddisk recorder, so I’m in possession of at least 20 CDs with rehearsals and the final concert as well. The concert was fully professionally recorded by Lilja and other Culture House personnel, and subsequent mixing was done by Jordansson and Krieger.

The recording was sent to Lou Reed in New York, who had refrained to attend the Stockholm concert, but regretted that – because he liked it when he got to hear it.

The concert was an extremely intense and should I say… unusual experience; a chamber type (well…) orchestra in a mimicry of Lou Reed’s original trash guitar catharsis! Earplugs had to be used because of the volume, but inside this massive torrent of sound you could actually make out hallucinatory strands of gentle beauty! Magnificent and relentless!

The whole concert was played without a conductor. Instead a clock was used, and timings were given in the score. I was the one who at last minute was engaged to start the clock at the beginning of each of the four sections, which probably is as close as I will ever get to conducting an orchestra. Pelle Halvarsson of the Great Learning Orchestra – a cellist in this case – gave me the sign each time, to start the clock, which held everything together.

There are no orchestras like The Great Learning Orchestra, and there aren’t many guys like Ulrich Krieger. Their collaboration over an old 1975 Lou Reed trash guitar adventure took us far that January night in Stockholm, and another Holy Smoke medal is awarded the Great Learning Orchestra!