When Jean Michel was five, his father departed for Hollywood, and Jarre would not have much contact with him from then on. It was at this time that Jarre began studying classical piano. His interest in music was not yet passionate, and he had to change piano teachers several times. It was only when he discovered a strange trumpet or violin instrument in a local flea market that his interest took off. On his tenth birthday, his mother took him to a Paris jazz club, "Le chat qui pêche" (The Fishing Cat), where he was introduced to saxophonists Archie Shepp and John Coltrane, and trumpet players Don Cherry and Chet Baker. Jarre stated in the 1997 documentary, Making The Steamroller Fly that this event triggered his passion for music. Jarre started courses in harmony and counterpoint at the Conservatoire of Paris under Jeanine Rueff. He was studying for a degree in law and economic science at the same time. Eventually he quit the classical studies and turned to modern music theory.
In 1968, he started experimenting with tape loops, radios and other electronic devices, and in January 1969, he joined the Groupe de Recherche Musicale (GRM), under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer, the "father" of musique concrète. Here he was introduced to the first synthesizers in Europe: the EMS VCS 3 and the Moog modular synthesizer. In GRM, Jarre was taught to think about music in terms of sounds instead of notes, and this had a huge influence upon him. He also studied foreign musical styles (African, Indian, Chinese and other oriental music) from which he learned a lot. For a period of two-three months, Jarre studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne.
In his GRM period, Jarre had his own flat in Paris at rue de la Trémoille, not far from the Champs-Elysees, and it was here that he was able set up his first studio in a converted kitchen: an EMS VCS 3 and EMS Synthi AKS synthesizer, and two linked Revox tape machines. To fund the studio's equipment and himself he painted pictures which he sold locally. For an exposition at the "Maison De Culture" (Cultural House) in Reims he wrote a five minute song called "Happiness is a sad song" (unreleased).
Jarre released his first solo single "La Cage/Erosmachine" in (1971), but it was a failure. This was likely due to its experimental or futuristic sound. Only 117 singles were sold, and Pathé Marconi destroyed the remaining stock. Jarre became the youngest composer to see one of his works played at the Paris Opera, at its reopening in 1971. It was the first time that electronic music had been allowed to be used, and Jarre even had to paint his speakers gold to match the decor of the opera house. There he performed with the Paris Opera Ballet and choreographer Norbert Schmucki. He created the first electro-acoustic opera called "AOR". This music is still unreleased as of 2008, with the exception of AOR Bleu, which was released on Live Printemps de Bourges 2002. Jarre composed the music for two additional operas: Le Labyrinthe (1972) and Dorian Gray (1973). He also wrote music for commercials and started to collaborate with artists like Dominique Webb, Samuel Hobo, Bill and Buster, Blue Vamp, and the group Triangle. Jarre also wrote lyrics for artists like Patrick Juvet and Christophe.
In 1972, Jarre added a modified Farfisa organ and an ARP 2600 to his collection. He released several singles under aliases: 1906 - Cartolina/Helza, Jamie Jefferson - Black Bird/ Pop Corn (contrary to some reports, Jarre did not write Pop Corn, the original version was by Gershon Kingsley). One of his first successes, the song Zig Zag Dance, was released in numerous guises, under various aliases, and differing slightly each time. His first solo album Deserted Palace (Sam Fox Productions/Dreyfus Records) was released at this time.
Jarre composed the soundtrack for the film Les Granges Brûlées (Dreyfus Records, not released on CD until 2003) in the following year. In 1974 he met Michel Geiss, an electronics wizard and musician. A friendship was struck between them that has lasted ever since.
In 1975, Jarre wrote some music and lyrics for Françoise Hardy and Gérard Lenorman. Two of these songs were later to be re-used: La belle et la bête (which later became the basis for "Rendez-vous 2"), and La mort du cygne (which eventually evolved into "Rendez-vous 3"). He also acted as director for Christophe's Olympiashow that year, which featured a flying piano.
