Jean Michel Jarre Collaborates With Fellow Pioneers On 'Electronica'
(SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "OXYGENE")
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
This album helped make the synthesizer a staple of pop music and film scores 40 years ago. It's called "Oxygene." It's made its creator, Jean-Michel Jarre, one of the most influential artists in electronic music.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "OXYGENE")
CORNISH: Now Jarre has released "Electronica, Volumes 1 & 2." Tim Greiving reports that the albums feature collaborations with some big names, but they also provide a way for Jarre to reconnect with his father.
TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: Jean-Michel Jarre released "Electronica 1" last fall. It featured the likes of Tangerine Dream, Moby and filmmaker John Carpenter. Part two just came out and on it Jarre works with Pet Shop Boys...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRICK ENGLAND")
PET SHOP BOYS: (Singing) Evening, when the sun begins to sink...
GREIVING: ...Film composer Hans Zimmer...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ELECTREES")
GREIVING: ...And a musician who had a Top 10 hit in 1979 with this song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARS")
GARY NUMAN: (Singing) Here in my car I feel safest alone. I can lock all my doors. It's the only way to live, in cars.
GREIVING: Gary Numan was a favorite of Jean-Michel Jarre's.
JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: He's, for me, kind of a modern hero escaped from a Philip K. Dick novel or a kind of replicant from "Blade Runner" - a singing replicant. He has this unique touch of creating a kind of nostalgic feel in a futuristic environment.
GREIVING: Gary Numan repays the compliment.
NUMAN: I was just blown away to get an email from Jean-Michel Jarre in the first place You know, he's quite a legendary figure. He sent me a track, music that he'd worked on that he said had been done with me in mind.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE FOR YOU")
NUMAN: (Singing) I've seen your face on my screen, but we never speak. We are...
NUMAN: After all these years, he still has a very identifiable sound. But he was just ahead of the game. You know, I'm supposed to be a pioneer. He was doing it years before I was, and his knowledge is phenomenal.
GREIVING: Jarre says the two-CD project tries to take in the huge expanse of what electronica means.
JARRE: You have two sides of electronic music - the more hedonist side, which is the fact that we want to dance until the end of the night and using electronic sounds for that. And there is also a more political side maybe.
GREIVING: So for "Electronica 2," he reached out to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Jarre visited Snowden at his Moscow hideout and recorded him speaking about why he exposed the U.S. government's methods of data collection.
JARRE: When you have a young man, I mean, questioning the power in place for love of his country, not to say stop but to say be careful about the abuse of technology, I think it deserves to be promoted.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
EDWARD SNOWDEN: Because rights are not just individual. They're collective. And what may not have value to you today may have value to an entire, you know, population, an entire people or an entire way of life tomorrow. And if you don't stand up for it, then who will?
JARRE: In a strange way, Edward Snowden made me think about my mum because my mother was a great figure in the French resistance during the Second World War. And most of people in those days were considering resistance as troublemakers, even for some of them as traitors.
GREIVING: Jarre's mother raised him on her own in France. His father moved to America when Jean-Michel was 5 and dropped all contact with his son.
JARRE: It's sometimes better to have a father figure to rebel against than nothing, than just a black hole or an absence. So he never had such a big influence on my life as a musician - maybe on the level of chromosomes but not more.
GREIVING: Yet, a strange connection developed through Australian director Peter Weir. When Weir made his period war epic "Gallipoli," he ended up throwing out the film's original score because he'd fallen in love with a piece of music from "Oxygene."
PETER WEIR: I could just hear Jean-Michel's music - its magic, its lightness, its electrifying kind of vitality and yet mystery within it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OXYGENE, PART 4")
GREIVING: It was pure coincidence that on his next film, Weir sought out Maurice Jarre, best-known for his scores to such films as "Lawrence Of Arabia" and "Dr. Zhivago." They wound up collaborating on a total of five films, including "Dead Poets Society" and "Witness." It was on "Witness" that Maurice Jarre began his own exploration of the synthesizer. But he never called up his son for advice. Still, Peter Weir says that doesn't mean Jarre didn't think about his son.
WEIR: Certainly there was pain there. There was pain for Maurice - obviously thought of him and no doubt admired him. I mean, you could not do anything but admire the work that Jean-Michel had done that reached some sort of extraordinary peak with "Oxygene."
GREIVING: Jean-Michel Jarre says the "Electronica" albums, much of which were recorded in Los Angeles where Maurice Jarre spent most of his career, ended up being a way of connecting with his father.
JARRE: My father passed away six years ago, and it's really strange because with no esoteric type of ideas or feelings, I feel today that a part of him is in me and that this whole "Electronica" project has been a kind of - how could I say - a kind of initiation journey where he was with me. And in a sense, it's a kind of abstract collaboration with my dad being here.
GREIVING: Even though they may not have spoken directly, they wound up communicating in a way through their music. For NPR News, I'm Tim Greiving in Los Angeles.
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