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Music / Jean-Michel Jarre

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Jean-Michel Jarre, October 1981, live in China. Yes, he gigged with a Fairlight.
"Music is the human treatment of sounds."

Jean-Michel André Jarre is a French electronic musician and multimedia performer, recognized as one of the most important pioneers in modern electronic music. He was born in Lyon on August 24, 1948 as the son of the film score composer Maurice Jarre (Doctor Zhivago) and a former Résistance member.

His musical career began in the late 1960s with two bands, one of which covered the Shadows and the Spotnicks with Jarre as as Strat-toting Hank Marvin stand-in and appeared in a nowadays obscure French movie. His first release was the single La Cage in 1971 which is so rare that it has grown more expensive than many synthesizers. It was followed by the not less rare album Deserted Palace (1972) and the movie soundtrack Les Granges Brûlées (1973). Over the 70s, Jarre did a couple of jobs in the music industry including TV and advertising music and composing the music and/or writing the lyrics (!) of French chansons/pop songs, partly in the wake of the disco era.


These jobs seem to have paid him enough to gather together a small home studio that he installed in one of his two kitchens—in a time when there were practically no home studios at all as opposed to today, and when all equipment including the synthesizers was hardware—and record his 1976 breakthrough album, Oxygène. This album, together with its 1978 successor Equinoxe, defined Jarre's Signature Style of electronic music that sounded nothing like it had been made with machines (as opposed to Kraftwerk, for example). The major labels saw no chance in instrumental electronic music being commercially successful, though, so Jarre released Oxygène at a small jazz label where it reached gold status within no time. Since Jarre's music didn't fit into any established musical genre, the hit single "Oxygène 4" managed to top the U.S. pop, jazz, classical music, and country charts all at once; not bad for a French musician.


The people who bought Oxygène and Equinoxe have never gotten over Jarre leaving his Signature Style in The '80s, moving on with the development of electronic instruments, and trying new styles. Zoolook (1984, featuring Laurie Anderson, Marcus Miller, and Adrian Belew, just to name a few guest musicians) was heavily based on vocal samples from dozens of languages, Revolutions (1988) had more Roland D-50 written over it than anything ever made by Enya, Waiting For Cousteau (1990) was Jarre meets steel drums.

The 1993 album Chronologie saw Jarre on his way back to the roots with the dance styles of The '90s combined with some analog synths and sounds used by Jarre in his more popular albums from The '70s; besides, it was Jarre's first album with all tracks given the album title and the track number as titles since Magnetic Fields (1981). Oxygène 7-13, released in 1997 (intended to be a 20-years-on-Oxygène anniversary album but delayed by several months) was thoroughly analog and an almost complete return to Jarre's Signature Style, weren't it for some more contemporary dance beats in some parts.

Metamorphoses (2000) was Jarre's first and only album with the majority of tracks having vocals and lyrics and being sung for a change, only two out of twelve tracks are Instrumentals. Once again, though, it didn't sound like anything Jarre had made before. Sessions 2000 (2002) was made of recorded electronic jazz-like jam sessions which Jarre put on a CD because he had to fulfill his album quota before he could get out of his record deal. His subsequent original releases (Geometry Of Love, 2003, Téo & Téa, 2007) turned out so weird that Jarre hardly ever played anything out of them at his concerts. Instead, he revived older material twice (he had to because his old recordings remained property of the jazz label). In 2004, Aero was released, a sort of Greatest Hits Album with three new tracks and the rest having been partly re-recorded and remixed in surround sound, and in 2007, Jarre and three of his co-musicians remade all of Oxygène live in one sitting, enabling the whole album to be performed live on stage.

Jarre probably keeps a negative record sales record with his 1983 album Music For Supermarkets, of which only one was produced and then sold at an auction.

A description of Jean-Michel Jarre wouldn't be complete without mentioning his concerts. Jarre took both lightshows and audience sizes Up to Eleven. His 1979 premiere concert with only him and some electronic instruments on a stage on the Place de la Concorde in Paris already gave him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest concert audience ever—one million. What they saw wasn't just a synth nerd in a keyboard castle but a show of lights and projections of previously unseen dimensions. In 1981, the British Embassy in the People's Republic of China got him to play five indoor concerts in Beijing and Shanghai as the first pop musician ever. Jarre's next live show in Houston, Texas, in 1986 was blown out of any proportions imaginable when he used just about all of downtown Houston's skyline as the backdrop (as in he had lights, laser projections, still images, and even movies shot onto the facades of several-100-feet-tall skyscrapers with skytrackers on their roofs and gigantic fireworks even above these) for a concert with which he beat his own record (more than 1.5 million spectators). He played a similar outdoor concert for Pope John Paul II in his hometown Lyons half a year later, he gave a show on a stage floating on the River Thames inmidst the ruins of the Queen Victoria Docks in London in 1988 during a phase of downright extremely bad weather, and he improved his own record a second time on a pyramid-shaped stage in front of Paris' brand-spanking-new skyscraper quarter La Défense in 1990 (for some 2.5 million people).