In 1976, Jarre secured a recording contract with Polydor, signed thanks to Michael Hoppé (after the initial first release on Disques Motors) with his first major multi-million selling album, Oxygène (although it wasn't until 1977 when the album was released internationally after the initial release in France that Oxygène became world renowned). Oxygène is considered by some to be the most important and influential electronic music album ever. Contrasted with his contemporaries, such as the rather clinical, hard, futuristic sound of Kraftwerk, or the more 'cosmic' and murky Tangerine Dream, Oxygène had a lush, spacey and strongly melodic sound reminiscent of the sound of Wendy Carlos on the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange released a few years earlier, and was a big commercial success worldwide. The track "Oxygène Part IV" was released as a single and became one of the best-known pieces of electronic music ever. Key components of Jarre's sound included his use of the Dutch organ Eminent (strings), Electroharmonix Small Stone phaser on the Eminent's string pads, and liberal use of echo on various sound effects generated by the VCS3 synthesizer. He also manipulated a Korg Minipops drum machine to create totally unique rhythms and drum sounds.
In 1978, his second album Equinoxe was released. Jarre developed his sound, employing more dynamic and rhythmic elements, particularly a greater use of sequencing on basslines. Much of this was achieved using custom equipment developed by his collaborator Michel Geiss. A concert on the Place de la Concorde in Paris in 1979 followed the release. This concert attracted one million people, which was Jarre's first entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest crowd at an outdoor concert.
In October 1981, Jarre was the first Western pop-artist to be invited to give concerts in the People's Republic of China. These concerts were the first to feature the Laser harp, one of Jarre's signature electronic instruments. Also during this year, Les Chants Magnétiques (Magnetic Fields - note that the French title is a pun - the literal translations of Magnetic Fields is "Champs Magnetiques", "Chants" meaning "songs") was released to much acclaim, and was followed by the release of Les Concerts En Chine (The Concerts in China) album in 1982 and is marked as his first live album release, comprising of recordings from his tour of China during 1981. The sounds of the Magnetic Fields album are primarily based in the Fairlight CMI sampler, and the album was a huge leap forward in both technical complexity and fidelity.
In 1983, he created the album Musique pour Supermarché (Music for Supermarkets), which had a print run of one single copy. The music was intended to play at the "Supermarche" art exhibition, with Jarre suggesting that, as each artwork would be auctioned after the exhibition, so too should the music in the same way. Jarre destroyed all the master records from his studio work, allowed a radio station (Radio Luxembourg) to broadcast the album once and auctioned it, raising £10,000 for French artists. People recorded the album using their tape recorders while it was broadcast on the radio, so they can listen to that album, at a very poor quality though (the radio station was an AM station). Despite claiming to have destroyed all recordings of the album, songs from this album were later reworked into future albums in almost identical form.
In 1984, Zoolook was released, relying heavily on the sampler capabilities of the Fairlight CMI (which Jarre had been using, albeit on a smaller role, since Magnetic Fields). The album featured many different words and speech, recorded in different languages around the world, to create different sounds and effects. Laurie Anderson provided the vocals for the track "Diva". With its rock music underpinnings, Zoolook resides nicely amongst a handful of pop and rock albums (notably Kate Bush's 1982 album The Dreaming, Yello's 1985 Stella, 1984's Who's Afraid of the Art of Noise? by Art of Noise, 1982's Naked Eyes by Naked Eyes, and 1985's How To Be a Zillionaire by ABC and others, such as Peter Gabriel's fourth album) that made intensive and sometimes exhaustive use of the Fairlight. It is perhaps too easy to overlook the lengthy list of live (and much-sought) musicians that also made contributions to Zoolook, giving the album a cinematic scope and breadth, courtesy of Mark A. Fuller. Jarre recorded the album Rendez-Vous after being inspired by the sounds of the Elka synthesizer, which he employed on the record liberally. It also features his first heavy use of the Moog synthesizer on a studio album. In 1986, NASA and the city of Houston asked him to do a concert to celebrate NASA's 25th anniversary and the city of Houston's 150th anniversary. During that concert, astronaut Ronald McNair was to play the saxophone part of Jarre's piece "Rendez-Vous VI" while in orbit on board the Space Shuttle Challenger. It was to have been the first piece of music recorded in space, for the album. After the Challenger disaster of January 28, 1986 which killed McNair, the piece was recorded with a different saxophonist, retitled "Ron's piece" and the album dedicated to the seven Challenger astronauts. The Houston concert entered the Guinness Book of Records for the audience of over 1.5 million. During the concert, Houston native Kirk Whalum performed Ron McNair's saxophone part on "Ron's Piece". The concert featured giant projections of photographic images and laser patterns onto the buildings of downtown Houston, including a gigantic white screen on the front face of the Texaco Heritage Plaza building, which was under construction at the time. Due to vehicles stopping on the freeway passing the concert venue the freeways had to be closed down for the duration of the concert.
