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Over a career that takes in almost two decades with Dead Can Dance, award-winning movie soundtracks and a series of acclaimed solo and collaborative albums, Lisa Gerrard has established herself as one of Australia’s most ground-breaking and in-demand artists.
Singer, composer and actress in El Nino de la Luna (a film which, of course, she also scored), Lisa brings a vision that is both precise and all-embracing to everything she does.
It is a musical journey that began in the early 1980s when she and fellow Australian Brendan Perry formed Dead Can Dance, one of the world’s most extraordinary bands whose proud boast is that they never fitted into any neatly manufactured genre or lazy pigeonhole. With Lisa’s otherworldly voice counterpoised by Brendon’s mellifluous tones, from the outset, they thought nothing of setting discordant electric guitars and dark, rolling bass lines against cellos, trombones and timpani.
Over nine albums between 1984 and 1995, the duo’s musical canvas expanded with every release to take in a timeless mix of world music influences, mediaeval chants, folk ballads, baroque stylings, Celtic flavours, electronics, samples and anything else that took their fancy.
The extraordinary mosaic of musical influences is perhaps less surprising in the light of Lisa’s childhood in Melbourne, where she recalls Greek, Turkish and Irish melodies “oozing into the streets” of her neighbourhood. Since then she lived in London, Spain and Ireland before returning to the Snowy Mountains of Australia.
By the mid-90s, even the ambition of Dead Can Dance was no longer broad enough to encompass Lisa’s musical vision. In 1995 came her first solo album, The Mirror Pool on which her stunning voice was accompanied by the Victoria Philharmonic Orchestra. Again, it’s an album that defies categorisation, causing one impressed but perplexed reviewer to describe it as “ambient, orchestral, folk and new age all at the same time.”
Duality, a collaboration with Pieter Bourke followed in 1998 and again transcended musical eras and genres. Now comes the stunningly beautiful Immortal Memory, a collaboration with the Irish composer, Patrick Cassidy which further explores the boundaries of Lisa’s musical ambition.
In recent years Lisa has also become a much sought-after composer of soundtracks. In many ways this has been a logical progression. Much of the work of Dead Can Dance had a cinematic quality that led to the group’s music being used in the cult movie Baraka, TV commercials and even a car chase scene in Miami Vice.
Among the films she has scored or contributed to are Gladiator, Insider, Ali, Whale Rider, Heat, Baraka, Mission Impossible 2, Black Hawk Down, Tears of The Sun, Nadro, One Perfect Day, Man on Fire, Layer Cake and El Nino de la Luna. Lisa received Golden Globe nominations for Insider and Ali, Grammy and Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe award for the score of Gladiator and four international awards for Whale Rider. She also wrote music for the mini-TV series Salem’s Lot and the San Francisco Ballet has performed to her work.
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