Jean-Michel Jarre: Plugged in

At Masada, the French electronic musician will present the biggest spectacle ever seen in Israel.

Jean-Michel Jarre in Glasgow (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jean-Michel Jarre in Glasgow
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jean-Michel Jarre is a man of spectacular scenic adventures. His multi-sensory mega concerts organized around the world, which he has been staging for more than 40 years, have awed millions of spectators. His albums are transformed into silver, gold, platinum. The man himself is a sort of alchemist of artistic raw material, capable of regenerating himself at each of his shows, tapping into the essence of creation to transform musical notes into oxygen.
But make no mistake – his art is sound, first and foremost. Beyond the special effects surrounding his performances, this multi-talented artist is, above all, a composer.
“Music is the backbone of my shows. When I compose an album, I don’t think about how to adapt it on stage,” explains the master of keyboard and synthesizers.
Of course, imagery holds an important place in the creative power of an artist like Jarre, who began his career with painting.
“This is part of my DNA, but above all I consider myself a musician who tried from the start to extend a musical adventure in terms of performance and visuals,” he says.
Having composed several hits for well-known French pop singers, Jarre realized early on that he wanted to create electronic music. Influenced strongly by opera, he observes that great classical musicians “have often worked with scenographers or painters in order to tell a story and push the boundaries of musical performance.”
This idea inspires him. An approach also made necessary by the peculiarity of electronic music, which can be “difficult to understand,” says Jarre.
“With the violin, for example, one understands culturally that the sound comes from the instrument that can be seen. With electronic music, it is not the same at all. That’s why it seemed so important to me, from the beginning of my career, to invent a grammar, a visual vocabulary adapted to electronic music,” he explains.
Jarre is considered the precursor of the genre.
“Today, on stage, artists use a lot of technical processes and visual technologies. Nowadays, people say they go to ‘see’ a singer, while our grandparents used to go to ‘listen’ to a singer. Today we have great visual expectations of an artist,” he says.
Jarre became more widely known since the release of his album Oxygène in 1976. After 17 albums and 40 years of making electronic music, he has performed worldwide: Paris, London, Houston, Moscow, Cairo, Athens, to name just a few. His trademark: mega concerts that combine music, lights and pyrotechnics, with special attention paid to the particular setting.
His next stop is Masada on April 6. This will be Jarre’s first performance in Israel, although he has crisscrossed the country several times. The program is an eighthour spectacle touted as “the biggest show ever seen in Israel.” And for good reason.
“In this desert where it all began,” five autonomous panoramic platforms will rise to overlook the Dead Sea, which are also five zones where prices have been set according to the proposed exclusive services: gravity area (seats cost 120 euros); dance area (210 euros); first loge area (380 euros); premium area (720 euros).
Transportation and accommodation packages are also available.
But beyond the logistical challenges and technological prowess lies a project dear to Jarre: to raise awareness about the dramatic situation of the Dead Sea.
For Jarre, it started a year and a half ago during a stay in Israel. A visit to the region around Masada and a meeting with residents and local authorities alarmed the musician about the threat of the Middle East’s fast-drying salt lake, situated between the Jewish state and the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan.
Jarre, who describes himself as a citizen of the world and serves as a goodwill ambassador of UNESCO, immediately thought about the opportunity of a concert as a kind of accelerator to raise international awareness about the issue.
“I asked UNESCO to consider the possibility of including the Dead Sea as a World Heritage Site. We can compare the Dead Sea to the Amazon rainforest or the North Pole in that they are all ecosystems belonging to humanity, no matter what the regional issues are. I thought about a show to stress the fact that the problem cannot be solved locally but needs an outside view and commitment. There is nothing worse than indifference or ignorance. And today, people are not aware of the situation,” he explains.
In addition to this ecological challenge, planting his synthesizers at Masada is also a spiritual experience for Jarre.
“This place has marked history and is a spiritual center for universal values,” he says.
Undoubtedly for Jarre, Israel is a land of creation. He compares Tel Aviv to what Tokyo and New York were in the 1980s, “cities with incredible technological and artistic innovation.”
As evidence of this cultural boom, the artist cites the consistent development of start-ups and an electronic music school he visited in Tel Aviv.
“Its 2,000 students learn both solfeggio and how to mix with turntables. This school is unique in the world,” he marvels.
The composer also salutes the dynamism of Tel Aviv’s electronic scene and invited some of its best representatives to perform at his Masada concert. What is scheduled to take place on April 6 is more than a show. It will be a true nocturnal adventure in the desert. Jarre’s twohour performance (from 11 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.) will be preceded and followed by the performances of several DJs. This Israeli epic, in full nature and at a historic site, requires total respect for the environment.
“We are very careful that the project is eco-friendly,” asserts Jarre.
Such a challenge in this volatile region is risky. But Jarre did not want to yield to boycott threats or security fears.
“I am not someone who is afraid; I am someone who reasons,” he says.
“The more that things are planned and organized, the more we minimize the risks. Even the unknown is under control.”
Jarre wants to believe in peace, even if he thinks that “for the media or for purely economic reasons, war is more profitable than peace.” Yet he is convinced that peace will come, in its own time, “for in the history of mankind, it is always peace that has won out.”
When exactly? “That’s another story,” the artist concludes.
The Jean-Michel Jarre concert will take place on April 6 at Masada.