Later in 1986, Jarre performed in his birth city of Lyon as part of the celebrations for Pope John Paul II's visit to the city. The Pope was in attendance and introduced the concert with a good-night blessing (a recording of which forms part of the album Cities In Concert - Houston/Lyon).
In 1988, the album Revolutions was released. Jarre, along with guests such as Hank Marvin, the legendary guitarist from The Shadows, performed this album and selected highlights from his discography at an event entitled Destination Docklands in front of 200,000 people (not including the thousands of observers who witnessed the event from outside the official concert gates) in two concerts on October 8 and October 9 1988. The event utilized the industrial backdrop of London's Royal Victoria Dock in the East End. The original show was supposed to be scheduled as a one off on the 24 September 1988, but due to safety issues with both Newham local council and London Fire brigade the licence was turned down for the larger event. After Jarre's crews failing to maintain crowd safety, and after several vigorous meetings and negotiations (and Jarre potentially looking for other sites including Tilbury docks and Edinburgh castle to host the event), the application for the licence was finally granted, but for two smaller audience capacity shows. Although the shows went ahead, they were not without hiccups. Bad weather had threatened to break Jarre's "Battleship" floating stage from its moorings, risking safety to the crew and also musicians and choirists. Although the original plan was to have Jarre float across the Royal docks it was deemed too unsafe due to the weather and hence was chained to the dockside. Despite this the concerts were well received, although the audience was soaked due to pouring rain and biting winds, but it was deemed a success and many of the British public attending will recall it as a very special and unique experience, including Diana, Princess of Wales who attended the concert and became a friend and fan of Jarre's music over his career.
One aspect of the show was during the transportation of several large mirror balls (some 4m diameter), which Jarre had commissioned for the show to be hung from the large dockside cranes. Whilst en route to the docks, one of the lorries had lost one of the balls on the roadside. On the same night a satellite was due to enter the Earth's atmosphere from space. A member of the public reported the sighting of a sphere like spacecraft rolling on the road, and hence caused major panic as police feared it was the satellite.
On July 14, 1990 Jarre broke his own record in the Guinness Book of Records again with a concert at La Defense, Paris where 2.5 million people watched Jarre light up the Parisian business district. The album En Attendant Cousteau (Waiting for Cousteau) was also released in this year, and was dedicated to the French sea explorer, Jacques Cousteau.
During early 1991, Jarre started promotion for a concert to take place in the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, Mexico during the great solar eclipse of July 11, 1991. Some sources mention problems with several sponsors and local authorities as the reasons that halted the project.
However, in the documentary Making the Steamroller Fly included in the Oxygène Moscow DVD, Jarre and other collaborators mention that the concert was cancelled due to the fact that one cargo ship containing a specially built, pyramidal stage and other technical equipment sunk during the trip to Mexico, making it impossible for the crew to replace it in time for the concert. Jarre says that his disappointment was such that "he could not cope with Mexican food for two years".
