It was the best advice Lisa Gerrard ever received. Back in 1999, when the dusky Dead Can Dance singer entered the film-scoring world via the soundtrack to “The Insider,” its director Michael Mann imparted some wisdom.
“He said, ‘Never, ever dictate in advance what people should feel — wait until they’ve felt and then pick up the thread beyond that point. Otherwise your work becomes very cynical,’” says Gerrard, who appears tonight in Berkeley with longtime Dead Can Dance bandmate Brendan Perry.
Heeding Mann’s words, she went on to win a Golden Globe for her work with Hans Zimmer on “Gladiator” and, more recently, a Film Critics Circle of Australia award for her “Burning Man” score.
In between, Gerrard — who also just released “Anastasis,” her first new Dead Can Dance album in 16 years — has contributed her musical and/or vocal talents to more than 40 TV and movie productions, including “Ali,” “Priest,” “Whalerider,” “Layer Cake,” and even “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.”
“I like doing film scores, and I like singing on other people’s film scores,” she says. “Because I love the way that, once music is introduced as a subtext of that particular world, it’s a tool that unlocks the heart, isn’t cynical and enables people to come to their own feelings first.” Just as Mann promised.
Additionally, the Outback-based Australian also raises Hanoverian warmblood horses (one nearly competed in the Olympics this summer) and is now composing for computer games.
Currently, she also is working with Zimmer for a Biblical piece, composer Zbigniew Preisner (known for scoring Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films) on “Diaries of Hope,” and soon, her old cohort Patrick Cassidy.
“I don’t know what’s happened to me,” she says of the packed schedule. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve been kissed by an angel. Honestly.”
But the chemistry the sonic sorceress has with Perry is something special. DCD officially disbanded in 1998, but a 2005 world tour rekindled their flame and enabled “Anastasis,” which features Perry’s traditional monastic-intoned madrigals, like “Opium” and “Amnesia,” alongside Gerrard’s truly otherworldly voice on “Agape” and “Kiko,” with lyrics sung in her own phonetic language she invented in her teens.
“They’re the groanings of the heart, very singular, resonant properties,” she says.
Gerrard, 51, writes for existing images in cinema. For DCD, she imagines her own visuals. The new processional “Anabasis,” for instance, sketches a forlorn woman walking through a forest, bird perched on her finger, mourning a lost love.
“Then the gates of Earth open and there’s an elephant journey into another territory, where she re-finds her strength,” she says. “It’s all very interesting, what you can do with music.”