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The essential guide to making keyboard music June 2008 £3.50




Contents JUNE 2008

KEYBOARD PLAYER JUNE 2008 ISSUE 325 Publisher/Editor Steve Miller Publisher/Advertising Paul Cohen Contributors: John Bates, Joan Dovener, Geoff Eales, Andrew Gilbert, Roger Hempsall, Michael Illman, Mark Jenkins, Barry Lenton, Douglas McPherson, Alistair Robinson, Steven Rosen, Dean Spencer



Yamaha expands piano and keyboard ranges, Sir George Martin chooses Clavinova



Yamaha P-85 portable piano priced at £499/£599 with stand



Jean Michel Jarre celebrates 30 years of Oxygene


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ISSN 0269-3836 Printed in England


Synthogy’s Ivory Italian Grand virtual instrument priced at £89

IN-DEPTH REVIEW 39 CME M-Key USB/MIDI controller keyboard priced at £65

COMPUTER MUSIC 41 The first part of a feature on low cost multi-track recording focuses on the Boss BR-600 and Micro BR

IN-DEPTH REVIEW 47 Steinberg Sequel budget software sequencer priced at £74.99



A new CD from Larry Green, an Alan Haven re-issue on CD and a Johnnie Ray compilation


Tony Pegler





EAN Michel Jarre's Oxygene album burst onto the instrumental music scene in 1976, achieving a worldwide level of success rivalled only by Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, which had made its debut in the UK just a couple of years earlier. The success of Oxygene, a near hour-long epic of swirling keyboards, synthesizers and sound effects, was all the more notable considering the lack of international music stars hailing from the direction of France, a country which had apparently never quite worked out how to do the pop thing. Apart from ballad singers such as Sacha Distel and Charles Aznavour, the country apparently had little to offer the international charts, though in fact Jarre first worked as a songwriter for disco-pop singers such as Patrick Juvet, who had represented Switzerland in the Eurovision song contest in 1973. Jarre's background, though, was in more academic music, following an education in musique concrete and other techniques under Pierre Schaeffer and others at the Groupe De Recherches Musicale in Paris. Jarre's father Maurice, later a massively successful classical and film soundtrack composer, was in fact long separated from the family, and GRM was less oriented towards conventional music, being equipped in the main with tape machines and very early electronic instruments. Here Jarre worked with banks of oscillators on ballet pieces such as The Cage, in which he played melodies by tuning circuits and varying their volume, and here he was first introduced to his first real synthesizer, the EMS VCS3, designed and built of course in the UK. Jarre worked on a couple of film soundtracks including Burning Barns (Les Granges Brulees) but these sound relatively unsophisticated today, whereas his magnum opus Oxygene sprang seemingly fully formed to a level of complexity previously unheard in the electronic music field. Even Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, at the time spinning

After checking out one of the 30th anniversary concerts, listening to the totally re-recorded version of the CD and viewing the Oxygene Live In Your Living Room DVD, Mark Jenkins reflects on the musical milestone that is Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene

seemingly endless lines of sequencer music, or Isao Tomita in his devotion to intricately arranged classical pieces, failed to match the blend of melody and abstract sound represented by Oxygene, which almost immediately started to gain radio airplay and extensive use in TV documentaries. In fact Oxygene saw a lot of use soon after its release as a hi-fi test LP, and after hitting No. 1 in various international charts was thought worthy of a live performance in Place de la Concorde in central Paris. Since it comprised more or less a multi-tracked solo performance, like Tubular Bells, this presented not a few serious difficulties, though the concert did in fact take place and 30 years later Jarre has set out to reproduce just such a performance with, if anything, an even great degree of authenticity. The way he has done so now contrasts very markedly with the huge open-air events with which he has become associated over the years, including massive concerts in China and Hong Kong, in the London Docklands, around the skyscrapers of Houston and the Arch De La Defense in Paris, at the Egyptian Pyramids and most recently in the Moroccan desert. The 30th anniversary of Oxygene was marked by a complete new studio recording, a multi-musician live DVD performance, and a series of concerts in the relatively intimate setting of the Theatre Marigny just at the end of the Champs Elysees, mere yards from the Place de la Concorde setting of the original Oxygene open-air performance. A European concert hall tour followed this Spring including dates in Glasgow, Dublin, Munich, Brussels, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Manchester, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Hamburg, Berlin, Oslo, Frankurt, Luxembourg, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Zurich. Despite having moved over the years towards digital keyboards and most recently to software instruments, Jarre has in fact retained all his original analogue keyboards from the 1970s and 1980s, and refurbished them all for these performances. The largest