In 1993, Jarre released his first work to be largely influenced by the techno-music scene that had been developing since about 1989. Entitled Chronologie, the album was, from a technical standpoint, a revision to a concept employed by Jarre in his Oxygène/Equinoxe period, where a grandiose overture provides the emotional feel and sonic timbre for the rest of the following, more rhythmic pieces.
This time, however, the tracks would feature newer state-of-the-art synthesizers, swooshing sampled clocks (fitting the theme of the album) and contemporary rhythms driving the tempo – a style that became threaded throughout most of the work that followed. In inspiring a generation of electronic musicians with his work from the 1970s and '80s, Jarre in turn found himself drawn to the trance genre which followed him in the '90s. He enlisted several artists of that generation, including Praga Khan, to remix tracks for the B sides of the singles. Jarre followed through the promotion of the Chronologie album with a tour, the first large scale tour Jarre had undertaken since the mini tour of China back in 1981. The tour entitled Europe In Concert was a series of concerts on a smaller scale than that of previous one-offs, but heavily featured a backdrop of makeshift skyscrapers and also skytrackers, laser imaging, and fireworks. This took Jarre across several European cities, including Lausanne, the Mont St Michel, London, Manchester, Barcelona and the Versailles Palace near Paris. Jarre did one final concert in Hong Kong in 1994, unfortunately due to laws, fireworks were omitted from the show. Jarre released a double live album of Hong Kong, which featured many of the same renditions of the Europe In Concert tracks, with some reworkings of the older album versions.
However, to fans reminiscing for the subtle tonal quality and phased sounds of Jarre's early work, 1997 would not be a disappointing year. Oxygène 7–13 was released to reveal that a coherent sonic story over the course of an album was something that Jarre could still achieve in the sequel-of-sorts to his 1976 landmark release. This album brought back the VCS 3 synthesizer, Eminent 310U, and Mellotron, among others. One can hear inspiration from "Oxygène (Part IV)" and "Equinoxe (Part II)" in the two-movement piece "Oxygène 7", while many of the other techno-based tracks on the album suggest a combination of Jarre's inspiration from both the Oxygène and Chronologie periods. "Oxygène 10" would also be the first piece composed by Jarre to feature him playing a theremin. Jarre once again toured Europe to support the album, this time focusing on smaller, indoor venues with a stripped down version of his large outdoor extravaganzas. Jarre visited several countries he had never played before.
On September 6, 1997, Jarre played in Moscow to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the city. The Moscow State University was used as the backdrop for a spectacular display of image projections, skytrackers and fireworks, with an audience of 3.5 million. Jarre breathes again with Oxygène. Retrieved on 2008-05-06.. This was Jarre's fourth record and entry into the Guinness record book for the largest free concert audience ever. The concert was also the same day that the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales took place. Jarre spoke of his friendship with her and requested a moment of silence and then dedicated a song in her memory called "Souvenirs" (aka "Souvenir of China").
On 31 December 1999, Jarre held a spectacular music and light show in the Egyptian desert, near Giza. The show, called The 12 Dreams of the Sun, celebrated the new millennium and 5,000 years of civilization in Egypt. It also offered a preview of his new album, Metamorphoses. The concert which started on new years eve and followed all the way through to the dawn of the new millennium in a 12 hour spectacular which including many performances from local artists and musicians, the concert used the backdrop of the great pyramids to project images onto, but fog during the evening concert by Jarre caused the projections on the facades of the pyramids to be blocked from view. Jarre played for around two hours during the build up to the new millennium with a countdown at midnight and spectacular firework display and then returned on stage in the early morning to perform a second slot to see in the first sunrise of the new millennium.
