Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
From a very young age, I had beautiful opportunities to travel the world via my music and to learn so much about life by observing people all over the planet. I understood that music is an ideal means of transport. Later, I also learned that I meet exceptional people via traveling with music. I became addicted to this cocktail and cannot help it anymore.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I think there were a couple of encounters that influenced me a lot. These encounters were mainly musical partners of mine such as pianists Jef Neve and Francesco Tristano but also my teacher Emmanuel Séjourné in Strasbourg. Séjourné’s way of phrasing and feeling music comes very close to everything I love in music. I can say the same thing about his humane personality.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I believe my greatest challenge has always been fighting against attempts by the music industry to label me and my music, to pigeonhole us. Since I have more than one identity as a musician and composer this endless struggle defines me at the same time, and that’s exactly how it should be.
What are the pleasures and challenges of working with other musicians?
Over the years the most important thing in collaborations for me is that I try to play with people I love as much as musicians as I do as human beings. I would like to mention here two of my favorite partners in crime, Nicolas Dautricourt and Knut Erik Sundquist. We recently released an album called ‘Porgy and Bess Revisited’ (Orchid Classics). This album truly is our manifesto on friendship. Check out this album to experience how a personal connection really inspires a musical collaboration.
How would you describe your compositional/musical style?
As I mentioned before, since I am working in many different fields I wouldn’t be able to talk about one compositional/musical style. Joachim Olaya, my sound engineer likes from time to time to say (in french) “c’est très Pascal!” when he recognizes my musical language. I feel honoured then.
As a composer, how do you work?
Most of my compositions start as an improvisation on the vibraphone or on the piano. First little motifs come up and I keep working variations of them into something bigger. I write them down or record them. Then I need to get some distance… and go running or cycling or just have a cup of coffee… before getting back at it, approving or disapproving and deciding if it is worth bringing to a second level, or not.
Tell us more about your album ‘SOL’….
SOL is my very first solo album. It took me 40 years of my life to accept the challenge of having a vibraphone solo project. Of course, this was being prepared over many years before. I’ve always loved to play a solo piece here and there in the different band settings I participated in. These intense little moments of direct contact with the audience were always very special to me. That’s the reason SOL has been recorded in a concert hall – I wanted to sense an invisible connection with the listener. It’s expressed via different textures of sound of a vibraphone combined with electronics. The result is a collection of little intimate melodies and progressive electronic spectral build-ups, rather atmospheric, and playing with space and time.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
As a performing musician success is when I get the feeling after a concert that the magic happened and that I was able to allow my audience to completely let go for a while. As a composer I feel successful when musicians like to play my music and keep on whistling little bits of it for the rest of the day.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The definition of perfect happiness is seasonal for me. Now, it would be having a last glass of red wine (preferably a Zweigelt) after an exquisite dinner after a relaxing sauna after a sunny skiing day in the Austrian Alps. Favourite location: Stuben am Arlberg (Vorarlberg)
What is your present state of mind?
At this very moment, I am very much excited about finally giving birth to my upcoming album SOL on April 17th. May SOL become my new universal means of transport for the next few years.
Pascal Schumacher’s first solo album SOL is released on 17 April
(Artist photo: Fredrik Altinell)