Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Jean Michel Jarre - An Introduction...

The first port of call for my research into unconventional user-interfaces begins with Jean Michel Jarre and his amazing laser harp! First, watch the video below...

For those who haven't heard of Jean Michel Jarre, he is one of the most innovative electronic music producers of our time (well, in all fairness, ANY time as he's only been producing since the mid 60s) in the way he pioneered the use of the first synthesisers and continued to do so.

He's also renowned for his live performances which include:

Rendezvous Houston (text shamelessly from

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.

Twelve Dreams of the Sun

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.

The following is a clip from Twelve Dreams of the Sun. It shows the countdown to the new millennium - forget London or NYC for the year 2000, this is amazing...

Anyway, I'm slightly off the point here... the focus of my research into Jean Michel Jarre is mainly on the innovative controllers for his synthesisers which include the laser-harp featured in the first video...

...more later!


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