It took him until 1993 to actually tour for the first time, and even then, he only played a couple of shows throughout Europe because each of the huge custom-made open-air stages took several days to weld together. And it wasn't before 1997—two years after his third big show in Paris, this time under the Eiffel Tower—that he had a tour concept that fit onto existing stages in locations with a solid roof. Jarre's last giant show in a city was part of Moscow's 850th anniversary, played in front of the State University (the biggest building in all of Moscow, and the architecture of the Stalin era was impressively huge) and watched by at least 3.5 million people as the university can be seen all over the city. The millennium celebrations led him to the pyramids of Gizeh which of course were used as projection screens again. The 21st century saw him play a number of smaller single shows in places such as the Akropolis in Athens, a Danish windmill park, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a legendary shipyard in Gdańsk, and the Moroccan desert; on the other hand, he played one tour per year from 2008 to 2011 where he kept shamelessly showcasing unbelievable amounts of mostly highly valuable vintage synthesizers.

In 2015, he started a project called Electronica in which he collaborated with a lot of big names in music, not only electronic music, such as Pete Townshend, Armin Van Buuren, Lang Lang, John Carpenter, Hans Zimmer, Tangerine Dream (their very last production with Edgar Froese), Air, Little Boots (herself a big Jarre fan), 3D, Moby, Vince Clarke, Gary Numan, Pet Shop Boys or Cyndi Lauper. "Exit" even includes a monologue by Edward Snowden.

Studio album releases:

  • "La Cage" (Single, 1971)
  • Deserted Palace (1972)
  • Les Granges Brûlées (soundtrack, 1973, re-released on CD 2003)
  • Oxygène (1976 in France, 1977 worldwide)
  • Equinoxe (1978)
  • Les Chants Magnétiques (Magnetic Fields) (1981)
  • Musique Pour Supermarché (Music for Supermarkets) (1983, only one official copy made)
  • Zoolook (1984)
  • Rendez-vous (1986)
  • Revolutions (1988)
  • En Attendant Cousteau (Waiting for Cousteau) (1990)
  • Chronologie (1993)
  • Oxygène 7-13 (1997)
  • Metamorphoses (2000)
  • Sessions 2000 (2002)
  • Geometry Of Love (2003)
  • Jarre In China (2004)
  • Aero (2004)
  • Téo & Téa (2007)
  • Oxygène – New Master Recording (2007)
  • Electronica 1 - The Time Machine (2015)
  • Electronica 2 - The Heart of Noise (2016)
  • Oxygène 3 (2016)
  • Equinoxe Infinity (2018)

Live Album releases:

  • Les Concerts En Chine (The Concerts in China) (1982)
  • In Concert Houston-Lyon/Cities In Concert (1987)
  • Jarre Live/Destination Docklands (1989)
  • Hong Kong (1994)

Miscellaneous album releases:

Live video releases:

  • Video Concert (VHS, 1980)
  • The China Concerts (VHS, 1989)
  • Rendez-vous Houston (VHS, 1989)
  • Rendez-vous Lyon (VHS, 1989)
  • Destination Docklands (VHS, 1989)
  • Paris La Défense (VHS, 1992)
  • Europe In Concert - Barcelona (VHS, 1994)
  • Concert pour la tolérance (LaserDisc, France only, 1995)
  • Oxygen In Moscow/Making The Steamroller Fly (VHS, 1998)
  • Oxygene Moscow/Making The Steamroller Fly (DVD, USA and Brazil only at first, 2000)
  • Live à Pékin (DVD, 2004)
  • Jarre In China (2 DVDs + 1 CD, the same concert but uncut on video, 2005, first live music DVD ever to be THX-certified)
  • Oxygène - Live In Your Living-Room (DVD, 2007, came with certain editions of the Oxygène 30th anniversary remake, recorded in an otherwise empty film studio rather than in front of an audience)

Tropes (Parts I-VI):

  • Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: "Hey Gagarin" with vocoded vocals from Jarre himself. Unlike the correct Russian pronunciation, Jarre puts the emphasis in "Gagarin" on the last syllable. Justified in that the whole song is vocoded with a strong French accent, and in French, it's always the last syllable that's emphasized, and this happens to other words in it as well.
  • All Guitars Are Stratocasters: At least up to 1993. Jarre used to play a Fiesta red Strat Hank Marvin-style in his youth. Later on, he had several encounters with the real Hank Marvin and his Fiesta red Strat, first by the Shadows covering him back ("Equinoxe 5", 1979), then by Hank Marvin joining him ("London Kid", 1988), then by Hank Marvin covering him again ("Oxygène 4", 1993). The combo breaker was Patrick Rondat who did not play a Strat when he played for Jarre from 1993 on.
  • Audience Participation: "Revolution, Revolutions" when played at a gig in the United Kingdom, Manchester in particular.
  • Autobiography: Melancholic Rodeo, published in 2019, is more this than anything that came before it such as Making The Steamroller Fly.
  • Big Rock Ending: Used to be pulled off with certain songs at live shows, especially "Fourth Rendez-vous" at Rendez-vous Houston.
  • Bizarre Instrument: Subverted in a sense by many instruments designed for Jarre because they were actually functional. The Laser Harp is a perfect example—even today, many people don't believe it is actually playable.
    • M. Jarre has had more than one laser harp since he started using them - they have been upgraded and replaced as technology has improved (for instance, earlier models were built into a podium with an overhead truss to intercept the beams). The current models may well function as implied, but some of the older ones plainly didn't (c.f. the London Docklands concert, where one of his hands drifted out of its beam without affecting the sustained note he was trying to hold).
    • The teensy-tiny (and of course playable) laser harp that Jarre had in his 2011 live rig (along with the usual big one) was kind of strange even for Jarre, though.
    • Also, there are the Theremin (see below) and the Cristal Baschet, but all of these are playable, too.
    • The most bizarre piece of equipment for normal standards ever put on a Jarre stage has to be the Meuble a.k.a. Grand Central created by French guitar (and then also keytar) builder Lag for Destination Docklands. It wasn't just a prop, though. It had three playable keybeds (plus the foil keyboard on one of the two integrated EMS Synthi AKS), it contained a Roland D-550 (the then-recent album Revolutions contained more D-50 and its expander version D-550 than everything else combined), a Fairlight CMI and a Dynacord ADD-One drum module, and it housed an Atari 520 ST which was at least used for sheet music (Notator), if not even for MIDI sequencing (Cubase).
    • So keytars were nothing out of the ordinary by the late 80s. What did Jarre do? He had three completely custom ones built, one looking like an insect, two semi-circular ones. Again, not just show props, but actually with technical features that production keytars tend to lack such as polyphonic aftertouch.
    • For Jarre's standards, a barrel organ would be bizarre all right. Came the 1993 Europe In Concert tour...
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jarre's concert videos have some interesting instances.
    • Paris La Défense: Charlotte Rampling (yes, the famous British actress and Jarre's then-wife), on stage for taking concert photographs, glances at the camera while holding hers. As if an actress didn't know better.
    • Destination Docklands tops this even: The show took place during heavy rain. A live camera is pulled down and has its lens wiped dry. This was intentionally made part of the final cut of the concert video.
  • Call-and-Response Song: Done with two synthesizers on "Oxygène 12".
  • Compilation Re Release: Done several times already, not only with single pieces of music (most notably on the Essentials & Rarities compilation), but also with whole albums.
    • The Laser Years was a box of all Jarre albums released to that point, but it also exclusively (until more than ten years later) contained Cities In Concert which is the same as In Concert Houston-Lyon, but with all music uncut.
    • When Oxygène 7-13 was released, it also came out as a limited-edition double album titled The Complete Oxygène containing both Oxygènes and the new one with a remix of Oxygène 12 as a bonus track.
    • When Oxygène 3 came out, a box with all three Oxygènes (Oxygène 7-13 renamed Oxygène 2 with its cover matched to the other two albums) was released to celebrate Oxygène's 40th anniversary (and to make it easier for new Jarre fans to start collecting his albums because the box is cheaper than the three single albums). It does not, however, contain Oxygène – New Master Recording or the video Oxygène – Live In Your Living-Room.
  • Concept Album: Several. Most of them, one could say.
  • Contemptible Cover: Geometry of Love features a yellow-tinted, pixellated photograph of Isabelle Adjani's (Jarre's girlfriend at the time) crotch.
  • Cover Version: Yes, Jarre has been not only remixed, but also covered a lot over the time, and not only by Ed Starink.
    • The best example would be The Shadows. One of Jarre's school-time bands covered the Shadows in the late 1960s with Jarre as Hank Marvin. The Shadows covered Jarre's "Equinoxe 5" (actually parts "5" through "7") in 1980. In 1988, Jarre got Hank Marvin to collaborate on the track "London Kid" from Revolutions. In 1993, Hank Marvin took his Fiesta red Stratocaster and covered "Oxygène 4".
