RedBull Music Academy has made an interview with Jean Michel Jarre where he in detail talks about his ten favorite synthesizers:
Ahead of his Academy lecture at the Les Nuits Sonores festival May 16 in Lyon, the synth pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre recounts ten of his favourite pieces of gear.
While, of course, numerous parties are to be praised for introducing synthetic music to the masses, it can be argued that the French composer and musician Jean-Michel Jarre was the first to really foment the electronic music revolution. Though the early successful pioneers like Wendy Carlos, Mort Garson, and Hot Butter primed the public’s ears, their output was mostly either novelty arrangements of pre-existing hits or just plain novelty. Jarre took a different tack and began composing original pop material to be played solely on synths. Selling over 80 million albums and singles thus far during his four decade career, he not only brought oscillators out of the realm of nerdery, his music also served as a late-night soundtrack of the future for music lovers the world over – and spawned a countless number of imitators as well (oftentimes poor). From his first collaborations with Patrick Juvet and Christophe to his epic synth solo albums like Oxygène and Equinoxe, Jarre’s sounds now show up as ghosts in the works of contemporary electronic experimenters as varied as Sébastien Tellier, Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds, and Daft Punk, to name a few.
And here is the complete list:
E.M.S VCS 3 (1969)
My first synth, Europe’s answer to the American Moog: a Mini versus a Cadillac. Post-war technology had led us to an European electronic sound which was very different to the American sound. The VCS3 was one of the first real synths to be developed from modular research, a technique with which I was already familiar, as it had resulted directly from the equipment that I was working with at the GRM (Le Groupe de Recherches Musicales or, in English, Musical Research Group) with Pierre Schaeffer. I’ve composed a lot of music with this synth, most notably on Oxygène and Equinoxe, although I’d already tried it out on Deserted Palace [one of Jarre’s first projects] and the music that I composed for the Parisian Opera.
ARP 2600 (1971)
This is an American synth which quickly became the best modular/semi-modular synth on the market – different to Moogs, which didn’t have pre-set sounds. When we switched the ARP 2600 on for the first time, we could instantly start to play and shift potentiometers. It cost much less than a Moog, but it was much bigger with an extremely rich sound. I used it a lot on Oxygène and Equinoxe as well as on the albums I made with Christophe such as Les Paradis Perdues (Lost Paradises) and Les Mots Bleus (Blue Words). ARPs are like the Stradivarius or the Steinways of electronic music. They were invented by craftsmen who, today, we’d place on the same level as the luthiers that built violins, clavichords, pianos – all of the acoustic instruments.
ARP 2500 (1969)
This is the big brother of the ARP 2600, created to compete with the modular Moog. Pete Townshend of The Who was one of the first musicians to use it in Europe. The ARP 2500 is the huge machine that we can hear in “Baba O’Reilly” playing that well-known sequence which would become so essential to The Who’s sound. It’s an electronic sound, not the sound of a guitar! I try to approach people with a similar rapport with synthesizers to my own, such as Pete Townshend or Peter Gabriel, both of whom were amongst the first musicians to possess a Fairlight, along with myself.
FAIRLIGHT CMI (1979)
The Fairlight was the first instrument that I worked with which was directly linked to the training I’d received at GRM under Pierre Schaeffer, electroacoustic music, or what we’d later call ‘sampling’. With the Fairlight, we could record and sample any sound – a natural, urban or domestic noise – play it on a piano and create percussion, a choir, the sounds of chords, a constructive element of music, improbable sounds of which we didn’t know the origin. It’s an instrument with a very lo-fi sound and with a lot of charm and warmth, a graininess that makes us think of the compositions of Bernard Herrmann or of the aesthetic that we find in films from the 30s like Metropolis. It was significant in determining the sound of Peter Gabriel and the sound of the Real World label, as well as my own. It can be heard throughout my back catalogue, on Champs Magnetiques (Magnetic Fields) but especially on Zoolook, which was made entirely on the Fairlight. Oxygène and Zoolook are two very different albums on the sonic map, because as we know, it’s the tool that defines the style and not the other way around.
Roland JD-800 (1991)
This was the next synth to follow the DX7 philosophy and the approach initiated by Japanese synths, which was going to financially sink all of the American makers. I included it in my list because it was one of the first polyphonic Japanese synths that managed to resemble an analogue synth, although what I hated about the DX7 was that it left you thinking that electronic music only aimed to imitate the sounds of acoustic instruments. With the JD-800, you could modify the sound, as you can on an ARP or a Moog, but with a Japanese sound quality, which in some respects, is more refined. I used this synth a lot on Chronology and Revolution. These are the albums which spoke to people the least, but which were important in my career as they marked a period of flux where I still had a foot in analogue and another in what would go on to become digital.