Jarre released Metamorphoses, his first fully-vocal album, in 2000. The compositions and their arrangement on this techno-based album co-produced with Joachim Garraud are considered imaginative, and marked a departure from Jarre's previous style. He began integrating sound effects, including the radio interference from mobile phones (used on the track "Tout est Bleu") and also sampled his coffee making machine and also from Apple computers, including an implementation of Macintalk, a Macintosh program that allowed Jarre to have a computer generated voice speak his strange lyrics on the song "Love, Love, Love". Laurie Anderson made her second guest appearance in the Jarre discography on the opening track. The listener was also treated to collaborations with Natacha Atlas on vocals, and Sharon Corr of Irish pop group The Corrs on violin. Metamorphoses was not released in the USA until a couple of years later.
In 2001, Jarre performed a concert in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke and Tetsuya "TK" Komuro in the Okinawa beaches, to celebrate the "real" beginning of the new millennium. The concert was called Rendez-vous in Space and the short-lived group called itself The ViZitors. Later that year, Jarre played at the Acropolis in Greece a charity concert for the Elpida Foundation.
This concert marked a change in direction in Jarre's live concerts. Since Jarre's first large scale concerts in 1986, he had always been accompanied on stage by a full compliment of live musicians. This had included several fellow musicians on keyboard, live drums, live percussion, live bass guitar and live lead guitar. The different styles employed by drummers Joe Hammer, Chris Deschamps, Laurent Fauchex and Gary Wallis over the years, made every concert and performance a unique one. The different eras in Jarre’s live performances can be marked by the band of musicians he had on stage. The combination of Laurent Fauchex on drums, Dominic Mahut on percussion, Guy Delacroix on bass guitar and Patrick Rondat on lead guitar during the 1993-1995 live period is one such era defining compliment in Jarre’s live performances.
From Aero onwards the number of musicians appearing on stage had decreased. His concerts from 2002 onwards only feature himself and a few others with guest appearances or the compliment of an orchestra or choir on certain tracks. Some would argue that the increasing absence of live drums, percussion and bass has dminished the live feel of the concerts. Many observe that many of the tracks from the Aero concert, along with the concert in China that followed in 2004, sound no different from the Aero album. It could be stated that from 2002 onwards Jarre’s concerts became more of a ‘show’ than a ‘live’ concert.
2002 would also mark the release of Sessions 2000, a set of experimental synth-jazz pieces that were stylistically distinct from anything Jarre had previously released. The work on this album is decidedly less rhythm oriented than Jarre's previous work from Equinoxe on. It is also rumoured to have been a quick ditch effort album for Jarre to get out of his contractual terms with Francis Dreyfus.
In 2003, Jarre released the album Geometry of Love for dance club VIP Lounge, in Paris. While Jarre's contemporary albums found themselves drawn to the pulsing rhythms of the dancefloor, Geometry of Love had its spiritual home in the chill-out room at the back, with lush, sprawling, sublime works washing over the listener.
On October 10, 2004, Jarre performed two consecutive concerts, first in the Forbidden City, followed immediately by a smaller concert in Tiananmen Square in China, to commemorate open China’s "Year of France" cultural exchange season. Choosing a picturesque location at Wumen Gate in the Forbidden City, Jarre performed with both modern and traditional Chinese orchestras, choir, opera singers, and several guest musicians including Chen Lin, and guitarist Patrick Rondat. Jarre was prevented from performing with China’s Cui Jian whose songs were sung by student demonstrators in 1989. The theme of the first half of the concert tied into the history of the surroundings and was performed before an audience of 15,000 spectators. The second half had a more muted stage arrangement, providing the closest Jarre had ever had to an 'after-gig' show with an audience of 9,000. This concert was broadcast in HDTV with 5.1 sound by some satellite channels. 5.1 sound was also used on the stage. A combined DVD/CD of these concerts, Jarre In China was released in 2005 with THX-mastered sound.
On August 26, 2005, Jarre performed a long-form concert called Space of Freedom in Gdańsk, Poland to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Solidarity. Around 170,000 people attended the paid-entry concert. Lech Wałęsa was present on stage.
