b. 1948, Lyon
Composer and musician
Jean-Michel Jarre is France's most famous and commercially successful popular composer and musician of the modern era. His unprecedented success-based on technical and technological innovations with synthesizers, such as his semicircular 'Magic Keyboard' and his famous Laser Harp-has guaranteed him huge audiences worldwide: for example, 1 million spectators for his Bastille Day concert in the Place de la Concorde in 1979, 150,000 spectators at five concerts in Peking and Shanghai in 1982 (with 30 million watching on television and 500 million listening on radio), and 1.3 million people at his free concert in Houston in 1986 (a feat which won him his second entry in the Guinness Book of Records). Worldwide record, tape, CD and video sales are now almost impossible to calculate, but record sales alone were of the order of 32 million by 1986.
Jarre's family contained a number of musicians and it was therefore not surprising that he began to learn the piano at the age of 5. While he was still at the Lycée Michelet, he took lessons in harmony, counterpoint and fugue with Jeannine Rueff of the Paris Conservatory. He also learned to play the electric guitar before gaining his degree and joining the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (Musical Research Group) in 1968. The direction his career was to take was now clear: seeking to create something other than conventional or classical music, he experimented with a new acoustic world that went beyond traditional scales and musical notation. The initial result was The Cage (1970), a piece of pure electronic music, followed in 1971 by the audacious but eminently successful introduction of his avant-garde music to the Paris Opera with AOR. The experimental Deserted Palace followed in 1972.
Jarre now diversified his activities by writing music for films, television, advertisements and other performers, not to mention compositions for ballet and the theatre. His first recording intended for release, the revolutionary Oxygène, dates from 1976 and became the best-selling French record of all time, topping the charts worldwide. This instant success brought with it prestigious accolades at home and abroad (the Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros in France, and 'personality of the year' awarded by People magazine in the USA), while his achievements were recognized by the world's press ('Jean-Michel Jarre Oxygenius', proclaimed Interview; 'A French revolution to rock the world' announced the Daily Mirror). The world of popular music had been introduced to new sounds-electronic in origin but vibrant with emotion and rich in their powers of suggestion.
Jarre's second album, Equinoxe (1978), confirmed his international status and encouraged him to break new ground in the realm of live performance. The result was the spectacular and highly innovative Bastille Day concert of 1979 which, in addition to attracting the (then) record-breaking number of spectators, was seen by a television audience of some 100 million. On a personal level, this live concert allowed Jarre to realize one of his ambitions: the re-establishment of the free, 'open-house' musical festival. On a commercial level, it also led to the production of France's first 'full-length' video featuring a popular concert (though the duration-forty minutes-may seem short by current standards). Further successes have followed, such as Magnetic Fields, Zoolooks, Rendez-Vous, Waiting for Cousteau, and Jarre made a huge impact on the United Kingdom with his much-acclaimed Docklands Concerts (1988). Jarre continues to produce innovative, emotionally charged music of the highest quality and to perform in multi-