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.
Mathis Nitschke’s piece “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 a protagonist 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.
On the website https://smallplaces.art you can not only listen along the installation on location live from all over the world, you can also see the schedule of albums to be played.
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 commission from Hyundai Card, 2019, for the exhibition RE:ECM at Storage by Hyundai Card, Seoul, curated by Jean Im, Hyunseuk Kim and Sun Chung.
Music and album covers used with kind permission and support from ECM Records. All copyright by ECM Records 1969-2019.
Concept & Design: Mathis Nitschke
Programming: Michael Klier
Many thanks to Manfred Eicher for his unbelievable, so far 50-year-old oeuvre!
See also this blog post on the creation of Small Places: … and the music keeps on playing on and on …