    • Even after Oxygène, Jarre himself isn't beyond covering, although the few examples have been parts of concerts. "Fishing Junks at Sunset", played at most of Jarre's shows in what is China today, is a reworked piece of classical Chinese music, something even some die-hard fans don't know. "Salma Ya Salama" from the millennium The Twelve Dreams of the Sun is a covered Dalida song. And several songs from the Gdańsk show Space of Freedom aren't composed by Jarre either.
    • Jarre's son David played some pieces from Rendez-vous on a small Korg arranger keyboard which his father then mixed into "Rendez-vous 5 Part 2". This means the covers were released on the same album as the originals.
    • The German Heavy Metal band Helloween made a cover of "Magnetic Fields 2". Unfortunately, it was only available on the Japanese version of The Time Of The Oath.
    • Vertigo's dance cover of "Oxygène 4" managed to chart in 1997. That was in the middle of the remix craze when the Jarre fans referred to it as a "remix".
    • When Helios released their dance version of "Equinoxe 4" in 1998, they kept explaining in interviews that it's a cover and not a remix.
    • Jarre was covered a lot in the Commodore64 music scene, probably more so than any other artist.
    • Last but not least, there are many covers by Jarre fans who often take it upon themselves to copy the original as precisely as humanly possible.
  • Dedication: Jarre loves to dedicate pieces of music, albums, even whole concerts to people. Revolutions, however, takes it to the extreme.
    This record is dedicated to all the children of the revolution,
    to the children of the Industrial Revolution,
    to those of the 1960's and the computer age,
    to the children of emigrants
    and to those of Dulcie September.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The traffic situations that some of Jarre's outdoor concerts led to.
    • Staging a Europe In Concert show at Mont St. Michel promised one gorgeous concert, but getting tens of thousands of people there and back again was nigh-impossible. Many people couldn't make use of their concert tickets because it was simply impossible to get to the island in time because the only bridge was completely clogged. It didn't help that many spectators arrived in time for a concert at some stadium in the middle of a city, but not for this remote venue.
    • Aero took place in a Danish windmill park, and the audience stood on a field. The ground was not only muddy, but even softer than at your usual festival. Since fields were the only available parking-lots as well, lots of cars got stuck in the mud, and nearby farmers had to be called in the middle of the night to tow them out with their tractors.
    • Rendez-vous Houston happened in the middle of a U.S. metropolis with a decent freeway network. But even that had to succumb to the massive audience: The spectators got to their viewing-places all over the day, and even then, they were so many that they clogged several freeways to the point of the police having to close them. But once the gig was over, a good 1.5 million people wanted to go home all at the same time, the vast majority of them by private automobile. But then again, nothing like Rendez-vous Houston had ever been done before, Jarre had never played a concert in the USA before, and nobody could even estimate how many people would come and see it.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: Jarre wants his fans to bootleg his concerts. After all, it's the only way to conserve them for the future without disfiguring edits and cuts.
  • Disappeared Dad: Maurice Jarre left his family and went to Hollywood to become a film score composer when his son was just three years old.
  • Echoing Acoustics: The bass drum of "Calypso 3" has some massive reverb.
  • Electronic Music: Some call him the Godfather of Electronic Music. In a more balanced way, he's among the small group of great pioneers of the 70's such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Tangerine Dream or Giorgio Moroder.
  • Epic Rocking: Jarre recorded many oversized pieces of music in his career, some of them being longer than 10 minutes (and epic, all right).
    • "Waiting for Cousteau" takes the cake, though: 46:53 (albeit with no apparent rhythm or composed melody). Originally, it was even longer than one hour, but it had to be shortened. It's usually put on loop over the PA before Jarre's concerts.
    • "Equinoxe 4" isn't exactly short in its regular album version at almost seven minutes. But there's also a maxi version, only ever released on a translucent blue 12" single, with an additional percussion part that extends it to beyond nine minutes. The percussion part can also be heard in the official music video.
    • Since November 2019, there is "EōN", a constantly evolving piece of music that shall never repeat itself and can be accessed via an app. Each instance of the app even plays something different. So we're talking about a track length of "infinite", "for the foreseeable future" or "however long you run the app". Limited box sets contain CDs or LPs with early snapshots.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Magnetic Fields and Zoolook, the albums made in the early days of sampling. And Jarre used to be a member of Pierre Schaeffer's Groupe de Recherches Musicales which influenced his earliest works. And let's not forget the shutter and motor winder of Charlotte Rampling's Nikon camera in "Souvenir of China".
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Rendez-vous Houston was just about the biggest concert in the history of music back then and broke a whole number of records.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Jarre had Synth Sparkles long before the Yamaha DX7 (which he didn't like anyway) thanks to the EMS models VCS3 and Synthi AKS.
  • Evolving Music: Lots of examples, only a few of which are listed here.
    • "Oxygène 4" had parts of it replaced with a kind of bridge following the same chords from the 1990 Paris La Défense concert on.