Photos opposite and pages 18, 20 and front cover from the Royal Albert Hall concert. Reproduced with the kind permission of Paul Williams




Photos from the Paris show taken by Mark Jenkins


are a Modular Moog and an ARP2500 modular, teamed up with a large custom-built sequencer, the Digisequencer designed by Michel Geiss, the rare RMI Keyboard Computer which is a digital harmonic synthesis keyboard, and small monophonic synths such as an ARP Odyssey and multiple EMS synths for abstract sounds. Also very important to Jarre's sound is a dual manual organ from the Dutch company Eminent, which contributes mainly string sounds, various drum machines, and a Mellotron which of course plays the taped sounds of choirs, strings and other acoustic effects. While the original live performance of Oxygene relied to a great extent on recordings, the anniversary shows have been almost completely live thanks to the assistance of keyboardists Dominique Perrier (originally of the synth/drums duo Space Art), Claude Samard, and Jarre's longtime live collaborator Francis Rimbert. I spoke to Rimbert before one of the Paris performances and he filled in the rest of the keyboard lineup. "I'm using the ARP2500 and I have an Odyssey, a Korg PS3010 polyphonic synth, a Moog Voyager and a second Eminent organ. Claud Samard is in front of the Moog Modular and also plays a MiniMoog, the new Moog Little Phatty and a Roland Jupiter 8. A lot of JeanMichel's parts other than the EMS synthis and the Eminent he plays on a MemoryMoog" (which dates from somewhat later than the original release of Oxygene, but which is pretty much an authentic old analogue design). Ironically it was the MemoryMoog which went out of tune during the performance I attended, which is odd for a relatively late instrument. Francis Rimbert explained: "Well, every night has been different. We're playing ten nights with all authentic instruments, and there are tuning problems. We have to keep everything switched on so it warms up, but even so you have problems with span: you find a keyboard's in tune at the bottom but it's no longer in tune at the top.� Apart from this glitch though the show went very well, with the six parts of Oxygene complemented by new variations, and by closely synchronised video projections ranging from an animated version of the album sleeve to

photomicrographs of insects and animals. Jarre was even able to move around a little, strapping on a guitar-style Moog Liberation synth for one solo, and using the long metal Doepfer Ribbon Controller for some parts, as well as delivering a solo on a Theremin Another striking visual element of the concert saw a huge mirror hinging down from the ceiling at the halfway point, reflecting the keyboard set-up from above and giving a much better idea of the jobs assigned to each musician during the performance. Deep bass parts, for example, were typically being created on a Moog Taurus, played by hand rather than with the feet as its pedal layout would suggest, while a lot of the theremin-like lead sounds from Oxygene apparently came from an EMS Synth i A with

careful manual control of its volume on each note, though with eight hands contributing to the performance it was sometimes difficult to tell.

OXYGENE ANALYSED Jarre has recently been discussing how the original release of Oxygene was a strong precursor of the modern ecological movement, and it's certainly true that 30 years ago there was much less awareness of the importance of the planetary environment. From the album sleeve showing a flayed and suffering planet and its opening air and wind sounds, the album has become a symbol for the ecological movement, also reflected in Jarre's work as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.




In giving the album tracks no titles other than Oxygene Parts 1 - 6, Jarre allowed total concentration upon the possible meanings behind the music. "Our planet has always fascinated me," Jarre has said, "and my musical compositions have often been a way for me to celebrate it. The music of Oxygene is not linked to the stratosphere, but rather to the biosphere and our immediate environment; it is situated for me in that space between earth and sky, the air we breathe. The title itself and the visual of the sleeve created by Michel Granger are an integral part of the whole concept of this music and the message I wanted to deliver at the time. Thirty years ago we were not so many in stating our concern for the future of the planet; I am pleased to see that today, the central theme of Oxygene is now in phase with one of the major preoccupations of our time.� But why go to the effort of performing the piece without any of the benefits of modern instruments? "I composed Oxygene on extraordinary instruments, part of electronic music mythology, as Stradivarius was for classical music or the Fender Telecaster was for

