Jean-Michel Jarre performs in immersive reality with L-ISA spatial sound design

Sound Designer, Hervé Déjardin specifies an L-Acoustics L-ISA system for Jean-Michel Jarre's latest composition series, Oxymore.

Sound Designer, Hervé Desjardin (left) and Electronic music guru, Jean Michel Jarre (right) finalising the L-ISA spatial sound design for the Hyper Weekend Festival, at Radio France, Paris, France.

Considered the godfather of electronic music, Jean-Michel Jarre recently premiered his latest opus ‘Oxymore’ in a series of headline performances at the inaugural edition of Radio France’s innovative Hyper Weekend Festival in Paris. The concerts were staged in the round at the iconic Radio France headquarters, la Maison de la Radio, surrounded by a seated live audience while also being broadcast and live VR streamed to tens of thousands of viewers. The show was made possible by L-Acoustics L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology, specified by Sound Designer, Hervé Déjardin.

“I was involved with Jean-Michel Jarre’s epic virtual concert ‘Welcome to the Other Side’ last year, during which Jean-Michel and I spent a lot of time discussing how to best present his compositions. We agreed that the most important thing is to compose for space, and having seen the technology available, he approached me several months ago with the newly completed Oxymore. We began work on a new show concept embracing the incredible immersive audio possibilities. Coincidentally around the same time, Radio France started to plan the exciting new Hyper Weekend festival, and happily the two projects came together,” explained Déjardin.

Oxymore is a homage to pioneering electronic musician, Pierre Henry, and a perfect fit for the new live/virtual hybrid festival, which was launched as a celebration of and tribute to French music across all genres. The event was performed across three days, on five stages and showcasing 60 artists.

Déjardin already had experience of staging immersive concerts with L-ISA technology, from his work with French electronic artist, Molécule, with whom he devised a concert series based around a 360-degree spatialised sound experience where the audience listens in the round and in darkness.

“I was free to choose the system for the show, and naturally I opted for L-ISA. This was the first time Jean-Michel had worked with the system but not the first time he’s worked in immersive. In the 1950s and 60s he was a student with composer Pierre Schaeffer, and in the 1990s and 2000s, he produced several DVDs using 5.1 but the technology just wasn’t ready. New technology over the past four or five years has given us the benefit of accuracy, and for me, L-Acoustics L-ISA has reached the pinnacle of that technology,” said Déjardin.

Production rehearsals took place at Innovation Radio France studio, where Déjardin began his immersive mix using L-ISA Studio software with a 12-loudspeaker setup and a Nuendo DAW.

“Jean-Michel’s music is naturally spatial, and although he works in stereo, he thinks in terms of space. He organised different stems for me during the mastering process and sent me the multitracks so I could start the spatialisation design, which we spent two solid weeks finalising together,” explained Déjardin. “It’s so easy to work with him because the material is so logical. My job was just to reinforce the emotion and story in space.”

The performance was set for Maison de la Radio’s Agorastage, a round outdoor/indoor hybrid space enclosed with a glass ceiling. Christophe Dupin (system engineer) specified an oval of 17 Syva cabinets, plus Syva Low and some extra SB21, provided by Magnum. Jarre was positioned at the ‘top’ of the oval on an elevated stage, to artistically achieve a zero-degree reference point for the audience who were seated around him facing the stage. Due to social distancing, audiences were limited to 200 people attending each of seven concerts over the three-day festival. Simultaneously, the live festival performances were broadcast via radio and streamed in 6DoF binaural format to the virtual platforms, VRChat by VRrOOm.

“The Agora stage really worked for this performance because the circular shape is so relevant to the music. At traditional live events, there is a sense of separation between the musicians and the audience, enforcing the feeling of being a spectator. As a 360-degree sound system, installed in a round performance space, L-ISA completely embodies immersive. It is very effective at drawing the audience together so that they are inside the sound, sharing the same experience as the musicians and fellow audience goers,” continued Déjardin. “The limited audience numbers inspired Jean-Michel to produce an intimate immersive experience and he was very motivated to focus on space and the music.”

Déjardin employed a small mixer with 48 inputs, loaded with tracks from Jean-Michel Jarre. He set up several stereo groups in L-ISA, and applied L-ISA’s four positioning parameters (pan, width, distance) to create the spatial mix. This also allowed Déjardin to ensure recordings would be compatible with 5.1 to enable DVD production at a later date. Part of the spatialisation was written on Nuendo which contained about 400 lines of automation for the movements in space.

“It was easy to work with L-ISA because the technology is so forward-thinking and effortless. With stereo, you are forced to use compression, filtering, temporal effects, but with 360 you don’t have this problem. If I use compression or filters, it’s an active aesthetic choice. The technology reproduces sound in a more natural way of hearing and this new sense of space also becomes part of the creative process, as the artist can decide which components to distribute where in the room. This is why it’s great to work with an artist like Jean-Michel who is so involved in creating music using new technologies. Our next ambition is an immersive tour,” Déjardin said.

“I could not have achieved this project without L-Acoustics,” concluded Jean-Michel Jarre. “Its vision and pioneering approach always impress me and, once more, we are opening doors on virgin acoustic territories together.