    • On the same occasion, "Equinoxe 4" got a new intro.
    • "Equinoxe 7" has been cut off before the long ambient ending ever since 1986 (Rendez-vous Houston). From 1995 (Concert pour la tolérance) to the mid-2000s, another chunk was cut out (it came back with reinforcement a few years ago), and a filter modulation was added to the bass.
    • The first half of "Equinoxe 8", also known as "Band In The Rain", has been played on a barrel organ on stage ever since 1993 (Europe In Concert).
    • "Magnetic Fields 2", for example, got a long solo section a few weeks after its initial release in 1981 (The Concerts In China), a modified melody in 1988 (Destination Docklands), and an additional bridge in 1990 (Paris La Défense); the latter two changes were reverted in 2009 for the In>Doors tour.
    • "Souvenir of China" got several solos at the end over the time.
    • Both "Souvenir of China" and "Second Rendez-vous" were accompanied by an orchestra for several years, starting at the millennium night.
    • "Revolutions" had its Turkish flute intro replaced by an Arabian string orchestra playing an entirely different melody and its title changed to "Revolution, Revolutions" in 1990.
    • As for evolution in the studio, "Orient Express" was entirely re-recorded for the Greatest Hits Album Images in 1991, and hardly anything was left as-is for Aero in 2004.
    • The most common live change in the 1980s and 1990s were drums played live, and they were played differently at each concert or tour since the drummer didn't always follow the original drum machine beats. The most extreme changes were probably applied at the Twelve Dreams Of The Sun, not only because the music had to fit a mostly Egyptian audience, but also because this was the only time that Gary Wallis played the drums for Jarre, and he gave them a not-quite-slight The Police touch. Most concerts of those times also had a bass guitar player.
    • Some songs from Metamorphoses were not only reworked, but also renamed. "Light My Sky" used to be "Tout Est Bleu", "Give Me A Sign" was slowed down a lot and became "Hymn To Acropolis" (which in turn had several other titles over the times), and "Aero" can barely still be identified as what used to be "Je Me Souviens".
  • Fading into the Next Song: Jarre is famous for this. "Oxygène 1" and "2" are barely separated, the arpeggio of "Equinoxe 3" leads into "Equinoxe 4" - a trick repeated throughout Equinoxe, with the bassline of "Equinoxe 5" continuing throughout parts six and seven - and a similar connection exists between "Magnetic Fields 3" and "4". Several of his longer songs, such as "Ethnicolor" and "Blah Blah Cafe", from Zoolook, are constructed from shorter pieces of music sequed into each other. Also, many of his albums since Waiting for Cousteau have all of their songs linked together with no pause in the middle.
    • Averted with the third section of "Magnetic Fields 1", which begins abruptly in the middle of a sample of a passing jet plane.
  • Famous Ancestor: These may be rather close ancestors, but Jean-Michel Jarre is
    • the son of the movie score composer Maurice Jarre (Doctor Zhivago)
    • also the son of France Pejot, important member of La Résistance
    • and the grandson of André Jarre, co-inventor of the mixing desk; he probably wouldn't be where he is now without his grandpa's creativity
  • Fan Community Nickname: In French, Jarre fans call themselves and each other "Jarriens".
  • Fan Remake: Some Jarre fans who play synths themselves sometimes record cover versions of Jarre's music, challenging themselves to remake the original studio (or live album) sound as closely as they can down to tiniest details. These versions are referred to as "replica covers".
  • Frank's 2000-Inch TV: Does this man ever exaggerate this trope.
    • In the 1980s and 1990s, Jarre played huge outdoor concerts in front of huge buildings such as the skyscraper skylines of Houston, TX, and La Défense (Paris), the Moscow State University (the biggest building in Moscow), or the Pyramids of Gizeh. Most of the buildings served as gigantic projection screens of sometimes way more than 2000 inches.
    • Even when playing indoors, Jarre uses video projections on certain pieces of music.
    • Inverted during the 2009 In>Doors tour: Jarre had RGB LED spotlights programmed so that they acted as small circular screens displaying the "Le trac" binoculars guy from the Equinoxe cover. These things are smaller than a 1950s black & white TV.
    • His latest show gimmick as of the 2016 Electronica tour, replacing projections altogether, are movable curtains of RGB LEDs both behind and in front of the stage.
  • FIFA World Cup Special: Rendez-Vous 98, a remix of Fourth Rendez-Vous intended to capture all the thrill of a World Cup finale.
    • Jarre actually made two songs for the '98 World Cup: "Rendez-vous '98" together with Apollo 440 for the United Kingdom and "Together Now" together with Tetsuya "TK" Komuro for Japan, both also for France, World Cup host and his homeland.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Part of most Jarre concerts. There used to be laser projections, today there are laser scanners, and let's not forget the Laser Harp.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The album Geometry of Love. It is particularly notable that the cover art made it past the radar.
    • The first lead voice in "Ethnicolor" sounds like the word "tit". It's actually a factory sample that came with the Fairlight CMI and rather sounds like "tsut" and that Jarre only changed from one-shot to looped, but still.
  • Gratuitous Panning: An old Jarre trick is to divide a delayed sequence by panning the original fully to one side and the delay hard to the other. Examples include "Magnetic Fields 1" and "Arpegiator", both of which came out as late as 1981.
