La Croix: Why did you offer a New Year’s concert in a virtual Notre-Dame cathedral?
Jean Michel Jarre : Notre-Dame is a strong symbol of the Church and, beyond that, one of the jewels of the heritage which connects us to each other. With the fire, the cathedral was weakened as we ourselves are today with this pandemic.
→ READ. For the New Year, a concert by Jean-Michel Jarre in digitized Notre-Dame
I found it relevant to celebrate the New Year and its message of hope by connecting it to a cathedral that we want to recover quickly, like ours. The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo liked this idea of resilience and resistance and wanted Paris to send this message to the whole world.
What will the concert look like?
JM. J. : Those who are equipped with a virtual headset will be able to immerse themselves in the virtual cathedral and attend the concert by means of an avatar. Me, I will be both physically present in Studio Gabriel, in the center of Paris, and virtually present, via my avatar, in the cathedral. I would have sensors on me, which will allow me to play as if I were in the cathedral, whose facade has been specially modeled for the occasion.
Final days of rehearsals for WELCOME TO THE OTHER SIDE. Cannot wait to perform this show for you on New Years Eve. I’ll be doing a Facebook Live tonight at 6:30pm CET (Paris time) from the broadcasting studio. pic.twitter.com/3Mdok5dBJg
– Jean-Michel Jarre (@jeanmicheljarre) December 29, 2020
I would like to share with those who are worried that this concert carries the deepest respect for what the cathedral is, both religiously and heritage. He will not fall into the anecdote, will not project figurative images on the cathedral.
The scenography will be abstract and geometric. I like to remember that those who built it in the Middle Ages were visionaries and futurists. Their research on the balance of volumes, stained glass, acoustics were revolutionary. In the 21st century, respecting Notre-Dame also means respecting the innovation present at its genesis.
→ THE FACTS. Notre-Dame de Paris: images from Jean-Michel Jarre’s New Year’s concert
Do you plan to give a spiritual dimension to your show?
JM. J. : Music has always had a spiritual dimension for me. I remember my meeting with John Paul II, when I did the concert for his coming to Lyon (in 1986, Editor’s note), he told me (with his accent!): “ I love your laser harp that touches the sky “. Much has been said about the relationship of spirituality to modern music, electronic, classical or others. I carry this dimension within me, even if the music of December 31 must be festive.
Have you been inspired by the long musical tradition created by Notre-Dame?
JM. J. : At the opening of the concert, I placed the sounds of the great organs of Notre-Dame, which I modified and rearranged with a very electro side. But I’m keeping my DNA, I’m not going to do anything special and fall into the caricature of integrating Gregorian sounds. Even though I love Gregorian chant!
→ LARGE FORMAT. Notre-Dame de Paris is preparing for the major restoration project
For this concert, I was very interested in the acoustics of Notre-Dame. I used Ircam software to reconstruct the reverberation of the cathedral, while having the ability to control it, because as soon as we play more rhythmic music, percussions for example, the sounds get blurred in such a building. With this software, we were able to reduce the reverberation of the bass part of the orchestra and keep the fullness of the volume on everything that is melodic. It works very well.
Are there things that you forbid yourself, even though Notre-Dame will be virtual?
JM. J. : The avatars will have to be dressed correctly and I will not be alone in the cathedral, that would have been arrogant. I will not be in front of the altar, nor in the center, but on the side of the people, in the central aisle. Avatars will be able to dance, as is done in some American churches. It is important to celebrate the transition to 2021 in a joyful way. The Church needs it too.
→ READ. Notre-Dame: Roselyne Bachelot refutes any modification of the stained glass windows
What is your personal connection to Notre-Dame?
JM. J. : I remember visiting the cathedral as a child and being very impressed by its majestic side, its extraordinary strength, which almost scared me. I was only able to formulate it after the fact, but it was the perfect symmetry of the monument that struck me. It gave me the feeling of something futuristic. It is not for nothing that the Gothic influences science fiction. Notre-Dame makes the link between the past and the future. It’s a spaceship! Notre-Dame is also for me that of the work of Victor Hugo, where it becomes the backdrop for the social crisis of an eternal and popular Paris.