ECM is a jazz-based crossover label founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969. Each ECM album is a fully realized work of art: they are borne from a unique rapport with musicians, recorded in the highest quality, and faced with album covers that are artworks in their own right. amid the rise of digital music, ECM has maintained its core philosophies by focusing on richness of sound and the appreciation of music within the structure of albums.
Welcome to the 30th issue of B.
During a recent conversation with some people in the music industry, I had a chance to think about the attractions of the music business, which also seemed to have similarities with the other businesses that I’ve been interested in. The most notable part was that the record industry equires the coexistence of creative artistry and the ability to realize commercial gains. If a musician’s brand is seen as being overly commercial, however, it makes it hard for fans to truly love the brand, so the commercial aspect of their work needs to be balanced by a genuine passion for music.
In another conversation, we talked about how some musicians release great songs but don’t receive much attention, while other songs that didn’t seem to stand out get a much bigger reaction from the public. I saw in this something unique about music: When it comes to your favorite musicians, you might like their music even when it’s not so special; but for musicians you don’t like, it can be hard to like them even when they release something great. This suggests that people only enjoy a musician’s music when they can connect with the worldview and way of life that his music is borne from. This sort of phenomenon is a representative example of personal branding. Even if a musician is endowed with superb musical talents, the affection fans feel for that musician may not last if he doesn’t have his own unique appeal.
This month’s B introduces ECM, a music label founded by producer Manfred Eicher, who has demonstrated a remarkably consistent perspective in the label’s releases. His focus on musical perfection is reflected in the quality and style of ECM’s albums and colors the label’s attitude toward the music of its musicians, resulting in a strong image for the label’s brand. ECM’s album covers are emblematic of this image. Even the most virtuosic, improvisational album will be fronted with a cover that evokes the brand’s motto of “the most beautiful sound next to silence,” the still, solitary silence of the image paradoxically guiding listeners to focus even more on the music. While the experience of actually opening an album jacket and feeling the record has been growing rarer with the advent of digital music, ECM has only made the experience of buying a physical album all the more precious.
Pat Metheny has been one of my favorite guitarists since college. His music, the beautiful photos and artwork on his album covers—they were all unforgettable. Since then, I’ve often bought albums just because of an attractive cover, even when I didn’t know the musician. ECM has been particularly good at offering these sorts of special experiences. If ECM has been producing the most beautiful sound next to silence, I’d like to create “the most beautiful design next to pure white”—works whose significance and meaning don’t go unrecognized and become just more static in the ears of the world.
This November marks B’s third anniversary. We still have a long way to go, but just like the brands we’ve introduced, we want to reaffirm our commitment to the foundations we started from. We know that staying true to those principles is the only way that we will continue to be loved by those who have supported us up until now.
I believe more and more businesses will try to do the right thing. Instead of just focusing on promotion and marketing at the moment of purchase, they will try to increase the attention given to the people who make their products. In this way, companies will be more like producers who reveal the brand’s strengths from the inside out. That’s what I imagine an ideal business to be.
Music fills the air in a concert hall. This is where Manfred Eicher always finds a lead for a sound.
20 Inner Space
ECM’s music is not confined to any one genre. But knowledge of the general classification of music and the ways to appreciate each genre can assist with understanding ECM. Also, B looks at 10 of ECM’s most significant albums to discover the label’s stature and musical values.
Classification / Monumental Albums
ECM’s fans are drawn to the label’s music for various reasons. B asked a few fans to make compilation albums expressing what they most like about the label.
The lifestyles of ECM’s fans and listeners subtly resemble the label’s music. B visits the spaces they live and work in to find the place ECM music occupies in their daily lives.
Record shops selling ECM albums serve as the windows through which listeners encounter the label’s music. To them, the presence of ECM albums is one of the factors that define the character of their store.
ECM’s distinctive music also influences the work of artists working in different artistic worlds.
73 B’s Cut
ECM album covers present an image of the music and serve as the label’s second language after music. The cover art is a look at the landscape of the music.
88 Brand Story
Established at a time when jazz labels were declining, jazz-based crossover label ECM has continued to grow. It now enjoys an unparalleled reputation based on the realization of its motto: “The most beautiful sound next to silence.”
Artists / Sound / Quotes / Talk / Essay
Some people are tireless in their pursuit of sound. B takes a closing look at those who have dedicated themselves to creating great music.
- Suyong Joh
- Editor In Chief
- Taehyuk Choi
- Senior Editor
- Eunsung Park
- Heeyoung Yoo, Yunseong Jang, Bora Nam
- Translation Editor
- Heejean Kim
- Hyunkyung Yoo, Rancy Kim, Seongae Yang, Soonok Hwang
- Copy Editing
- Eugene Larsen-Hallok, Heeyoung Yoo
- Simon Chan
- Intern Editor
- Jaeeun Shin
- Hyeseon Jeong (Paris), Jeewon Lim (Milan), Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Nari Park (London), Jungho Lee (New York)
- Guest Editors
- Eunah Kim, Gyutae Hong, Hyun Son
- Lead Designer
- Younghyun Ok
- Ayoon Jung
- Film Designer
- Onedoe Jung
- Andrea Scaringello, Chantapitch Wiwatchaikamon, Jungwook Mok, Malte E.Kollenberg, Sara Roesink, Siyoung Song, Woojin Park
- Hyekyung Shin
- Nohseon Song
- JOH & Company
- Printed in the Republic of Korea
- 978-89-98415-60-0 03050
- ECM: A Cultural Archaeology
- Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
- ECM Sleeves of Desire, Windfall Light: The Visual Language of ECM
- Jazz Note by Hyunjoon Kim
- Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews
- Film Holozän