Title: All Our Clocks Are Dying: Prepared Piano Improvisations
Artist: Ergo Phizmiz
Release Date: September 6th, 2013
License: CC BY-NC
Release Label: Free Music Archive / Self-Release

So, I’m still on vacation, and hadn’t planned to write / finish any reviews while I was away.  However, I encountered this new release from Ergo Phizmiz, and I thought there would be some nice symmetry in writing this review. I realized that there was a major challenge in recording, editing and releasing a new recording within 24 hours, and I thought putting myself to the same challenge (in writing a review) would be interesting.

These prepared piano improvisations were recorded on September 5th, 2013 and released on September 6th 2013.  I listened to the release and wrote the review on September 6th, and posted the review on September 7th, 2013.

Of course, for me to even stand a chance in hell, I would have to have some exceptional material to work with.  In fact, if it wasn’t Ergo Phizmiz behind this recording I probably wouldn’t have made this decision.  I’ve come to respect this artists’ work tremendously since I first listened to (and even wrote about) his massive piece ‘The Faust Cycle’.

Ergo is an artist of amazing talent, focus and determination.  This release proves it.  I don’t know how long he took in preparing for this challenge, but I suspect there was a lot of work that went into it.  Each of the tracks has a different preparation for the piano, and the structure and musical concepts of each of the pieces is phenomenally realized.  The only living, producing recording artist that I think could even come close to this level of work would be Tom Waits.  (There may be others that I haven’t encountered, Waits is just the artist that leaps to my mind.)

I know a lot of people who don’t like what they consider to be “avant-garde” music, and much of what Ergo does can fall into that category.  But this is not one of those releases.  From the opening “tick-tock” of All Our Clocks Are Dying to the processional of Pot Bellied March and Rumpus this is music that accessible and different without pretension.

While the fourteen hour epic ‘The Faust Cycle’ was unapproachable for many listeners. I know several podcasts presented ‘The Faust Cycle’ in serialized form.  I chose to present some of the remixed tracks on my show instead as I felt they were more approachable. ‘All Our Clocks Are Dying’ is exactly the opposite in scale: four tracks, just over sixteen minutes in total.

By taking away the elements that might seem pretentious, and focusing the work Ergo has provided his listeners with a forceful and concise musical statement.

This is a distorted, fractured and slightly off-center way of looking at our past.  A way of re-casting long-standing musical stereotypes in a different light.  It’s a look at the decay that time causes to our memories, our ideals and perceptions.  The way that a lot of electro-acoustic music is manipulating things from our past, Ergo is doing in a completely organic acoustic form.  This is a complex and fascinating concept, turning the methodology on it’s ear to make us feel as if we are part of the process, we are part of the decay.

‘All Our Clocks Are Dying: Prepared Piano Improvisations’ is a series of short stories, whereas ‘The Faust Cycle’ was an epic novel.  Listen to this release: you will find yourself captivated.

Ergo Phizmiz: All Our Clocks Are Dying: Prepared Piano Improvisations




Posted by George De Bruin


  1. Very beautiful and accessible indeed. The Prepared Piano sonatas of Cage contained some really beautiful sounds but these are of a different order – compelling and lush. Thanks for the post

    1. Brett,

      Yes, Cage popped into my mind immediately just on reading the words “prepared piano”. But, after listening to them, I didn’t feel that it was a good comparison. For one, I believe that Cage’s works used the “chance” element, which I don’t believe is in these pieces. And, while they are improvisations, it was obvious that at a minimum form was a pre-determined element so they weren’t pure improvisations.

      But, none of this detracts from the many great elements of this work, IMO.

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