There is something life-affirming about the music of Jean-Michel Jarre – the French artist who took electronic music to another level and to a worldwide audience. Jarre injected emotion into his music which touches on the nuances of daily life and the environment around us. Rather than something cold and soulless, there is a warmth and richness to Jarre’s music which has transcended language barriers and reached fans of all nationalities around the globe.
Jean-Michel Jarre has created some of the most iconic and influential music of his generation. This week, Jarre turned 70, (a milestone also celebrated by upcoming box set release, Planet Jarre: 50 Years of Music), which got me thinking about my own journey with his music and its impact and influence on me and my work; both art and music.
We all remember the first time we heard certain songs or pieces of music, and those musical memories from our childhood often remain the most profound, usually defining our tastes for years to come.
I first heard Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 breakthrough album Oxygene, as a child in the early 1980s. I was perhaps four or five years old, and I had never heard music like it before. It was the record that my father was playing. To my young ears, I couldn’t quite comprehend what I was hearing – this wasn’t the sound of normal instruments; it was something altogether different and other-worldly. I remember being utterly entranced by the strange, almost organic sounding music… it was as if some kind of captured environment was emitting from the stereo.
With this sensory feast, my young artistic imagination was fired up – the soundscapes and atmospheres of Oxygene transported me into the sky, floating among the clouds; it sent me to a vast snowy expanse with a glaring winter sun, and most significantly, it propelled me out into space, beyond the stars.
At the time, I was surrounded with books of space imagery and science fiction art of the 1970s, and even a young age, I was addicted to Doctor Who. Jarre’s music was the perfect accompaniment to these fascinating futuristic visions, and with that, my lifelong obsession with science fiction and electronic music was born.
I rediscovered my love of science fiction art in 2007, and that led to creating my own artwork (as you can see on this website). And more often than not, I listen to Jarre’s music while I’m working.
However, the biggest impact Jean-Michel’s music had on me, was in making my own electronic music. The decades of enjoying Jarre’s music culminated in me trying my own hand at creating my own instrumental soundscapes – an ongoing journey that I’m still exploring.
I have always been fascinated with the notion of letting music create images in the mind and allowing the imagination to explore new environments through music. With no lyrics to distract or send the listener down a specific path, instrumental music works as a blank canvas for the imagination – and I think we all need that escape. This remains one of the main appealing aspects of Jean-Michel Jarre’s work as well as the objective of my own.
Over the course of the last couple of years with the release of the two Electronica albums and Oxygene 3, Jarre has proven his staying power and influence on artists and fans of all generations. Not one to rest on his laurels, Jarre’s passion for creating, composing and collaborating is as strong as ever, and I certainly can’t wait to hear what the next chapter of his musical journey will bring.
Happy Birthday, Jean-Michel!
Jean-Michel Jarre photographed at Manchester Arena, 9th October, 2010