Manfred Eicher: Making records is like playing ping-pong

Manfred Eicher: Making records is like playing ping-pong


norman lebrecht

October 20, 2019

From ECM Records:

The game of ping-pong can be regarded as a metaphor for many aspects in music production: the interaction between producer and musician(s), the give and take between the musicians themselves, but also the active interplay between the listener and the music.

“Small Places” presents the entire music catalogue ever produced by ECM Records as a sound installation using this metaphor. On a slightly raised stage designed after a ping-pong table the visitors sit down and listen to the near endless stream of ECM music, a total of ca. 1380 hours (almost two months). Beginning with the first ECM album ever produced in 1969, “Free at last” by the Mal Waldron Trio, the music won’t even stop during closing times of the gallery.

On the stage, the visitors sit opposite of each other, looking face to face, only divided by thin gauze. Going back and forth like a ping-pong ball, light changes from music track to music track illuminate alternately the visitors on the one side of the stage, then on the other, each time transforming the listener into an actor and vice-versa. The listening visitor becomes the art object.

Between each album a minute of ping-pong playing sound is heard. Once the playlist reached the latest album released in 2019, the installation will return to the beginning, album by album. During this backward motion the intermitting ping-pong sound is played back reversed.

Reference to the installation is a snapshot photo by sound engineer Peter Laenger showing Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher in a break from music recording, playing ping-pong. The title “Small Places” refers to the album of the same title by Michael Formanek (2012), containing the track “Pong”.

Small Places” is a sound installation created by Mathis Nitschke as part of the RE:ECM group exhibition at Storage by Hyundai Card in Seoul, Korea.


  • Nik says:

    “… containing the track ‘Pong'”
    Am I right in thinking that ‘pong’ doesn’t have the same meaning in US English as it does over here?