Her dreamlike work communicates with a language from the heart

Collaborating with Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerrard made up half of the duo Dead Can Dance, the arty goth-rock act that started releasing work in the mid-80s on the distinctive British 4AD label, home to a guild of ethereal and dark-sounding acts, among them the Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and Lisa Germano. The label’s airy roster also included hard-hitting yet innovative exceptions, such as The Birthday Party, The Pixies and Throwing Muses. Gerrard’s activity with Perry, her Dead Can Dance partner, lasted for a little over a decade, slightly overlapping with a solo career whose debut release, 1995’s «This Mirror Pool,» appeared a year before Dead Can Dance’s final album of new material, «Spiritchaser.» Since the end of Dead Can Dance, a project that started in Australia in the early 80s before Gerrard and Perry decided to relocate to the UK, Gerrard has released a steady flow of work – including major film scores, such as those for «The Gladiator,» «The Insider» and Whale Rider» – some of it on the 4AD label that helped establish her fame. The former Dead Can Dance vocalist, instrumentalist, and co-songwriter performs in Athens this Friday at the Pallas Theater, just under a year since her most recent album, «The Silver Tree,» her first full-length release as a solo artist since «The Mirror Pool», 12 years ago. Tickets for Friday’s show have virtually sold out. «The Silver Tree» highlights why Gerrard has drawn the attention of film directors. The album’s content is loaded with ambient soundscapes topped with Gerrard’s outlandish vocals. Sung nearly as prayers or meditative mantras, Gerrard uses glimpses of various languages, including some English, to create a dreamlike sound. Commenting on her mosaic of musical influences in her website’s biography, Gerrard cites the Greek, Turkish, and Irish melodies «oozing into the streets» of her predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Melbourne as being instrumental in her work. In a previous interview, Gerrard remarked that her hometown’s multicultural aspect made her feel, from early on, that «there is an ability to speak in a language that all can understand, that we don’t need to communicate in a language that is academically defined, that there is a language we can communicate in that is a language of the heart.» During her early years, in the early 80s while still in her teens, Gerrard had begun experimenting with her voice, including at various outdoor locations such as busy streets and city road tunnels, where she would improvise accompanied by the roar of rush-hour traffic. Highlighting the degree of her career’s success, a little over a couple of decades on, Gerrard and Perry, on a Dead Can Dance reunion tour, performed sold-out shows at the 15,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl and 7,000-capacity Radio City Music Hall in New York. In an interview following these reunion shows, Gerrard noted that: «Brendan and I have no plans to work together again.» Her work is deep and spiritual, but Gerrard – who like Perry, has a background performing with punk acts in the late 70s – tends to feel flabbergasted when asked to analyze. Several years ago, in an interview with Melbourne daily The Age after having won a Golden Globe for her soundtrack to «The Gladiator,» Gerrard, responding to a query from Ennio Morricone, who was intrigued by her work and wanted to know about the secrets behind her voice, said she told the famed film composer: «I can’t tell you anything. I’m not an academic. I’m not an intellectual. There is no intellectual answer to it. He wouldn’t believe me.» Her own film scores in recent years, Gerrard believes, proved to be an influence on «Silver Tree,» her latest solo album. «It is through the marriage of music and picture that I have discovered the powerful suggestive nature of the work… that it is not necessary to spell out every detail, instead simply point the listener to that which is subtly suggested there, allowing the listener freedom to continue on their own inner journey,» said Gerrard. In an interview with German magazine Sonic Seducer, Gerrard, asked to describe what music is to her, noted: «work that opens the pathway of the heart. It makes me feel and keeps me sensitive. It has helped me to maintain my faith in humanity. It brings me joy and sorrow in a way that they can be celebrated. It is an absolute that cannot innately be corrupted; it is a vessel of inner learning and a blessing from God.» In the same interview, commenting on how her relatively recent motherhood had affected her and her work, Gerrard said that «apart from bringing a deeper dimension of love and discipline into my life, [the children] made me utilize effectively the time available to me to work, because you understand they must come first. I am a normal mother and they have no responsibility to the boundaries that I am trying to cross artistically.» «Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard,» a documentary on the artist’s remarkable career by English film producer and director Clive Collieron, was released late in 2006.