MEMORY MOOG (1982)
The first analogue polyphonic synth. Until then, modular synths such as the VCS3 and the ARP were monophonic. If you wanted a polyphonic effect, you had to play four different sounds at the same time. It’s a practice that’s lost today, which is a shame because it meant you had to compose in the same way that we’d write for a string quartet: violin, alto, cello, double bass. With the Memorymoog, and other synths that came out around the same time, in one fell swoop, we could make complete chords, and that changed everything. For better and for worse. As a result, we ceased to compose electronic music the classic way, as Wendy Carlos did. The Memorymoog was the 8 Moog in the same form but with a new and different attraction: we could store the sounds we created. Before, we had to get our pencil and paper out and write down all of the operations required to produce a sound, but it was never really possible to reproduce the original sound again from the notes we’d made. From this point onwards, you could re-find the sound in its original state, even a year after you’d made it.
RMI Keyboard Computer (1974)
This is an instrument that was created in the 70s and which was revolutionary as it was the first digital synth in a period where everything was analogue. In the electronic music world of the 70s, digital had no place at all. The RMI functioned according to the principle of additive synthesis, whereas the analogue synths were based on subtractive synthesis. To simplify, additive synthesis is like an organ, meaning that you can add frequencies to each other and add layers in the same way that on an organ, you can add 32 pedals, then 16, then 8, then 4, which are actually octaves, or thirds of octaves or quintets. It’s a technique that was used heavily on Deserted Palace and on the track “Oxygène 5”, where the entire sequence is made using the RMI. It created a very different sound to anything else that could be heard at the time, precisely because the digital edge added a certain coolness. This synth was to music what the film Tron was to cinema at the time.
EMINENT 310 (1970)
This synth defines my sound, from Les Mots Bleus by Christophe and the songs of Patrick Juvet, right up to Oxygène and Equinoxe, where I used it heavily. To this day, I still use it frequently. Along with the VCS3, this is one of the fundamental instruments of my music. It’s an organ developed by the Dutch who were the first to figure out how to create chords from electronic sounds. It was from this first string ensemble that the Solina emerged, which is nowadays better known than the Eminent, even if the Eminent is three Solinas together with a notably richer sound. The Eminent can be heard on Oxygène and Equinoxe, adding that gliding, phased feel. The background story to this sound is that it’s the VCS3 and the Eminent passed through a Smalltone, a phase pedal for guitars, which created this very opulent sound similar to that of chords, but of course much more electro.
Teenage Engineering OP-1 (2011)
A little new one that came out less than a year ago and was invented in Sweden [by Teenage Engineering, a company founded by 2003 Academy pariticpant David Eriksson]. It’s a synth which doesn’t even seem like a synth at all – it’s tiny and looks like a Casio toy, but hidden inside is a very sophisticated machine, created using military technology. It’s 100% digital, but defines something completely new in its size and transportability. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen something as interesting, flexible and creative as this. And importantly, its inventors have reintroduced a notion which had been desperately lacking: humour. We have to remember that Moogs, ARPs and all of the first synths had been created by raging madmen, who created completely unreasonable and financially hazardous instruments. The inventors of this synth sold their OP-1 in drips and drabs on the internet, and the instructions are in Japanese to throw us off the scent. I met them after my tour in Sweden – the whole team came backstage and we jammed together. I chose this synth to show that any instrument, from no matter what time, can have a completely timeless value. I’m sure that musicians will still be using the OP-1 in 50 years.
This is another mythical instrument from the electroacoustic scene, since it was one of the first samplers well ahead of the Fairlight. What was interesting with the Mellotron was that it was conceived at a time (the 60s) when the philosophy of sampling wasn’t on the agenda at all. It was, once again, the idea of a luminary who asked himself how to play chords electronically. The principal is to record a choir in a studio onto tape and then to install all sorts of little tape recorders with tapes that last seven seconds to create the notes on a piano. The Mellotron is a kind of small piano which, when you press a key, places the stylus against the tape, releasing a tape which will be read by the head during the seven seconds. That allows you to have a whole range of sounds. When you play a Mellotron, you feel like you’re listening to soundtracks from silent films from the 30s, as there’s this whining contortion that would go on to define the sound of loads of Beatles, Moody Blues and Procol Harum tracks. In fact, pop and rock in the 60s would use this instrument to record choirs with a vintage, retro feel. It’s the sound of the 40s adapted for the music of the 60s.
interviewé à Berlin par Arte pendant la tournée Europe en Concert – Chronologie
démonstration du Digisequencer, Roland JD800, DJ70, Synthi AKS, Rack Mini-Moog et démonstration du bouton on-off de l’AX1
clip Chronologie 5
avec Patrick Rondat, Guy Delacroix, Dominique Mahut, Laurent Faucheux, Francis Rimbert, Sylvain Durand et Dominique Perrier
24 11 1993″
John ’00′ Fleming sits in for a Computer Music Producer Masterclass session. This entire series discusses the process of remixing Jean Michel Jarre’s famouse “Oxygene” track. Part one, John discusses how he worked with his partner sharing files due to long distance, how he prefers to design his own pad sounds versus flipping through pre-sets and the benefits there-of.
