Metaphysical Meme and Precog Polyart

Welcome to my heart's desire. I started this journey in 2010. I've come to understand that no United States-based fan organization is currently operating--or if there is, it's well under the radar. Well, that's just wrong. So it is that I'm taking on the challenge of calling all fans and enthusiasts in the States to join me (yet again) in creating a new online group where we can discuss and share and show that yes, there is interest in the United States! If you would be interested in this new project, please contact me at and let's see what we can create!

Friday, July 29, 2011

America, Meet Jean-Michel Jarre

One of the Premier Musicians in the World Remains Mostly Unknown in the United States

In my own research I've been able to compile a list of the top ten reactions of American listeners to the music of Jean Michel Jarre.

10. "I'm feeling kind of odd."
9. "Wow. I can actually feel my brain taking shape."
8. "What the hell is this stuff?"
7. "I think I've heard this before, but I can't remember where."
6. "Turn it off. Please, turn it off!"
5. "Tragically new age. Someone's going to attack me with a crystal and a smudge wand any second now."
4. "All right. I'm hooked."
3. "There's no singing. What's up with that?"
2. "This is from some indie movie, right?"
1. "I don't quite understand it, but I like it."

It's no exaggeration to say that Jean Michel Jarre, the dynamic French composer, is the godfather of electronic music as we know it. The great revolution first went international with the release of Jarre's album "Oxygene" in 1976 and Jarre has never stopped. Around the world he's celebrated for his live light and music extravaganzas, many of which have had audiences of one million or more, and his concerts have set and broken world records for number of attendees. Jarre was the first western musician to ever perform in the People's Republic of China. In 1993 he became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Jarre gave a free concert as part of the celebration of the wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco in early July. He even has an asteroid'"4422 Jarre'"named after him.

Yet, after all of these accomplishments, after 80 million records sold, Jean Michel Jarre remains largely unknown in the United States. It's not that the American demographic is the do-all and end-all, of course, but in a country where so many different musical styles are loved and enjoyed it's hard to understand how a performer with Jarre's credentials could slip under the radar.

Then again, maybe it's no surprise that Jarre isn't a household name in the United States. He's not particularly controversial, he's not making a fool of himself in public, he doesn't have a reality show or a fashion line (even if many people think he must be a designer based on his name), and his music actually requires the listener to be still and have an experience. He's never released an "Unplugged" album (obviously). For me and my coterie of Jarre fans, these are all positive things. But we're the exception.

Being a United States citizen, I've taken a step back to look at musical artists and the whole industry, wondering how would Jarre fit into the aural matrix. First, I refuse to believe that there's not a clandestine population of would-be fans who have simply never been introduced to Jarre and his work. Heck, I have to think of how I myself was introduced. Basically, my father was and is a Francophile and a French teacher. As he was tapped into the European current, he learned about this amazing new release called "Oxygene" and that was the beginning. Jean-Michel Jarre has been the music of my family's life ever since.

Lots of fans are here but they just don't know it yet. After all, it's not like electronic music isn't wildly popular. I keep bringing up the example of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. Reznor has been commercially successful without compromising his art and is widely considered an electronic musical genius in his own right. All of this was capped by his Oscar win for Best Soundtrack for his work on "The Social Network".

All right. As much as it pains me to admit it, looks and personality weigh in big time with American audiences. On this count, Jean-Michel Jarre has the whole package, whether he means to or not. In linguistics there is a class of accents called "plus accents", and for Americans a French accent is tops. Jarre goes one better with his clarity of expression and witty, personable style. I suspect he would easily fall into the American idea of "handsome". Like I said, it's awful that I need to even think along these lines, but it's the nature of the beast. On the other hand, if you've got it, flaunt it.

Finally, another thing to consider is the vast desert the music industry has become. This is the perfect time for the new--even if it's actually old. A new way of listening is like finding a new way of thinking, a new way of looking at the world. For us in the States, Jarre is not only something different, but it's nourishing, the encouragement to maybe reach beyond the limits we've set for ourselves.

Getting Jarre to bring his live spectacular to the United States is another matter.
On April 5, 1986, Jean-Michel Jarre performed a legendary concert Rendez-Vous Houston: A City in Concert. The futuristic skyscrapers were the backdrop for a spectacular light and laser show which accompanied the concert. This concert had an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest outdoor "rock concert" in history, with figures varying from 1 to 1.5 million in attendance. Rendez-Vous Houston celebrated the astronauts who had been lost in the Challenger disaster only two and a half months previously. Astronaut Ron McNair, a personal friend of Jarre, had been killed in the disaster. He was supposed to play the saxophone from space during the track "Last Rendez-Vous"; his substitute for the concert was Houston native Kirk Whalum. The event marked Houston's 150th birthday and NASA's 25th anniversary.

2011 marks 25 years since the Houston concert, and Jarre has not made a return visit. I've read some of his remarks about America being old fashioned and completely disinterested in his art and performance. I don't agree. I think the problem is that Jarre's music has no popular outlet in the United States. People who are fans were probably introduced to the music by other fans. But where would fresh listeners get to sample the Jarre experience left to their own devices?

Of course there are American Jarre fans already, but consider this an open invitation. Plug "Jean Michel Jarre" into your favorite search engine and find the various opportunities to listen to his music that are online. Who knows?

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