09 August 2008

The Music of Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance

Some of the only music I could listen to when I was in Australia last month was Dead Can Dance. It just seemed to go so well with the surrounding landscape. Especially in Canberra - with all that open space, the gnarled trees in winter and the mountains that formed a constant backdrop for the city. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Dead Can Dance actually were an Australian band originally from Melbourne.

I've had a few tracks of theirs sitting around on my hard drive for some years now, which formed my introduction to the band - 'Black Sun' and 'Saltarello' from Aion, 'Song of Sophia' from The Serpent's Egg, and (my favourite) 'The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove' from Into The Labyrinth. All this led me to my first Dead Can Dance album, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (brilliant title, in my opinion). After about a week of intense listening, I acquired Into The Labyrinth which I now prefer because of the heavier influence of non-Western traditional music.

What attracted me to the music in the first place was the fluid mix of traditional elements set to modern song structure. And of course the excellent, excellent vocals. I mean, the first time I heard 'Song of Sophia' I was surprised that anyone could - or would bother to learn how to - sing like that anymore. It was music that seemed like it was made by real musicians (as opposed to just another stupid band trying to seem more interesting than they really are), true artists with a unique vision and an idea of music that very closely matched my own ideals. I suppose that subconsciously I had been looking for a long time for music that I found 'listenable' in a modern sense but that also seemed ancient and timeless in a way. Modern music that wasn't entirely 'of the city', which possessed an awareness of traditional music - both Western and non-Western. I was looking for a synthesis of all these things and I must say I came really close to finding them in the music of Popol Vuh and Zoe Keating. And while I love their music (and should probably write about it one of these days) I have to say that Dead Can Dance resonates with me on an even deeper level.

Something about the music seems truly 'sacred' - and I'm really apprehensive about using this term to describe it because of the obvious connotations. But it's as if they tap into something universal during the creative process and that really comes through in the music, which is transformative and regenerative. Watching Sanctuary earlier today, I was particularly affected by this statement of Lisa's;

"I believe that the ... river that work comes from will be there with or without us. And I think that's where you know you've evolved as a human being. If you can continue in humility to serve those voices of creation that nourish and give inspiration to others."

Often, the music brings back the exact mental and emotional states of certain powerful experiences I've had in my life. Times when I've been in awe of the totality of life itself and when I've had a subtle awareness of human existence being something so much greater than myself. I suppose it's some form of self-transcendence (in it's own small way, and yet still really powerful) because it's in moments like these that I start to realize that so much of what we call the universe remains unknown (and possibly even unknowable) to mortal man. Something in this music seems completely synonymous with recent experiences I've had that I would consider profound in their depth. Of being immersed in beautiful, untouched nature for the first time in my life (in Scotland) and of experiencing the magnificence of medieval English cathedrals.

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My name is Abigail and you can find out more about me here. Also you can email me here.
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