  • Greatest Hits Album: The Essential (1983), Musik aus Zeit und Raum (1983), The Essential (1985), Images (1991), The Essential (again) (2003), Aero (2004), the "Essentials" half of Essentials & Rarities (2011), Planet Jarre (2018).
  • Green Aesop: Especially the "Statistics Adagio".
  • Grief Song/In Memoriam:
    • "Ron's Piece" turned into one for Ron McNair after the Challenger disaster. Ron should have played the saxophone part both for the album Rendez-vous and at the concert Rendez-vous Houston while in space.
    • At Oxygen In Moscow 1997, "Souvenir of China" was dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales, who had died earlier the same year.
    • "September" is another case of In Memoriam, it is dedicated to the Apartheid victim Dulcie September.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: "Ron's Piece" has a sampled human heartbeat instead of drums. The piece basically begins when the heartbeat sets in, and a heartbeat sample is the very last note. Also, the album Chronologie starts and ends with synthesized heartbeats.
  • Heavy Metal: The young French metal guitarist Patrick Rondat joined Jarre in 1993 and again in 2005. Rondat went as far as playing a metal rendition of a part of Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons at some of Jarre's concerts in addition to accompanying some of Jarre's own music.
  • Iconic Song Request: "Oxygène! Oxygène! Oxygène! Oxygène!" or "Rendez-vous! Rendez-vous! Rendez-vous! Rendez-vous!"
  • I Have Many Names: Jarre's many pseudonyms before Oxygène. While writing for and producing several French singers and making music for commercials and such under his real name, he released a number of singles under names like 1906, Foggy Joe/The Foggy Joe Band, The Pop Corn Orchestra or Jamie Jefferson.
  • Improv: Sessions 2000, period. Also happens a lot at certain points of certain pieces when played live including the entirety of "Oxygène 5" ever since 1997. Recent examples include Theremin or breath controller intros.
  • In Name Only: As far as the actual music is concerned, the Hong Kong live album contains exactly nothing from the eponymous concert. "Fishing Junks At Sunset" (or what remained of it after the remastering and reduction to one CD) is from the dress rehearsal, "Souvenir Of China" is edited from the Paris La Défense version, and the whole rest has been pieced together from the Europe In Concert tour including Barcelona which got its own VHS release. This led to certain pieces supposedly sounding exactly the same when played in Barcelona 1993 and then in Hongkong 1994.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The literal French translation of Magnetic Fields would be Champs Magnétiques. The French album title (actually printed on album covers, by the way) was Les Chants Magnétiques (The Magnetic Chants) which is pronounced exactly the same. Face it, it's impossible for a Jarre-related pun to be lamer than this.
  • Instrumentals: By far most of Jarre's music. Also, the reason why Jarre's music was allowed to be sold and then played live in China 1981: It had no potentially dangerous lyrics.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Electronic Music with no guitars and no "real" instruments. Purely instrumental tunes without anyone singing. Pieces of music that are eight minutes long and more without any clear rock or pop song structure. Every single major label turned Oxygène down because they thought nobody would want to listen to that (or, in fact, anything that was neither Disco nor Punk Rock). It was the same mistake they had made with The Beatles all over again.
  • Live Album:
    • The Concerts In China (1982), covering the 1981 China concerts. The most "live" of them all (except for "Souvenir Of China" which Jarre recorded in his studio in 1982).
    • In Concert Houston-Lyon (1987), covering the 1986 mega-shows Rendez-vous Houston and Rendez-vous Lyon on a single album. Needless to say it's far from complete, and only two pieces aren't shortened.
      • Cities In Concert was originally the version from the Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition album box The Laser Years; it has the same tracklist, but the tracks themselves are full length. It has taken the place of In Concert as the regular release in 1997 when Jarre had his albums remastered.
    • Jarre Live, later renamed Destination Docklands, covering the rainy, windy Destination Docklands concerts in London 1988. It's still heavily cut today.
    • Hong Kong used to be a double album containing "Souvenir Of China" and "Fishing Junks At Sunset" from the dress rehearsal of the 1994 Hong Kong concert and otherwise Europe In Concert tour footage. When it was remastered, it was shortened to only one CD, and "Fishing Junks At Sunset" lost its first half.
    • The DVD set Jarre In China also contains a CD with a selection of the music from the show.
    • Otherwise, look out for bootlegs.
  • List Song:
    • "Millions of Stars", both versions (musical chords and celestial bodies, respectively), and "Revolutions"/"Revolution, Revolutions".
    • "Sale of the Century" isn't really a song of itself but an interlude from the 1993 Europe In Concert tour based on the end of "Chronologie 5", but otherwise it counts.
  • A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": The China concerts 1981. The people in the post-Mao People's Republic of China didn't know any contemporary Western music, let alone electronic music, until the British Embassy imported Oxygène and Equinoxe, and they had never attended concerts with electronically amplified and thus considerably loud music. Nevertheless, they went absolutely wild.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Electronica is two albums so far with mostly collaborations with other musicians, all of whom Jarre has visited personally instead of exchanging audio files via the Internet. In track order:
