Healing process

Special to The Times

"IS this working OK?" says musician Lisa Gerrard, wondering if the conversation she's been having makes any sense. "I feel I can never make it work in interviews. I feel like I've just been rambling."

She has covered a lot of ground in discussing the reunion of Dead Can Dance, her partnership with Brendan Perry from the early 1980s until their rancorous split in the late '90s. A much-beloved trendsetter for its haunting, inventive mix of medieval and pan-ethnic influences and electronic sounds, Dead Can Dance's seven albums were embraced by mystically inclined world music fans and romance-fueled goths alike. Touring for the first time since 1996, the group will perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, backed by an orchestra.

Among the things Gerrard has mentioned to explain the return of the duo are the pairing's unique chemistry, the responsibility of artists in a troubled world, the bond with the audience and ... oh yeah, the concept of a camera that can take pictures of things that happened in the past.

"I remember somebody telling me about this camera -- I don't know if it's true, it sounds quite eccentric, but apparently you can take photographs of a conversation that happened weeks ago," she says of a concept perhaps taken from science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke's "The Light of Other Days" or another fictional work. "It makes you think about every negative comment you make and every negative thing that happens and hangs in the air."

A lot of negativity hung in the air after she and Perry dissolved their creative relationship. After a tour supporting the duo's 1996 album, "Spiritchaser," Gerrard and Perry made another album, but both the work process and the quality of the music deteriorated along the way, and the album was never released.

"There was a lot of panic and weird feeling," she says. "I don't think either of us felt convinced by the music, and that caused a state of disrepair, and at that stage I don't think we were able to go back and start again."

At that point, in 1998, the pair who had started working together in their native Australia in 1981 not only stopped working together but also stopped speaking entirely.

Gerrard had already released a solo album (1995's "The Mirror Pool") and begun what would become a fertile move into film music. Director Michael Mann turned to her regularly to contribute to his film's scores ("Heat," "The Insider" and "Ali," in the last doing the complete score in collaboration with Pieter Bourke). She also teamed with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt to score Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" (earning her a Golden Globe award as well as Academy Award and Grammy nominations) and on her own did the music for the acclaimed "Whale Rider." (She was also recruited by Mel Gibson to score "The Passion of the Christ," but ultimately Gibson went with a more conventional orchestral score.)

She continues to work in that field, co-composing the score for the 2004 English film "Layer Cake" and exploring Native American styles for the new "A Thousand Roads" documentary. Jeff Rona, her collaborator on the latter project, will conduct the orchestra Sunday at the Bowl.

Over the years, Perry (who is not doing interviews at this time) has been much less visible, taking on a handful of collaborative projects and releasing one solo album, 1999's "Eye of the Hunter."

LAST year, though, the two resumed contact.

"We had a telephone conversation, and we were talking about the various pieces of what we'd done," says Gerrard, 44, who still lives near Melbourne. "There was nothing calculated. We had a couple of conversations, and because we could rebuild our friendship, it became a logical conclusion that we should do some concerts."

But to the duo (who will release a retrospective album, "Memento," on Oct. 18), it was more than merely a matter of making some music that fans enjoyed.

"We were talking about a lot of bad things happening in the world and our responsibility as artists, and we agreed that it would be a powerful thing to do some music again," she says. "We have responsibilities to make positive energies and a dialogue in which people can speak."

A series of shows in Europe this year showed the music was connecting.

"There were a lot of people crying in the audience," she says. "I was surprised by it, the power the music was having over people, and it really made me think we seriously need to reflect and look very deep and very well at ourselves."


Steve Hochman can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.


Dead Can Dance

Who: Dead Can Dance, with Nouvelle Vague

Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A.

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Price: $4 to $140

Info: (213) 480-3232 (Ticketmaster) or www.HollywoodBowl.com

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