Jean-Michel Jarre and the Rise of Electronic Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Jean-Michel Jarre is a French musician and composer who is credited with helping to bring electronic music into the mainstream. In this blog post, we’ll explore Jarre’s career and how he helped to make electronic music more popular.


Since the 1970s, Jean-Michel Jarre has been one of the most prolific and influential pioneers in the development of electronic music. A highly respected member of the French music community, he has been awarded the Grand Prix du Disque five times, and received the Legion d’Honneur in 2003. His ground-breaking concerts, including a record-breaking show in front of 1.3 million people in Moscow in 1997, have seen him hailed as one of the most innovative live performers of his generation. In addition to his work as a solo artist, Jarre has also composed music for film and television, and collaborated with a number artists from a variety of genres, including Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, and Tangerine Dream.

This article will explore the life and work of Jean-Michel Jarre, with a particular focus on his contribution to the development of electronic music.

Early Life and Career

Jean-Michel Jarre was born on August 24, 1948, in Lyon, France. His father, Raymond Jarre, was an acclaimed violinist and director of the Lyon Opera. Jarre began playing the piano at age five and soon took up the violin. When he was eight years old, he saw a performance of Walt Disney’s Fantasia, which deeply impressed him and sparked his interest in electronic music.

First musical experiences

Jarre was born in Lyon on 24 August 1948, to French parents who had recently returned from Indonesia. His father Gilbert Jarre was a French pilot who fought for the Free French in World War II. Gilbert Jarre’s certificate of service indicates he served as pilot number 35471. Jean-Michel’s mother Jacqueline Joujou (née Bodin) was Indo-Chinese, and came to France during the Indonesian Revolution, which took place following the Second World War. From an early age, he was introduced to a variety of art forms, including Chinese music andfilms, which had a great influence on him. His parents supported his inclinations toward art and music.

First forays into electronic music

In 1963, at the age of 15, Jarre was given a small synthesiser (the Auratone Super 8D) by his father, who encouraged his son to pursue a career in music. Jarre began experimenting with sound creation and recording, using tape loops and other methods he had learned from reading about avant-garde music. When he was 17, Jarre started selling his works to friends and family, followed by performances at local nightclubs. In 1968, Jarre made his first public appearance as an opening act for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. After graduating from high school in 1968, he enrolled in French National School of Fine Arts in Paris where he studied painting.

First album: “Deserted Palace”

Jarre’s first album “Deserted Palace”, was released in 1972 under the name of Gilbert Jarre. The album used synthesizers and sounds that Jarre later used on Oxygène. The album sold only 700 copies, because it was too avant-garde for most people. Jarre continued to experiment with synthesizers and had some success with the 1973 single “La Cage/The Cage”.

Jarre’s Second Album and International Recognition

Jean-Michel Jarre released his second album, Oxygene, in 1976 to international acclaim. The album featured a new style of music that was influenced by Kraftwerk and Gershon Kingsley. This new style of music would come to be known as electronic music.


In December of 1976, Jarre released his second album Oxygene. The record was an immediate hit in France, reaching number one on the charts and selling more than twelve million copies worldwide. It was certified diamond in France in 2001 and remains the best-selling French album of all time.

While Jarre’s first album had been mostly instrumental, Oxygene featured a greater use of synthesizers and other electronic devices. The title track, “Oxygene Part IV,” became an international hit, reaching number two in the UK and number seventeen in the US. Jarre followed up the success of Oxygene with a world tour, becoming one of the first artists to perform with laser lights and other cutting-edge visual effects.

Jarre’s success helped to legitimize electronic music as a serious genre, paving the way for artists like Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, and Underworld. His influence can still be heard in today’s EDM scene, with many producers citing him as an inspiration.

Jarre in China

By 1976, Jarre had released his second album, Oxygène, which went on to become a global phenomenon and established him as one of the most prominent exponents of electronic music. The album featured several lengthy tracks, including the eponymous “Oxygène Part I”, which became something of an international anthem for the nascent electronic music scene. It was to be the first in a series of Oxygène albums that would span four decades and cement Jarre’s reputation as one of the foremost innovators in electronic music.

In 1978, Jarre was invited to perform in China by the country’s Minister of Culture, Peng Zhen. The concert, titled “A Johannesburg to Beijing”, was held in front of the Great Wall of China and was broadcast live on Chinese television. The concert was an historic moment for both Jarre and for China, as it was one of the first Western concerts ever to be held in the country.

The concert proved to be a massive success, with over 1 billion people estimated to have tuned in to watch it. Following the success of the concert, Jarre became something of a cultural ambassador for China, performing several more concerts in the country over the next few years. He would go on to release two albums inspired by his experiences in China, 1982’s Concerts in China and 1984’s Rendez-Vous.

Later Career

After having such a prolific and successful career, it would be difficult for anyone to maintain that same level of output and creativity, but Jean-Michel Jarre has managed to do so. In the last five years, Jean-Michel Jarre has composed the scores for two films, released two new studio albums and continued to tour the world.

“Electronica” albums

In the 1990s, Jean-Michel Jarre released a series of albums that would come to be known as his “electronica” albums. These albums saw Jarre exploring new technologies and sounds, and marked a significant shift in his style.

Jarre’s electronica albums include Oxygène 7-13 (1997), Metamorphoses (2000), and Aero (2004). These albums saw Jarre experiment with a variety of new electronic sounds and instruments, including synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers.

While Jarre’s early albums had been mostly instrumental, his electronica albums featured a number of vocal tracks. This was partly due to the influence of electronic dance music, which was becoming increasingly popular in the 1990s. Jarre’s vocals on these albums were often processed and effects-laden, furthering the album’s electronic feel.

Jarre’s electronica albums were well-received by fans and critics alike, and helped to cement his reputation as one of the leading figures in electronic music.

Jarre today

Jean-Michel Jarre is a French composer, performer, and record producer. He is a pioneer in the electronic, ambient, and new-age genres, and known as an influencing figure in the development of these genres. Today, Jarre continues to produce and perform his music, and has also composed soundtracks for films.

Similar Posts