Dossier prepared by Madeleine Leclair

Amazônia is the title of a musical creation by Jean-Michel Jarre including sound archives from the MEG. The music accompanies the exhibition Salgado Amazônia, presented and designed by the Musée de la musique - Philharmonie de Paris, from April 7th to October 31th 2021.

Rio Jaú Etat d’Amazonas

Rio Jaú. Amazonas State, Brazil, 2019 © Sebastião Salgado

From 2013 to 2019, Sebastião Salgado travelled through the Brazilian Amazon, photographing the forest, the rivers, the mountains and the people who live there. This universe has imprinted striking images in the photographer's eye, revealed for the first time to the public at the Musée de la musique - Philharmonie de Paris. Accompanied by the musical creation Amazônia, this exhibition is an invitation to see, to hear as well as to think about ecological issues and the place of humans in the living world.

The Salgado Amazônia exhibition also features two listening rooms hosting large screenings of Sebastião Salgado's photographs accompanied by the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos and Rodolfo Stroeter, as well as five films produced for the exhibition that give testimonies of indigenous personalities more specifically from Brazil.

Amérindiens Marubo

Marubo Amerindians, Javari valley. Amazonas State, Brazil, 1998 © Sebastião Salgado

Music creation and sound archives

Commissioned by the Musée de la musique - Philharmonie de Paris on the occasion of the Salgado Amazônia exhibition and composed by Jean-Michel Jarre, the eponymous work Amazônia integrates some forty sound sources recorded in different places in Amazonia between the 1960s and 2019.

Interview with Jean-Michel Jarre about his composition Amazônia

Interview conducted on June 14th 2021 by Madeleine Leclair (curator at the Museum of ethnography, Geneva)

on the occasion of the Salgado Amazônia exhibition presented by the Musée de la musique-Philharmonie de Paris.


Photographs: Sebastião Salgado

Music: recordings from the MEG sound archives and "Amazônia, Part 1" by J.-M. Jarre @Jean-Michel Jarre, Sony Music

Photography and sound: Johnathan Watts

Editing: Johnathan Watts

@2021 MEG

amazonia JM Jarre

Composed, Produced and Mixed by Jean-Michel Jarre at JMJ Studio.

Published by Jean-Michel Jarre

Total duration : 52'47

℗ 2021 Jean-Michel Jarre 

In 2016, the MEG joined forces with a network of researchers specialised in the Amazonian auditory anthropology to create the project Sound Stories, an immersive installation based on sound archives and presented in the exhibition Amazonia. The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest presented at MEG from May 2016 to January 2017 (curator: Boris Wastiau).

The installation invited the general public to experience in a sensitive and contextualized way the mythological conceptions and sound practices of certain Amerindian communities.

The results of this research were presented to Jean-Michel Jarre in January 2020 at the MEG. From the exchanges and discussions that took place concerning the auditory experience as lived by the Amerindian populations of Amazonia, the idea was born to make available to Jean-Michel Jarre the sound archives of the MEG and those of other anthropologists specialising in Amazonia, for the creation of a musical work to be presented in the Salgado-Amazônia exhibition.

The Amazônia work has given rise to the release of a disc, part of the royalties from which will be set aside to be paid in full to the communities from which these recordings originate.

Sound worlds of Amazonia

The relationship people have with their environment, and the way they view their experience of the world around them, depends on how they perceive it. In the West, sight and touch are the dominant senses. In the Amazonia, it is above all through hearing, and therefore sound, that the connection between oneself and the rest of the world is established.

According to the Amerindian perspective, sound (music, noises, etc.) enables human beings, non-human beings and animals to relate to each other, to communicate. Moreover, the sound breath of the clairvoyant-healers, characters playing a key role in Amazonian societies, is a media par excellence for establishing relationships between humans and spirits. The presence of the breath is manifested by the voice (songs, ritual cries), but also by the flutes, clarinets and all the other wind instruments that channel it and transform its sound.

