Jean-Michel Jarre’s Virtual Notre Dame Cathedral

Jean-Michel Jarre's Electronic Cathedral: The Virtual Notre Dame Performance-Welcome to the Other Side.

On April 15 2019, a fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, collapsing the spire, the roof and damaging much of the upper walls. On New Years Eve 2020-2021, French electronic artist Jean-Michel Jarre created a virtual Notre Dame and launched into the future with a virtual performance called called Welcome to the Other Side: NYE in virtual Notre Dame.

Jarre, noted for his extravagant staging over the years, made his stage the altar and his electronic cockpit the pulpit of this venerable institution, reminding me of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Using futuristic-looking electronic instruments that might appear foreign to most, Jarre sends his electronic orchestrations spinning through this virtual space. He’s shown playing live as well as an animated avatar version of himself that looks quite a bit younger, performing to a virtual animated audience. Jarre, waving his hands in the air and clapping with this faux audience does provide a bit of cognitive dissonance. They inhabit this imagined basilica that is reconfigured with Tron-like animations deploying a lot of EDM visual tropes, with grids, cages, visual and electronic strobing. Like most of his staging exploits, it’s ambitious as Jarre reimagines the cathedral as dance floor psychedelic ballroom, stained glass meeting laser lights.

Jarre hits many f his popular themes including, of course, Oxygene.  Several parts of his signature work turn up throughout the performance, often transfigured through heavier EDM rhythms, something which Jarre and his contemporaries created in the first place. These are intermixed with tracks from his two Electronica albums, a segment of Equinoxe as well as a song, “Herbalizer,” which had only been a live performance piece previously until it was released on his Planet Jarre collection.

The virtual aspect of the performance gives Jarre the ability to visualize in 360 degree spins. He ends with a performance on his laser harp, but in this context, is it even real? Does that matter? There is a VR version of this performance as well, which I haven’t experienced, but I’m pretty tripped out just thinking of it.

However you experience it, turn it up and play on as big a screen as you can get. It’s going to take a lot to wipe out the memory of 2020 and this helps.
(Jean-Michel Jarre is one of the 30 Icons of Echoes.)

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