Hailing from Luxembourg, Pascal Schumacher is without a doubt one of the most versatile musicians of his generation. A vibraphonist, composer, bandleader and sound designer, he develops authentic Gesamtkunstwerke combining an array of different musical influences.
Pascal studied classical percussion, jazz vibraphone and musicology at music conservatories in Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Brussels and The Hague. He holds a Master’s Degree in musicology from the Marc Bloch University in Strasbourg, and another in music with a focus on jazz vibraphone from the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague. He has won many awards, including the Belgian Django d’Or (2005), Music:LX (2012), ECHO Jazz (2012), JTI Trier Jazz (2014), was selected for the Rising Stars program organized by the European Concert Hall Organization (2009 / 10) and appeared as soloist in ECHO Klassik 2017 awarded project Überbach.
He played with many of exciting musicians such Francesco Tristano, Bachar Mar-Khalifé, Jef Neve, Kenny Barron & Magic Malik, wrote music for theater and film and leaded a jazz quartet. Today he mixes emotional classical music with minimal electronic sounds, although Schumacher himself considers each classification obsolete. To him, music is a single, limitless playground.
2018 also marked a new beginning for Pascal Schumacher, who upon invitation to play at Jazz & The City Festival In Salzburg, started to develop his own solo material. The experience opened up an entirely new path for the composer culminating in his debut solo album, SOL, which he released in 2020 under Neue Meister. Two years later, in early 2022, his second solo album LUNA followed, which he is currently touring all over Europe, including Philharmonie Luxembourg and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.
Pascal is a Yamaha Artist and a Professor for Jazz and Classical Percussion at the Conservatoire de Musique de Luxembourg. - He is the Artistic Director of the innovative 'Reset' Music Festival at Abbaye Neimenster and an Ambassador for SOS Children's Villages International - Luxembourg.
Pascal Schumacher’s new album LUNA stands in diametric opposition to his previous release, SOL. And it’s not just the play on the albums’ titles, which already point to the differing moods of lightness and darkness, both releases also stem from opposing creative standpoints. While SOL carried in it a sense of spontaneous discovery as Schumacher – after years of playing with bands and ensembles – ventured out in his first solo endeavour, LUNA captures a more meticulous side to the musician’s work which involved once again composing for other players; more specifically for the Belgium post-classical ensemble Echo Collective, who lends to the album its many layers and textures. Despite the contradictions, SOL and LUNA aren’t in any way antagonistic to each other, much on the contrary, their duality feels wholly complementary, expressing a natural musical progression, much like day gently feeds into night.
Although working with strings wasn't new for Schumacher, in the past he has composed for orchestras and ensembles of all kinds, working with Echo Collective on LUNA felt like a unique experience. The Belgium ensemble forged an enviable reputation in the post-classical world: sought out for their instrumental and arranging expertise by icons such as A Winged Victory For The Sullen and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson and known for lending their interpretative intuition to genres as diverse as alt rock, synth-pop and black metal. “I had always played with classical string musicians, where you have to provide very complete scores and a lot of information. Echo Collective just knew intuitively what had to be done,” says Schumacher. The synergy between the musicians can be felt throughout LUNA in the way that Echo Collective seemingly provides the bed or canvas on top of which Schumacher paints with his vibraphone. Although an integral part of the album, the vibraphone does not feel like the protagonist in LUNA, rather it shares the limelight with the glockenspiel, crotales, marimba as well as synthesizers and Echo Collective’s poignant string segments. The balancing act between these different musical elements becomes strikingly evident on the title track, ‘Luna’ – over a string bed of crescendos and decrescendos gongs, Schumacher’s instrument simply dots the piece, appearing to fill in blank spaces with twinkling light. Like much of LUNA, the piece is a quiet, dimmed-lights meditative journey with hints of nostalgia.
Differently from SOL’s improvised vitality, LUNA’s soundworld is a little more pondered, slower perhaps, and more hushed overall. The music is more reflective and in that, it feels more mature, “I used softer mallets than what I usually have on Luna. It wasn’t on purpose, but in the end this softer sound inspired me. It made the vibraphone sound warmer and easier to listen to,” explains Schumacher. Single ‘Nostalgia’, the only solo-vibraphone track of the album, demonstrates Schumacher’s attention to acoustic details, “I composed Nostalgia during an evening when my wife was out, and I brought the vibraphone upstairs from the studio and started to experiment with the sounds of the different rooms in the house - first by the window, then in the kitchen,” explains composer. The vibraphone’s softness makes these details shine through, from the tiny reverberations felt after every key, to the echo of the surroundings, it draws listeners up-close to Schumacher in a sort of intimate, late-night encounter.
Although the nocturnal feel of the album is mostly conveyed through calm and tenderness, not every aspect of the after-hours is in fact serene. ‘Rhytmicon’ is the piece which deals with this alternative night-time energy, one that thrives on movement and intensity. Inspired by Leon Theremin’s innovative electro-mechanical musical instrument from the 1930s, ‘Rhytmicon’ is a vigorous percussive track involving multiple and simultaneous rhythmic patterns. “My main synthesizer, the Yamaha CS Reface - Organelle, has a modern version of a rhythmicon on it. I then used the marimba and built lots of layers and it became a tribal party of sorts. It's all about rhythm and not much more,” notes Schumacher. The track also takes cues from Steve Reich’s minimalist piece ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ in the way the vibraphone’s changing chords lead the way for the rest of the arrangements.
Just like Reich, another composer that’s undoubtedly influenced Schumacher is the ambient music pioneer, Brian Eno. Schumacher tributes Eno on Luna by covering his 1977 track ‘By This River’. “I had this idea a long time ago, to try to play this piece with my instrument set-up,” says Schumacher, “I stripped it down since it does not need much information. It's so logical and pure… I’m a big Brian Eno fan, always have been”. Schumacher’s version of the track contains the peaceful stillness of one who has found contentment in solitude, or rather in the quiet company of the moonlight and the shimmering river under it. The track expresses a sentiment that’s true of the whole album, the magical feeling of being in good company amidst the dark cosmos. Perhaps it derives from the kinship Schumacher found in Echo Collective, or simply an acquaintanceship with his own darker side, but either way LUNA is a bright friend in the lonesome night. If SOL started from a place of solitude, LUNA is a reminder of our eternal satellite.
Website Pascal Schumacher: click here!
LUNA at Neue Meister: click here!