The fundamental importance of hearing, perceiving and producing sound for the people of the lowlands inspires many artists, creators and therapists. But it also captivates many anthropologists. Amerindian music and sound productions have been studied by several generations of researchers and have been the subject of numerous recordings.

chef du village wayana d’Anapuaka

Kuyukpe alias Dondon, chief of the Wayana village of Anapuaka, friend and collaborator of the ethnologist Daniel Schoepf. Brazil, State of Pará, Rio Paru. Photo : Daniel Schoepf, 1987

Amazon Sound Archive at MEG

The MEG holds a collection of about forty hours of sound archives from Amazonia, about thirty of which are recordings made in situ in Brazil (Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Pará) and Guyane between 1968 and 1992 by former collaborators of the museum.

Entirely digitised, these archives are remarkable for several reasons. First of all, they were collected by specialists in Amazonian environments after long research stays. Then, they are accompanied by abundant ethnographic documentation: names of the rituals during which the music is performed, detailed descriptions of the performances, names of the performers, manufacture of the musical instruments, etc. Finally, the good quality of the sound recordings, sometimes carried out in difficult conditions, accurately testifies to the importance and great diversity of sound expression in Amazonia.

It is around this archive collection that a first meeting was organised at the MEG, in January 2020, in the presence of Jean-Michel Jarre accompanied by his manager Fiona Cummins, Marie-Pauline Martin and Marion Challier, respectively director and head of exhibitions at the Musée de la musique-Philharmonie de Paris, Matthias Lewy, an anthropologist specialising in the sound environments of Amazonia, Boris Wastiau, director of the MEG, and of myself.

The idea was above all to present to Jean-Michel Jarre the contents of these sound archives and the conditions in which they were gathered together. It was also a question of evoking how and why the aural perception of the Amerindians is related to their knowledge of the world. Unsurprisingly, the exchanges between us led us to address the general artistic line imagined by Jean-Michel Jarre for his creation. The initial orientation was essentially focused on the sounds of nature. The composition project finally took a broader path to encompass the entire Amazonian ecosystem, i.e. human sound traces, echoing the animist Amerindian perspective according to which human and non-human beings share the same interiority.

Le mérèrémeit

The merèrémeit, the great ceremony of the Kayapó Xikrin, is intended to confirm the ceremonial names that have been awarded. Brazil, State of Pará, Rio Cateté. Photo René Fuerst, 1963-1966

Iodno guérisseur

Iodno, a Kayapó healer dancing with a rattle commonly used by clairvoyant-healers. Brazil, State of Pará, Rio Cateté, Kayapó Xikrin. Photo René Fuerst, 1965

In the end, the work Amazônia integrates some forty sound sources recorded in different places in Amazonia between the 1960s and 2019. These sources come from the original archival media (magnetic tapes and audio cassettes) or from edited discs, a copy of which is kept in the MEG archives, as well as from the personal archives of four researchers specialising in Amazonian sound environments: Jean-Michel Beaudet (recordings made in Guyane in 1978, 2015 and 2019), Bernd Brabec de Mori (Peru, 2004-2005), Matthias Lewy (Venezuela 2006 to 2015) and Pierre Salivas (Peru, 1991 to 1994).

The archive sources

Amazônia has a total duration of 52'47''. The thirteen archive sources presented below are integrated at specific moments, identified on this time line.



1. Naming ceremony

Brazil, Pará. Kayapó. 1978

2. Imitation of animals

Brazil, Pará. Wayana-Apalai. 24 March 24th 1972

3. Harvest of the wasey palm fruit

Guyane, upper Oyapock. Wayãpi, June 1977

4. The forest, morning

Guyane, upper Sinnamary river. October 1978

5. Bird songs and the crackling of the fire

Peru, Ucayali valley. Shipibo. 2009

6. Healing session

Ecuador, surroundings of Otavalo. Shuar

7. Iwa moyeupi, song «to make the sky ascendpour faire monter le ciel»

Guyane, upper Oyapock. Wayãpi. August 1981

8. Ritual fishing with vines

Brazil, Pará. Mekrãgnotí. 1978

9. Naming ceremony

Brazil, Pará, lower valley of the Rio Xingú. Kayapó. 1955

10. Flute solo

Peru, Cenepa valley. Awajún. 2004-2006

11. Ayawasca session

Peru, Ucayali valley. Shipibo. 2001, 2002, 2007

12. Tobacco-love magic song

Peru, Ucayali region. Yine. 2004

13. The story of the lost man

Brazil, Pará. Wayana-Apalai. 1978