rock music. These legendary instruments are truly amazing and not at all known to the general public. The synthesizers are all analogue, and to perform a full live concert, with no digital tools, will give a nice edge to the performance and ensure that each night is a different experience. I wanted to perform Oxygene in the intimacy of the Theatre Marigny, an opportunity to be closer to the audience; the music itself, and the staging I have imagined, lend themselves to this special project.� Jarre has in fact re-visited Oxygene many times, consistently performing some parts in concert, and added new tracks to the project on the album Oxygene 7-13 in 1997. Only one track from this release got a look-in though, giving an opportunity to use some gutsy, subtly varying analogue sequences much stronger than those generated by the original analogue keyboards. On the new DVD release Oxygene Live In Your Living Room through Capitol, this part isn't even included, so the performance recorded at the Alfacam Studios in Lint, Belgium sticks fairly strictly to

the content of the original album. What you receive is in fact a double pack, comprising the DVD filmed using a new stereoscopic process (and complete with red and blue lensed glasses) and also in conventional 2D High Definition video, with a picture gallery of all the instruments used, plus a CD of the original album recorded note-fornote in 24-bit 96kHz sound at Jarre's own studio in Paris. It's interesting to note that Mike Oldfield also recently re-recorded Tubular Bells around the same time he wanted to change record label and publishing arrangements. So how do these new versions of Oxygene measure up against music recorded with more modern keyboard instruments? Well, some of the sounds are timeless. The swirling, atmospheric noises from the EMS synthis can't be bettered, while the strong, shifting string layers from the Eminent organs sound artificial but remain rich and sensuous. Jarre's sequencer parts are trippy and complex, generating a distinctive style which other musicians have never matched, while the drum sounds from the very earliest electronic drum machines



remain rather thin and cheesy, though carefully matched with strong rolling bass parts to support them. In recent years Jarre has moved towards stronger, more techno-oriented drum sounds, so it's quite clear that he only uses these less up-to-date textures in their correct place. Has Jarre ever matched Oxygene in his later output? Some would argue not, though there are tremendous passages in the followups Equinoxe and Magnetic Fields, on later more techno-oriented albums such as Chronologies, and of course in his live albums which often incorporate orchestras, choirs and soloists on ethnic instruments into the mix. Jarre himself remains committed to developing new styles and techniques and promoting his music through new outlets. He has a very active internet presence: "I think YouTube for example is as important as radio or TV when they first started, it's an amazing site," he has said. He has his own website at and there is also a busy page on MySpace which offers updates on forthcoming concerts. If you're not familiar with the enormous output of the man who remains the most popular electronic music specialist in the world, Oxygene Live In Your Living Room is a great place to start.

OXYGENE LIVE SET LIST Prelude (unreleased) Oxygene Part 1 Oxygene Part 2 Oxygene Part 3 Variation 1 (unreleased) Oxygene Part 4 Variation II (unreleased) Oxygene Part 5 Variation III (unreleased) Oxygene Part 6 Oxygene Part XII (not on DVD)

ON STAGE JEAN MICHEL JARRE Front: Memorymoog, EMS Synth A x 2. Right: EMS Synth A and KS keyboard, Digisequencer by Michel Geiss, RMI Harmonic Synthesizer. Left: Eminent 310 organ, Yamaha CS80 (not on DVD), Elka Solist (not on DVD), Doepfer ribbon controller and module, OSC OSCar (not on DVD), Moog Liberation, Theremin, Small Stone phaser. Rear: ARP 2600, EMS VCS3 x 2 CLAUDE SAMARD Eminent 310 organ, MiniMoog, Moog Taurus, EMS Synth A with KS keyboard, ARP 2600, Moog Little Phatty, Minipops 7 drum machine, Small Stone phaser DOMINIQUE PERRIER Eminent 310 organ, Mellotron Mk II, Moog Modular System 55, ARP Odyssey, Moog Voyager, Small Stone phaser, Electric Mistress flanger FRANCIS RIMBERT Eminent 310 organ, Roland Jupiter 8, Moog MiniMoog, ARP 2500 modular, Korg PS3010 polyphonic synth, Small Stone phaser


The essential guide to making keyboard June 2008


The essential guide to making keyboard June 2008