Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Chronologie – Jean Michel Jarre [#271]

CHANGES+IN+MINDChronologie – Jean Michel Jarre

Hello, another guest post here from Steelrattus.

I first encountered Jean Michel Jarre as a teenager. I was very fortunate in that my mum worked at a library, so it meant I took a particular interest in books. Then in the 80s libraries started to have cassettes, and later on CDs. This meant I could listen to a lot more music than my pocket would normally afford, and I could also experiment a lot more. This is where I first strayed across Jean Michel Jarre. I wasn’t really aware of him being a popular artist – if his albums were in the charts I didn’t notice – although later on as an adult I realised he was pretty popular.

For those who have not listened to Jarre before, his music is synthesiser based. But there is, or at least was, something quite special about it. He did something different with it, weaving together a mixture of sound effects and music to create his own unique style. I’m not aware of anyone who has copied him, or anyone that he copied, but I suppose the most similar artist I can think of is Vangelis, yet he’s still markedly different. In my opinion Jarre has also managed that tricky balance of keeping a style, yet making each album different enough to be interesting.

Chronologie is Jarre’s eleventh album. For me it fits in with a chain of others, starting with Oxygene (his third album), and leading on to Equinoxe, Magnetic Fields, Rendez-vous, Revolutions, and then Chronologie. These particular albums all had a rather epic feel and a thread that runs through them. I hadn’t realised Jarre had released two albums before Oxygene, but I’m guessing there is a reason why I have never heard of them – every musician needs time to reach their best. There are other albums in-between these, such as Music for Supermarkets and Zoolook, but I don’t feel they fit the particular style of this list of six albums.

I again have to thank Richard-from-University for bringing me back to Jarre. Richard was also a Jarre fan, and he acted as a reminder to revisit the albums I’d loved as a teenager. Chronologie in fact came out when I was at university (release in 1993), so reminds me of those times a little.

I won’t give you a very VERY detailed analysis of the album itself. It’s eight tracks, simply named Chronologie Part 1 through to Part 8, which is typical of Jarre. As it’s purely instrumental Jarre also doesn’t give away any clues in terms of inspiration as such. The only real clue is the album name, and time does feel like an inspiration. More on that in a minute. I’m not sure what the cover art is supposed to represent, there are five figures traced in different colours. The first track on the album builds from nothing with a heartbeat, which is one link to time. Other tracks have fades with clocks ticking and chiming, reminding me a little of the Chronos theme from Ulysses 31. There are even what sound like the bleeps of digital watches used as rhythm in places. Overall I remember this album feeling a little different than his previous, a little more modern, and there are parts which could quite legitimately be danced to in a club. The album ends with a countdown, again set against the backround of ticking clocks and a heartbeat. Overall I really like the album, like most of Jarre’s music.

Reading about the album I learned the source of inspiration was Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, so there’s the time connection. Apparently Parts 4 and 5 started as compositions for a Swatch advert, although I don’t know whether they were ever used. I was also under the impression that Jarre played everything on his albums, but this one at least had four other musicians, three of them playing keyboards, and one the guitar.

I had no idea that videos existed for the album, but this is apparently a promotional video that was created for Part 4. Not exactly a great video but (a) curiously it features that save five figure theme from the cover art (b) it features Jarre looking moodily at the camera, and (c) the music’s good.

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