Published on November 13th, 2014 | by Magalie Lopez0
Jean Michel Jarre or the Visual Music
I remember that day which, instead of being, as expected, one of the most beautiful of my adolescence, was one of the most memorable.
My parents and I had crossed France diagonally towards Mont Saint Michel to go “see” and especially listen to “My Saint Michel Jarre” who was doing a concert at the foot of the rocky island floating on the Channel.
The day before the concert, we had gone to Mont Saint Michel and had seen the immense stage installation in progress: projectors, instruments, musicians, and… the fan in me wants to continue to believe, even though my eyes are not sure of what they saw… Jean Michel Jarre himself.
The next morning, after laboriously going through incredible traffic jams, we came near Mont Saint Michel. A veritable wave of people obstructed the pedestrian route as vehicles blocked the roads. I wanted to throw myself into the crowd and wait with them, but from the wisdom my 17 years, I had to obey my parents who, from the wisdom of their authority and their concerns, had to prevent me from attending the concert and… especially from waiting an entire day among more or less shady strangers.
In the evening, miles away, in the field of the farmer who hosted us, I “saw” the music of which I could only hear the bass.
Even though today I know it isn’t true, I considered myself the biggest fan of Jean Michel Jarre. (Don’t all fans consider themselves to be so ?) I had the same round sunglasses, a synthesizer which I played very well (that is true), his pictures on the walls, his sheet music, all his albums and even a T-shirt with his picture! Ultimately, I even drew his portrait from a photo.
So now, as French Quarter Magazine suggests that I write an article on this great composer, I accept with excitement this glance at the past.
Jean-Michel Jarre entered into this world thanks to the meeting of Maurice Jarre and France Pejot. He was born in Lyon, August 24, 1948, in the district of Croix-Rousse, to a composer father (how about that!) and to a figure of the resistance in Lyon during the Second World War. Maurice Jarre, along with others, composed music for films like “Doctor Zhivago”, “The Dead Poets Society”, “Ghost”, etc.
André Jarre, his grandfather, was also made famous for having co-invented the first mixer for French radio.
It is from this soil, fertilized with music and meddling, that grew Jean Michel Jarre.
I did not want to compile yet another detailed biography about him, nor a discography because, without looking very far, you will find everything (and its opposite) on the web.
What I want to share with you is the energy released by the incredible talent, the genius of this man.
This great artist found a way to illuminate entire cities and to fill them with his great electronic music! If I say “his” electronic music, it is to express the fact that he is one of the great pioneers, the king, the great alchemist, the brewer of daydreams.
I cannot write this article decently without listening to and watching out of the corner of my eye, the video of the concert he put on in Lyon, during the visit of Pope John Paul II on October 5, 1986.
The pope blessed the vast crowd, mingling his followers with those of the musician, and just as he wished “good night” to the city, it lit up, and the first sounds began to resonate. The audience is immediately enveloped in images, flashes of light, fireworks and music, no longer knowing whether the lights are accompanying the instruments or if it’s the opposite.
This is a static voyage through time- ancient, present, future.
On stage, humans, computers and electronics combine their talents to create an unlikely choir uniting man and his machine.
In the midst of all this, like a rock star, Jean Michel Jarre (without the hyphen between Jean and Michel, for a more English effect) moves on stage, leaping from one instrument to another.
Besides, let’s talk about his musical instruments, looking like they came straight out of fantasy land. There is this circular keyboard in which each key lights up when activated. There is this strange guitar with keys, a sort of portable keyboard. But above all, there is the laser harp, the instrument which reminds you of a Jedi weapon, or the secret boot of some Marvel super hero. What’s more, the musician dons his array of superhero gear to handle the harp : sunglasses and protective gloves because even if it is a musical instrument, the strings are no less real lasers.
Arranged in a fan, the rays/strings of the harp seem to rise up to the heavens, and as a classical harp, sound different depending on where you pinch them… except that in this case, the laser is “cut” by the hand of the artist instead of being pinched.
The concert lasts one hour, but have you ever seen one hour pass so quickly!
Already resonating one of the most famous pieces of the composer, Quatrième Rendez-vous, played at all the firework shows of each 14th of July of my childhood, played in all parties… I even danced to this track one night at a party in college!
To our great delight, Jean Michel Jarre concerts multiplied in France and around the world: he was one of the first artists to be allowed to play in China after Mao’s death, there ocurred a concert in Houston where he paid hommage to the seven astronauts lost aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 (Ron McNair, one of the astronauts was a friend of Jarre’s), and recently, he offered a wonderful concert in honor of the marriage of Prince Albert of Monaco.
I dream that he will return to light up Lyon, and this time neither traffic jams, nor my age will stand a chance against my determination. I will find a T-shirt, some round glasses, and a backpack with a poster that he will sign after the concert. I’ll return home without my feet touching the ground, floating above people, my head in the clouds.