Vocality: Dead Can Dance
The ethereal vocals of Lisa Gerrard and the brooding symbolic anthems of Brendan Perry come together again as the unmistakably unique sounds of Dead Can Dance return to Berkeley’s Greek Theatre (August 12) as part of their reunited tour. With music from their new CD Anastasis, plus chillingly beautiful favorites, Gerrard said in our interview that she and Perry will perform with five musicians on this new tour.
Asked about the impact Dead Can Dance had on the mid-1980s arts scene when they gained early popularity, I couldn’t help but admit that I’d performed in a few "artsy" dance and performance pieces that used their music.
"Yes, it’s always been popular in these areas," Gerrard said. "The work creates a sense of depth that lends itself to this form of expression." Although limited at first to a certain art world cognoscenti, their music has since gained a global popularity. The greatest hand shake in the work is to build bridges and inspire," said Gerrard.
In between breaks with collaborator Perry, both personally and professionally, Gerrard released several acclaimed solo albums, producing works with Cye Woods, Marcello de Francisci and James Orr. As more filmmakers asked to use her music, she became closely engaged in the process, developing scores for acclaimed films.
Gerrard called such work, "a very different experience. The music written for film is not the music you would write for an album. For one thing, it’s working as part of a narrative collective, where an album piece has a life and journey in its own right."
Despite her amazing vocal range, Gerrard has never trained formally. "I always wanted to, but never had time to stop my own work and dedicate to one particular style. My influences have come from all songs and singers that inspire me."
With influences from folk and ethnic music, but with a modern perspective, the music industry has often miscategorized Dead Can Dance and other artists who started on the groundbreaking 4AD label (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil), by labeling it "Goth" music.
"It’s always been confusing," said Gerrard. "I never ever fully understood the gothic connection. I think it my have been to do with lazy journalism."
So, what are the inspirations behind such evocative songs? "Brendan and I are the only composers of the music," said Gerrard. "We have always communicated a mythological connection of imaginative insights, gathered from poetry, books, paintings."
A probably too-often asked question involves the languages the duo’s songs use. Said Gerrard, "I create my own languages, although Brendan is visiting some very old Arabic and also Greek."
But don’t expect a glossary anytime soon. Gerrard explains, "I prefer to allow the listener to adopt their own insight as each sound and phrase resonates a different frequency in the heart."
Dead Can Dance performs at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, Sunday August 12, 7:30pm. $40-$95. 2001 Gayley Road, Berkeley. (510) 548-3010. www.apeconcerts.com