ECM: In search of free jazz and free expression


Manfred Eicher discusses his genre-defying label ECM, home of Keith Jarrett, Arvo Pärt and priceless recordings of free jazz greats. On 9 July Manfred Eicher will be 70. He does not look his age, more like an amiable ascetic with a tidy moustache, medium-length grey hair, dressed in a shirt and jeans. Not a man of many words, his eyes casting slightly anxious glances here and there, but he is very attentive to others. In 1969 he founded Edition of Contemporary Music, aka ECM, in Munich. Okwui Enwezor, the head of Munich's Haus der Kunst, recently curated ECM – A Cultural Archaeology, assisted by historian Markus Müller. The exhibition has been a huge success, but what is there to show about a record label? Does ECM represent a work, an action, perhaps even an exception? "No," Eicher replies gently, "it's my life. What matters to me is the sense of being alive every day." So what was it all about? A retrospective, an installation, a display of record sleeves, photographs? "I'm not sure Munich remembers us," Eicher adds. He often says "us".