Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 24 August 1948, Lyon France) Composer, electronics/synthesizer soloist; the son of film composer Maurice Jarre (b 13 September 1924, Lyon, France; d 28 March 2009, Malibu CA: he won three Oscars, all scores for films directed by David Lean). Jean-Michel was famously married to actress Charlotte Rampling.
He studied at the Paris Conservatoire where he met electronics pioneer Pierre Schaeffer; worked in film music, ad jingles, pop songs etc, then his album OxygŠne '76 on Polydor was regarded by some as a masterpiece of the electronic keyboard genre and still sounds as up-to-date as anything he has done. (Orb's hit 'Toxygene' '97 began as a remix of one of his tracks.) About twelve more albums sold millions world-wide but were less regarded as his presentation/light shows became grandiose, with fireworks, lasers etc; he lit up the skyline of London's Docklands in 1988.
He finally had second thoughts. His album OxygŠne 7--13 '97 (the original had six parts) abandoned sampling, hi-tech sequencers etc and went back to analogue synths, just as manufacturers launched reissues of vintage machines. (Cliff Jones in Mojo asked, 'Has Jean-Michel anticipated the advent of retro electro?') Jarre argued that digital technology had taken electronic music down a blind alley, distracting him from the hands-on feeling that attracted him to it in the first place, the difference between a painter having four colours to mix or having to choose from four million.