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Is Jean Michel Jarre’s Laserharp Fake? I think not!

Submitted by on June 9, 2009 – 11:49 am 6 Comments

Jean Michel Jarre is the guy who got me into electronic music.  Oxygene was like nothing I’d ever head before, and some people even say that nothing that he’s done since has surpassed this album made in the 70’s with stacks of analogue synthesizers.

Jarre is know for his huge, elaborate concerts – one of the more interesting controllers he uses is the Laserharp.  It’s a device that shines laser beams straight up, and when one of the lasers is blocked by a hand, it sends a signal to a synth to produce a note.

Some people have speculated that it’s completely fake and Jarre is simply pretending to ‘play’ it while a sequencer actually plays all the notes.

Here is a video with Paul Wiffen, the guy who programmed the preset sounds for the Elka Synthex used on the album Rendezvous, who claims that it’s fake (at around 0:30 in the video).

After watching the above video, check this one out below. It’s Jarre playing at Rendez-Vous 2 at the InDoors concert in Vorst Nationaal, Brussels, Belgium. The Laserharp is clearly malfunctioning, which in turn causes the melody that he’s attempting to play on the Elka Synthex to fail.

Fake? No way. It is interesting how cool Jean Michel Jarre acts handling the disaster. He plays around with a bit, shrugs his shoulders, tries to fix it and remains cool the entire time.

If you haven’t already, you really need to check out Oxygene – Live in your Living Room in 3D. It’s a video of Jarre in an intimate setting (actually a warehouse) re-creating Oxygene on the original instruments, live (with some help). It’s filmed in 3D and has more amazing vintage gear in one place than I can handle. It’s fascinating to watch how it was all created.

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  • how does a laser harp work
  • jean michel jarre laser harp
  • Laser harp fake


  • Grant says:

    While it wasn’t JMJ that got me into electronic music his Oxygene still has a special place in my heart.
    Thanks for the 3D tip! Will check that out.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Yeah- it was no fake- that’s just hogwash.

    If Jarre inspired you to get into electronic music, he inspired me to make a laser harp. (Just without the laser- darn that fog machine)
    lol… nice post.

  • btw… i just realized that kinda sounded sarcastic it wasnt

    i really did make a laser harp, but the laser part didnt work out.

  • Gavin says:

    THE FANTASTIC RENDEZ-VOUS-OGRAPHY PART 2 on youtube shows ovbiously a version that is fake, at 6mins 9sec exactly it shows his hand slipping off the laser then back onto it again with no note triggered.

    early days this was true, but now he does totally have a real one made.

    hope this clears things up for folks.

  • Mike says:

    Holy crap!! I never doubted that the technology to play a laser harp existed. But i did have my doubts as to wether he actually played one live at his concerts. Now thanks to both videos I know that I was right about both things. Lol

    Its kind of sad though.

  • Me2 says:

    In his earlier mega concert period, the laser harp performances were definitely fake.
    There are multiple proofs of that. As has been said above, at one show you see him slip off the beam briefly without the note being interrupted at all.
    Also the Rendez-Vous II sequence never fitted with the beams he struck. The sequence is a 6 note downward sequence (can’t recall the notes) while he actually only used 4 laser beams for it.
    Finally, on the La Defense video you can actually hear that the notes sequence was prerecorded as at some point the playback seems to get out of tune (as if a tape is running slower) and you can clearly see from his facial expression he’s not happy with it.

    I simply think that back then the technology was simply not reliable yet. In fact, it’s not reliable even today, as proven by that Vorst Nationaal video above, or the complete malfunction at the Monaco wedding.

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