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Jarre Live before it was renamed Destination Docklands, Waiting For Cousteau with a yellow ear on a blue background, and Aero with the title and Jarre's eyes on a white background.
  • Modulation: "Second Rendez-vous", for example, changes among F minor (parts 1, 2, 4), D minor (parts 1, 2), and C minor (part 3, which is entirely different from the rest of the work).
  • My Nayme Is: Jarre dropped the dash that would usually belong between his forenames. It's "Jean Michel" instead of "Jean-Michel". As of Electronica, it's back.
  • Myspeld Rökband: Vizitors (Jarre and Tetsuya "TK" Komuro).
  • New Sound Album: Anything released after Equinoxe, to the degree that no post-Equinoxe album sounds like its respective predecessor. Waiting For Cousteau and Metamorphoses probably took the cake, the latter by being the first and only Jarre album with vocals and lyrics on almost all songs. Goes together with They Changed It, Now It Sucks!.
    • Oxygène 3 is a very good example. Whereas Jarre had tried to give Oxygène 7-13 a sound close to Oxygène's, he tried something completely different with Oxygène 3 which shares with Oxygène only the way how it was made in only six weeks with limited possibilities.
  • The Not-Remix:
    • Aero mostly contains a mixture of original studio footage and newly recorded elements mixed in 5.1 surround sound. But they're not declared "remixes"—in contrast to late 1990s' habits when fans found themselves speaking of electronic cover versions of Jarre's music as remixes due to a flood of actual remixes.
    • In fact, this already applies to "Equinoxe 5", which was remixed and apparently partly re-recorded prior to Equinoxe's CD release. The latter is more well-known today, and people are often puzzled when they stumble upon the original version.
  • Numbered Sequels: Oxygène 7-13 and Oxygène 3, the sequels to Oxygène.
    • Better yet: Oxygène 7-13 was officially renamed Oxygène 2 for the Oxygène three-album box when Oxygène 3 came out.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The few seconds of "Equinoxe 5" allowed on the album Aero sound like coming from a constantly bent music box.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ:
    • The end of "Digisequencer".
    • Subverted by the beginning of "Chronologie 8" which is almost wedding compatible.
  • Organ Grinder: At concerts, "Band in the Rain" (actually the first half of "Equinoxe 8") is usually played by Jarre on a barrel organ.
  • Orient Express: An actual track on The Concerts In China, later re-recorded for Images.
  • Playing the Heart Stringmachines: "Souvenir Of China", "Oxygène 13", "Statistics Adagio" (which is played on a sample-based arranger keyboard), just to mention a few. Many more Jarre songs feature moving string lines less dominantly.
  • Pun-Based Title: Les Chants Magnétiques is the French title of Magnetic Fields but translates to "the magnetic chants". The correct translation of (The) Magnetic Fields would be Les Champs Magnétiques which is pronounced exactly the same as Les Chants Magnétiques.
  • Raised by Grandparents: In the absence of his father, this was more convenient for him than staying with only his busy mother. Plus, the surroundings of his grandparents' living-place turned out to be quite inspiring for young Jean-Michel.
  • Rearrange the Song: Several Jarre classics got partly new accompaniments and especially drum parts for the Twelve Dreams of the Sun, some of them to sound more Arabic. Also, the dance-pop/trance version of "Magnetic Fields 2" from the 1997 Oxygène Arena Tour.
    • "The Overture" from The Concerts in China is a re-arranged version of "Magnetic Fields 1" with the main sequence played back at half speed.
  • Regional Riff:
    • Caribbean steel drums ("Calypso")
    • A Turkish Ney ("Revolutions") and an Arab string ensemble ("Revolution, Revolutions") respectively plus matching chants; also sampled synth strings (a real ensemble when played live) and Natacha Atlas' trilingual Arabesque singing ("C'est La Vie")
    • Flamenco guitars (the Europe In Concert version of "Digisequencer" in Barcelona)
    • A Chinese orchestra ("Fishing Junks At Sunset", although this one is in fact a Chinese composition spiced up with French-made electronic sounds)
    • A French accordion ("Chronologie 6", the instrument in question is actually an Italian Cavagnolo accordion)
    • England is represented by Hank Marvin's 60s-style Strat ("London Kid")
  • Remix Album: Jarremix (1993, mostly based on Chronologie), Odyssey Through O2 (1998, mostly based on Oxygène 7-13).
  • Repurposed Pop Song: Jarre's music has been used as themes of several TV shows, parts of the album Oxygène went into the soundtrack of Gallipoli, and "Arpegiator" (from The Concerts In China) is the background music of the hottest sex scene in 9½ Weeks.
  • Re-release the Song: "Oxygène 4", the original studio single recording from 1976, was re-released at about the same time as Jarre Live (a live album) in 1989 with a brand-new video.
  • Retraux: Oxygène 7-13, the 2007 Oxygène remake, and to a certain degree Chronologie. Averted with Oxygène 3 which is what Oxygène might be if it had been made exactly 40 years later.
  • Rockumentary: Making the Steamroller Fly.
  • Scatting: The human voice samples on Zoolook.
  • Scenery Gorn: Destination Docklands was deliberately staged at London's Queen Victoria Docks when half of the buildings on location were ruins (two of them were painted white one last time to be used as projection screens) and half were already demolished piles of rubble. Add to that London's dreadful autumn weather. See also Scenery Porn below.
