Richard Pinhas - "Schizotrope III"

From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)

For those of us who’ve been enamored by Pinhas’ compositions over the years, the last few have been extremely productive, with a number of CDs released documenting the changing nature of his work. Pinhas, who has earned a PHD in Philosophy, is an admirer of the work of Frederick Nietzsche, and studied with his mentor, the post-Sartre French philosopher Giles Delueze whose late 1970s work have become a staple in modern European philosophical thought. He is also influenced by Science Fiction literature and frequently makes reference to these works in the titles of his pieces, or by musical depictions of plots and story lines.

With his return to music making in 1990, (after a hiatus during the 1980s when he was teaching at the Sorbonne’) the use of Voice has become an integral part of his music. He has recorded extensively with French Science Fiction writer Maurice Dantec, and many of his recordings use both writings and the voice of veteran American SF Legend Norman Spinrad, and recitations or taped samples of the works of Phillip K. Dick.

“Schizotrope III” was released during 2001, and the work is a good start for those who may have been surprised in the changes taking place in Pinhas’ musical conceptions. On this he is accompanied by Maurice Dantec (vocal), Jerome Schmidt (Laptop Computer loops), Antoinne Paganotti (Son of Bassist Bernard Paganotti of MAGMA, Electric Percussion). Most of the texts are by Dantec, Nietzsche, and Delueze.

Pinhas has begun to use Computer-generated Loops as much of the rhythmic/harmonic texture, and often augments the loops with Guitar figures that explore the same sonic range. Usually the vocals are treated, either looped or using a digital vocoder. The drums are usually an Electronic Kit, and Paganotti reveals himself to be a nimble percussionist! The au rigueur surging Pinhas Guitar style is evident on much of this release, but overall he is surprisingly spare with those (Wondrous) solos, much more concerned with helping sculpt textures that would allow the voice to be in the forefront.

And there are really some amazing textures in these pieces. Guitar loops bring an openness and expansiveness to the sound, in the same way as the strings in Ornette’s “Skies of America”, getting us up and above that which is being observed, whilst the drums make melodic patterns underneath the sound. Listeners are almost sucked into a whirlpool of sounds, and it doesn’t really matter that much that you can’t follow them without a high degree of fluency with the French language.

The final cut on the CD is an instrumental, and finally Pinhas lets loose with his Buzz Saw Guitar work, playing over looped Guitar chords that seem to melt into an orchestra of Guitars, maintaining that "open sky" feeling. Those familiar with “Repetitions and Events”(also released by Cuneiform Records 2002) should judge this the most successful of the CD’s tracks.

This work is part of a series (the first being “Death of Marie Zorn”, released in 1999 by Cuneiform Records), which focus on delving into philosophy and it’s place in the modern world. I can’t say for sure if I can determine how applicable Nietzsche’ works are, and have LOTS of contradictions with some of his attitudes regarding “UberMensche and UnderMensche” (the Nazis LOVED those ideas, as did the composer Richard Wagner; the “Ride of the Valkyries” has been interpreted as anti-Semitic, as it makes reference to “slaying the heathens and Jews!!”), but can see how people can be attracted to his concepts of personal freedom and control over one’s life and ideas within a rigid social structure!

Yet the music holds your attention, and the voice does function as part of the music’s harmonic structure so whilst the lyrics/narrations might be unintelligible to “Les Stupid Americans” (we are the only industrialized Nation in which most people DO NOT speak more than one language), the whole thing works and holds your interest for the duration of the CD! Excellent doings, another mark in a long productive journey in music-making by a composer whose work has always been relevant and revolutionary!

For more information you can visit the Richard Pinhas web site at:

Reviewed by Doug Walker

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