On September 10, 2005 Jarre made a short-form concert at the LinX Live Show for the official opening of the Eurocam Media Centre, containing Belgian HDTV Company Euro1080s new HDTV Studios, in Lint, Belgium.
In September, 2006 Tadlow Music released a special symphonic album, titled "The Symphonic Jean Michel Jarre" with 20 cover versions of Jarre tracks on 2 CDs. Jarre has supported this album, including his voice on one track. There is also a special limited 3-disc set with a bonus DVD containing 5.1 surround mixes of all the tracks.
In his role of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Jarre performed a concert named Water for Life in the Sahara Desert, near Merzouga, Morocco on December 16, 2006, to celebrate the year of desertification in the world.
Jarre released a new original studio album, being his first real studio album since "Metamorphoses". This new studio album, entitled "Téo & Téa", was released by Warner Bros. Records and iTunes on March 26 2007. Jarre has stated that this album comes after a dark period in his private and professional life.
During 2006, Jarre was stated to produce an experimental TV series titled Mort-Mouvance, directed by Ellibert Mozart Fuzzkhan, who also produced a fake website of AeroProd, the company which produces Jarre's projects. The TV series and web sites turned out to be a hoax, and Jarre is pressing legal charges against the owners of those sites.
In 2007, Jarre arranged the soundtrack for a movie directed by Volker Schlöndorff, using old material. The movie is named Strajk - Die Heldin von Danzig, its international English title is Strike.
In August 2007, Jarre switched record companies again, this time signing with EMI France. He released an anniversary package containing a special live recording of his classic work, Oxygène, in 3D DVD, live CD and normal 2D DVD formats in November 2007, named Oxygene: New Master Recording. This is a first in Jarre's career, as it was played totally live, without tape or harddisk playback, by Francis Rimbert, Claude Samard, Dominique Perrier and Jarre himself. Jarre has gone on to state he plans on integrating the original analog synthesizers from Oxygene for his next album and is building a new private recording studio on the outskirts of Paris.
Meanwhile, Jarre's former record company, Disques Dreyfus, has released another package, containing the original versions of Oxygene and Oxygene 7-13, plus a recopilatory of "unreleased" remixes of tracks from Oxygene 7-13.
Jarre performed 10 concerts (Oxygene Live) in Paris, from December 12th 2007 to December 26th 2007. The concerts took place inside the Theatre Marigny, a small, 1000 seats theatre located in the Champs-Élysées. Later in 2008, Jarre performed several concerts to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Oxygene in theaters in Europe (see main article). After the Royal Albert Hall concert, Jarre met Brian May, who proposed him to create a concert in Tenerife for the UN Year of the Astronomy.
An Israeli Internet Paper confirmed that a previously planned Large Outdoor Concert to take place this Summer in Jerusalem to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Israel has now been officially cancelled..
The Oxygene IV piece has been used as part of the soundtrack for the popular videogame Grand Theft Auto 4.
In 2008, The Mail on Sunday newspaper distributed more than 2 million copies of the Oxygene 30th Anniversary CD to its readers in the United Kingdom. Francis Dreyfus Music is starting legal actions against The Mail on Sunday and EMI, as FDM claims the CD does not come from a new re-recorded master, but from the original master the French label owns the rights to.
Jarre has three children:
Let There Be Light; He's Touring All over the World but French Musician Jean Michel Jarre Is Particularly Looking Forward to His Cardiff Gig. Karen Price Finds out Why
Nov 01, 2010; Byline: Karen Price JEAN Michel Jarre has become as renowned for his spectacular laser shows as he is for his electronic...
Let There Be Right; He's Touring All over the World but French Musician Jean Michel Jarre Is Particularly Looking Forward to His Cardiff Gig. Karen Price Finds out Why
Oct 01, 2010; Byline: Karen Price JEAN Michel Jarre has become as renowned for his spectacular laser shows as he is for his electronic...