  • Scenery Porn: Jarre's mega-concerts made a lot of use of the surrounding architecture and were tailor-made for the location, no matter how huge the structures behind the stage were. Beginning with 2007's Oxygène – Live In Your Living-Room and the 2008 Oxygène Tour, the Scenery Porn concentrated on the stage, on the vintage synthesizers, to be more precise, up to and including rectangular, color-changing spotlights to illuminate them separately. The Oxygène Tour even had a tiltable mirror hanging above the synth castles so that the audience could see them from above.
  • Shout-Out: 1990's En Attendant Cousteau (Waiting for Cousteau in releases within the Anglosphere) takes its name from famous French play Waiting for Godot.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Equinoxe 5" through "7".
  • Signature Style: Defined by Oxygène and Equinoxe. Some expect Jarre to always sound like this which often leads to disappointment once they listen to any one of his other albums.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Bells", "Rendez-vous à Paris".
  • The Something Song: "Digisequencer" is also known as "Sequencer Song".
  • Song Style Shift: Happens in several of Jarre's works, for example "Night In Shanghai", "Ethnicolor", "Calypso 2", "Digisequencer". Some of them are divided into subparts by fans to tell the sections from one another, especially if only one of them is played live (for example "Oxygène 5", "Equinoxe 8", "Magnetic Fields 1", "Oxygène 7", "Chronologie 1").
  • Spoken Word in Music: The weather forecast verses of "Tout Est Bleu", the original verses of "Millions Of Stars", "Je Me Souviens" and "Love Love Love" as a whole, parts of "C'est La Vie", the "project explanation" bits from "Téo & Téa", and understandable samples of Chinese in "Souvenir Of China" (the voice samples on Zoolook might or might not count). The lyrics of "Revolution, Revolutions" have always been spoken into the vocoder at concerts after 1990. And then there are the spoken interludes from the Europe In Concert tour.
  • Surreal Music Video: "Zoolookologie", often described by modern viewers as "vaporwave before vaporwave."
  • Take That!: A humorous case happened at the 2016 Electronica tour. In response to people taking photographs or even filming his concerts (which Jarre encourages) with their smartphones, Jarre let the "Le trac" binoculars guys return on the LED curtains right after "Equinoxe 4", now holding smartphones.
  • Technology Porn: The 2008 Oxygène Tour seemed to focus on gear. Loads of vintage gear that would make any synth nerd drool, that you might only ever see live at a Jarre concert. He even used special rectangular spotlights to illuminate synthesizers individually or in groups for a while, sometimes also a movable mirror above the stage so all his gear could be seen. Tour merch included T-shirts with close-up images of EMS synths. The two following tours toned this down only slightly without reducing the quantity of instruments involved.
    • The same goes for the predecessor of the 2008 tour, Oxygène — Live In Your Living Room, just without the lightshow.
    • This.
    • Many of Jarre's albums include lists of the gear used to record them. Rendez-vous goes as far as listing who of the musicians involved used what on which track. To be fair, for synth nerds, this is porn all right, considering what Jarre had in his studio.
    • Jarre showing off some legendary instruments on a concert stage.
  • Theremin: Claimed to have been played on Oxygène 7-13. This instrument did in fact appear at the Oxygène Arena Tour the same year and at every Jarre concert ever since. Jarre has actually learned to play it meanwhile.
  • Tick Tock Tune: Most of Chronologie uses the ticking of clocks as either ambient noise or part of the rhythm. Bonus points for the use of an alarm sequence Jarre composed for Swatch the previous year, sampled from an actual wristwatch.
  • Train Song: "Orient Express".
    • "Magnetic Fields 2", in its original single and album versions as well as the La Défense remix on Images, fades into a recording of a train being shunted.
    • At the end of "Magnetic Fields 4", heavily modified samples of a moving print head (!) are faded in before you hear an express train pass at high speed. The song ends with a pneumatic sliding door closing.
  • Trope 2000: Sessions 2000, or so it seems since the album came out in 2002. It was recorded in 2000, though, and the tracks have their recording dates for titles.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Taken Up to Eleven in "London Kid" with modulations of "multiple" semitones. Twice.
  • Uncommon Time: "Chronologie 1" starts in 9/8. The lack of drums or rhythmic accompaniment except for one aleatoric string line makes it even more confusing.
  • Unplugged Version: "Band in the Rain" played on a barrel organ.
  • Unusual User Interface: The Laser Harp. Instead of strings, it has laser beams which, meanwhile, are powerful enough to slice your hand if you put it in them with no protective gloves on. And yes, the laser harpist does insert his hands into the beams. The maximum number of 10 beams used by Jarre isn't much of an obstacle since different notes can be assigned to the beams.
  • Variant Cover: Equinoxe Infinity came out with two different covers at the same time, both picking up the "watcher" theme from Equinoxe again. None of them is limited, though.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Millions of Stars" seems to have these, at least it had them before the verses were rewritten with stars and planets. If you're a musician, though, you will find out that they're chords. The first line in the first verse (see below) is actually even played at that time during the song.
    Gm, Dm, Cm⁹, Gm
  • World Music: Zoolook has heavy elements of this, featuring speech and singing in 25 different languagesnote  and samples of various traditional instruments.


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