Maurice Jarre, Composer for 'Lawrence of Arabia,' Dies


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Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre, who captured the majesty of the desert in his music for Lawrence of Arabia and wrote the haunting “Lara's Theme" in his score for Doctor Zhivago, has died. He was 84.

Jarre died over the weekend in Los Angeles, where he had lived for decades, Bernard Miyet, a friend of the composer and leader of the French musicians' guild, SACEM, said today. No cause of death was given.

Born in 1924 in Lyon, France, Jarre studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris, training initially as a kettledrum player. He started his career composing scores for theatrical productions and worked 12 years as permanent composer at the Theatre National Populaire.

He soon branched into composing soundtracks for movies and in 1961 worked on director David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, for which he won his first Oscar.

He won a second for his work on another Lean film, Doctor Zhivago, based on the novel by Boris Pasternak. The movie's song “Lara's Theme" became a hit single and earned him worldwide recognition.

Jarre collaborated with Lean again in 1984 on A Passage to India, winning his third Academy Award. Jarre was noted for his use of ethnic instruments and, later, synthetic sounds.

He mixed traditional Indonesian instruments with electronic music in the score for Australian Peter Weir's 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously -- the story of an Australian journalist covering a military coup in Indonesia.

In 1989, he layered Celtic harp and flute over synthesizers in the soundtrack for Dead Poets Society.

After moving to California in the early 1960s, Jarre returned to Europe regularly, working in France with Rene Clement on the score for Is Paris Burning? (1966) and with Franco Zefirelli on Jesus of Nazareth (1977).

He received a lifetime achievement award at the Berlin Film Festival in February, after a career including more than 150 soundtracks. He worked with some of Hollywood's most well-known directors, including William Wyler, John Huston, Michael Apted, Alfred Hitchcock and Alfonso Arau.

He had “a sense of grandeur" and knew how “to translate in a very short time, very few notes, absolutely essential feelings," French film music expert Stphane Lerouge said.

Jarre was made an officer in the French Legion of Honor for his contribution to culture.

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