Follow John 00 Fleming and JOOF Recordings:
Jean Michel Jarre Live 2011 Electronic Music Concert Europe Synthesizer Laser Harp Lights Video
For those who want to see how it all came about – check this video out
Here is a short video I made of the stage created in Jean Michel Jarre’s Monaco’s concert, a few hours before the incredible show watched live by more than 85 000 people, and online by more than a billion !!
On July 1st at 22:00 CET the French, Lyon based, Television station will broadcast the Monaco concert by Jean Michel Jarre live via TV, computer, cell phone, iPhone or iPad. Note that for the iOS users, you need to get the Euronews LIVE applications which are available from the AppStore for iPhone and iPad (get them right here).
Especially for the 2 hour show Jean Michel Jarre has designed a special light show which he will perform on a 200-metre-long stage (attendees will need binoculars). The show – filmed by 18 HD cameras – will include HD video effects, lasers and pyrotechnics.
The concert will be covered in a worldwide exclusive live broadcast on the international news channel and via Ustream.tv on euronews.net; The event is part of the exceptional coverage of the royal wedding week in Monaco of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Miss Charlene Wittstock on Saturday, 2 July.
Background info: “This tune is the second single from my upcoming album. I composed the tune already in 2008 and the tune is a tribute to one of my biggest influences, Jean Michel Jarre.
Only analog synthesizer were used in recording the tune. The tune was also recorded by analog gear only and mixed with an analog mixer. The tune is from Kebu’s upcoming debut album, which is planned to be released in 2012.”
You can buy this single from Ubetoo for 0.99 euro:
Equipment used: Hohner String Performer, Roland Alpha Juno, Roland Juno 60, Korg Mono/Poly, Korg Poly-61, Moog Prodigy, Logan String Melody, Arp Axxe, Touched by Sound DRM1, Vermona DRM1 MkIII, Roland TR-808 (snare attack only), Electro Harmonix Small Stone, Lexicon MPX500, Allen&Heath GS1, Yamaha MT4x. Cubase & Live only used as MIDI sequencers with the tape sync handled by a Roland TR-626.
Rendez-Vous is an album of instrumental electronic music composed and produced by Jean Michel Jarre, and released on Disques Dreyfus, licensed to Polydor, in 1986. It is his fifth overall studio album. It sold some three million copies worldwide and remains Jarre’s longest-running chart album in both the USA and UK, with a 20 week run in the U.S. and an impressive 38 week run in the UK. The last track on the album was supposed to have the saxophone part played in outer space by astronaut Ron McNair, but on January 28, 1986 he and the entire Space Shuttle Challenger crew were killed 73 seconds after lift-off when the shuttle disintegrated. In memory, this piece was dedicated to him. On the album the saxophone part is played by saxophonist Pierre Gossez. The album reached #9 in the UK charts and #52 in the U.S. charts.
In April 1986, Jarre performed the large-scale outdoor concert Rendez-vous Houston in Houston, Texas, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of Texas, and the 25th anniversary of NASA. The show attracted a then-world record live audience of 1.3 million people. Originally, the track Last Rendez Vous was due to be played by saxophonist astronaut Ron McNair via a live link with the Challenger space shuttle. However, after the Challenger disaster, the concert became a part-tribute to the lost astronauts.
Jean Michel returned to the stage in October for another concert, the Rendez-Vous Lyon, marking the Pope John Paul II visit to Jarre’s hometown.
Essentials and Rarities – about mastering
Guess this post is pretty self explanatory and Mr Jarre hardly needs any further introductions
The concert dates back to 2007, but it is a nice capture of the synth maestro himself performing Oxygene II. It was first released in France in December 1976, on Disques Dreyfus with license to Polydor. The album’s international release was in summer 1977. Jarre recorded the album in his home using a variety of analog synthesizers and other electronic instruments and effects. It became a bestseller and was highly influential in the development of electronic music. It is Jarre’s first mainstream success, and can be seen as his first real artist album. It has been described as the album that “led the synthesizer revolution of the Seventies.