Born in Australia. Addresses: Record company--4AD/Beggars Group, 625 Broadway, 12th Fl., New York, NY 10012. Management--First Artists Management, 16000 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 605, Encino, CA 91436, phone: (818) 377-7750. Website--Lisa Gerrard Official Website:

Lisa Gerrard comprised one-half of the Australian duo Dead Can Dance, from the early 1980s until 1996. When she and bandmate Brendan Perry disbanded the group, Gerrard embarked upon a dual career as a solo artist and soundtrack composer. Her solo work is characterized by dreamy, ethereal and often orchestral music accompanied by Gerrard's other-worldly vocals and spiritual lyrics. Impeccably produced, these releases are evocative of medieval and prehistoric musical forms, and showcase Gerrard's skills at adapting her voice to different languages and her fascination with exotic instruments and world music. Her albums are often described by critics as being similar to New Age music, and have drawn comparisons to the music of Irish songwriter and singer Enya. She may have invited this comparison when she stated on her offical website that "music is a place to go to take refuge," and added, "It's a sanctuary from mediocrity and boredom. It's innocent and it's a place you can lose yourself in thoughts and memories and intricacies."

As a child in Melbourne, Australia, Gerrard was exposed to Greek, Turkish, Italian, and Irish music, and took up playing the accordion. In 1980 she formed Dead Can Dance with Brendan Perry. The duo released nine albums between 1984 and 1995, featuring such diverse musical forms as Medieval chants, folk ballads, baroque chamber music, and electronica exuding classical, Celtic, and world music influences. After the release of the 1996 Dead Can Dance album Spiritchaser and a world tour, however, Perry and Gerrard put the band on hiatus to pursue other musical interests.

In 1995 Gerrard released her first solo work, The Mirror Pool. Featuring the Victoria Philharmonic Orchestra on several compositions, the album also featured musicians Pieter Bourke on camel drum and bass tabla and bouzouki player Dimitry Kyryakou. A review on Gerrard's website described the album as "ambient, orchestral, folk and new age all at the same time." Bourke's appearance on the album coincided with his work with Dead Can Dance on their 1996 world tour. He had been a member of the Australian band Eden from 1988 to 1993, and collaborated with David Thrussell in the hybrid Australian bands Snog and Soma. Soma, in particular, experimented with many diverse musical influences to create a blend of rock, folk, electronica, trip-hop, dub, jazz, techno, and drum and bass, which were among the influences he brought as a percussionist to Mirror Pool.

Bourke's contributions to Gerrard's music grew into a full-blown collaboration on her follow-up album, Duality, on which he received joint credit. According to the record label 4AD website, Gerrard invited Bourke to engineer and play percussion on a track she was recording at her home studio in Australia. After recording two songs, Gerrard explained: "We were collaborating more and more in the writing area.... And it became very interesting to us because we discovered that most of the things that I am not good at, Pieter was, and most of the things he doesn't endeavor upon are my area. It was interesting to see how strong we were, because it was such a good match." Bourke added: "I thought I'd be working for maybe three weeks.... And we spent a year doing it, working really, really intensely for that period of time." Summing up the experience, Gerrard added that "the unique quality of the situation is that we were able to find such a gentle equilibrium, an unspoken common ground that allowed us to be liberated by what we were making and not ashamed, not afraid."

While recording the soundtrack to the film Gladiator, Gerrard met Irish classical composer Patrick Cassidy. "We just clicked," she stated on her website. "We discovered a shared love of music and stories and poetry and of music as a way of telling a story." The two arranged to spend two months recording together in Australia, resulting in the 2004 release Immortal Memory. The album "grew out of 'the desire to bring things from the ancient world into the contemporary world,'" Gerrard explained to Boston Globe reporter Joan Anderman. "We've got a 6,000-year-old poem on the album, and it still resonates with the same compassion and beauty." For that song, "The Song of Amergin," she learned to speak Gaelic phonetically. She also sang "The Lord's Prayer" in Aramaic. "Elegy" is a composition that Gerrard intended to use as part of the soundtrack for Gladiator. Intended for the scene in which Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, dies, the piece is given a fleshed-out arrangement that might have lost its full impact had it been edited for a soundtrack. Another of the pieces, "Sailing to Byzantium," was inspired by a poem of the same name by William Butler Yeats. The album prompted Stylus magazine critic Gentry Boeckel to comment: "The composer of these sacred interpretations, from the first words spoken by an Irish mortal to 'Come Lord' mantras and Yeats couplets, is established Celtic orchestrator Patrick Cassidy. The ageless, transient voice is of veteran ex-gother and Australian siren Lisa Gerrard. The feelings Immortal Memory produces are those that accompany the most emotional of sand, sword, and Bible epics. By capturing moments of ancient past, Gerrard and Cassidy have somehow created something timeless through set-in-stone permanence."

While critics and diehard Dead Can Dance fans admired her solo efforts, Gerrard found a wider audience as a soundtrack composer. Her work has appeared on soundtracks for the Michael Mann films Heat, The Insider, and Ali; the Ridley Scott films Gladiator and Black Hawk Down; and in Mission Impossible 2, Whale Rider, and The Passion of the Christ. She won a Golden Globe Award for her work on Gladiator.

Gerrard explained her personal creative journey on the 4AD website, commenting, "Ultimately, in doing the work, you draw upon something that is the river of life that you possess.... Music has a voice inside it that calls you, and you know that this is your work, this is what you must do. It doesn't differ, project by project---that's the way you work."

by Bruce Walker

Lisa Gerrard's Career

Formed Dead Can Dance with Brendan Perry, early 1980s; released first solo album, The Mirror Pool, 1995; released collaboration with Pieter Bourke, Duality, 1998; composed soundtrack for Michael Mann film The Insider, 1999; composed soundtracks for Ridley Scott film Gladiator, 2000; for Whale Rider, 2003; and for Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ, 2004; released collaboration with Patrick Cassidy, Immortal Memory, 2004.

Lisa Gerrard's Awards

Golden Globe Award, Best Original Score for soundtrack to Gladiator, 2000.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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