Maurice Alexis Jarre was born on September 13th 1924 in Lyon France, and commenced his musical training at the age of sixteen. The young Jarre had originally set out to become a radio engineer which was at the request of his Father, who was at the time a technical director for the French broadcasting corporation. Maurice however had other ideas about what he wanted to do in life. After a brief introduction to the career his Father had chosen for him, Jarre decided to leave and go to Paris to study music and made the decision that he would not just be a musician but would study to become a composer and also a conductor. He began by studying solfeggio which is an exercise for voice, harmony and also percussion at the Paris Conservatory of Music. After a period of some three years he became an accomplished performer and one of the featured timpanists within leading Paris orchestras performing under the batons of numerous distinguished conductors, Pierre Monteux and Charles Munch amongst them. It was at this time that the young aspiring composer began to study counterpoint, orchestration and fugue whilst continuing to take tuition in conducting under the watchful eyes of Charles Munch, Arthur Honegger and Louis Aubert. In addition to this Jarre took instruction in electronic music and musique concrete by Pierre Schaefer at the club d’essai of radio diffusion Francaise in Paris. He worked alongside Pierre Boulez as musical director for The Jean-Louis Barrault company, a position he maintained for nearly five years. He then moved on to become the director of music for the national theatre and remained there for almost 13 years. Whilst at the National Theatre he composed nearly sixty scores for productions that included, Don Juan, Macbeth, Murder in the Cathedral, The Hairy Ape, Luther and The Miser and during his time there co-directed the musical comedy LOIN DE RUELL, and collaborated with many well respected writers of the time such as, Harold Pinter, Jean Cocteau and Andre Breton. The composer began to write music for motion pictures in 1951, his first assignment being a short documentary film entitled HOTEL DES INVALIDES for director Georges Franju. After scoring some forty three movies in his native France Jarre worked on his first American produced motion picture which was THE MIRROR CRACKED (1960) which was directed by Richard Fleischer. Jarre collaborated with the director a second time in 1961 for THE BIG GAMBLE and in 1962 worked on Darryl F Zannuck’s account of the D-Day landings in the form of the now classic movie THE LONGEST DAY. It was however after these three movies that Jarre became an example of the so called overnight success scenario when he collaborated with British director David Lean on the epic war movie/biopic LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.
The composers sprawling and rich use of music in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA raised the cinema going public’s awareness of Jarre, this was not only a major film for the composer, but also an important milestone in his career, as it was to be the beginning of a lasting professional collaboration with director David Lean and also the start of an enduring friendship between the two men. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA also garnered the composer an Academy Award, which was to be the first of three Oscars that he would receive for his work in film, the others being for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO in 1965 and A PASSAGE TO INDIA in 1984, both of which were also directed by David Lean. The composer was to receive a further half a dozen nominations throughout his career for the prestigious Academy Award or Oscar and was either the recipient of, or nominated for numerous other awards and prizes all over the world. During the 1960,s Jarre was one of the most sought after film music composers worldwide, scoring some of Hollywood’s most popular productions and being equally as industrious outside of tinsel town. Arguably the 1960,s, or the Silver age of film music as it was often referred to by aficionados of the soundtrack community was Jarre’s most productive and prolific period within his fifty year career, as it was at this time he created and established his own unique and instantly recognisable style and sound, placing his original musical fingerprint upon numerous motion pictures and establishing himself a composer who was able to adapt easily to every situation and any genre. Films such as THE TRAIN, GRAND PRIX, THE COLLECTOR, VILLA RIDES, THE PROFFESSIONALS,TOPAZ, NIGHT OF THE GENERALS, BEHOLD A PALE HORSE, THE DAMNED, THE LONGEST DAY and IS PARIS BURNING? Were all enriched and benefited from the composers abundant gift for melody and obvious ability to fashion music that enhanced and supported the films story line and imagery, and at the same time was popular away from the motion pictures it was crafted for.
The composer continued to be gainfully employed during the next two decades producing impressive, haunting and varying themes within scores for the likes of DEAD POETS SOCIETY, SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, A SEASON IN HELL, MAD MAX-BEYOND THUNDERDOME, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, FATAL ATTRACTION, MOSQUITO COAST, RYANS DAUGHTER, CROSSED SWORDS, ENEMY MINE, GHOST, MOON OVER PARADOR, TAI PAN, EL CONDOR, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE MESSAGE, LION OF THE DESERT, SHOGUN and WITNESS to name but a handful.
Jarre utilized a wide-ranging pallet of instrumentation, fusing with consummate ease conventional symphonic colours and synthetic sounds that not only complimented each other but combined to create memorable and at times magical moments. Since 1951, Jarre has scored nearly 200 motion pictures and collaborated with some of the movie industries most respected directors and producers.
Luchino Visconti, Franco Zefferelli, Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, Peter Weir, Adrian Lynne, John Huston, Michael Apted, Terence Young and Fred Zinnemann among them. The composers musical output however was not restricted to writing exclusively for the cinema, as during his career he produced compositions for concert hall performance, ballets and also music for the theatre. His ballet NOTRE DAME DE PARIS is part of the permanent repertoire of the Paris Opera and Ballet and also of The Kirov Ballet in Leningrad. During the latter part of the 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s the composer gave numerous concerts of his film music and conducted a number of important orchestras during this time, these included, The London Symphony, The London Philharmonic, The Philharmonia, The National Philharmonic, The Japan Philharmonic and The Quebec Symphony. Jarre was honoured by the City of Lyon, and decorated by the French government with the distinguished award, Commander des Arts et Lettres, that was bestowed upon him in recognition for his many contributions to the world of music and arts. Jarre was also given the prestigious Legion d’Honneur by the then French President, Francoise Mitterand. The composers final scoring assignment was in 2001 which was a movie entitled UPRISING. Maurice Jarre died of cancer on March 28th 2009, he left a void within the fraternity of film music composers, that will be impossible to fill.