Lisa Gerrard and Glossolalia

I still don't have the capability to post youtube videos on the blog...but PLEASE go watch this.

Lisa Gerrard is best known for her deep, haunting contralto voice. She has received a Golden Globe award and an Acadamy Award nomination for the score for the film "Gladiator" (which she collaborated on).

Gerrard has achieved her greatest fame by never saying a word. Rather, she sings in tongues, a habit formed and nurtured in the early days of Dead Can Dance, continuing through to her present-day solo and soundtrack work. It’s a technique that allows her voice to join the chorus of synths, organs, strings, and (why not) dulcimer, basically, any instrument that can play a note for a very long time, without the words that could potentially distract from that chorus (...)

While these tracks are pretty, however, Gerrard shows in other places that she can lend this technique a lyrical quality that just about doubles the intensity of whatever song it appears on. “Swans” is a solo standout, on which Dimitry Kyryakou provides an incredible, almost dance-like bouzouki backdrop that sets the song far apart from the Dead Can Dance material and the soundtrack contributions. Gerrard reciprocates with a vocal line that sounds like a narrative except for the fact that there are no words. Even without the words, however, we can hear her story slowly increase in intensity, lull, climax, and slowly fade, mindful of the repercussions of the events that precede that fade. It’s an all-encompassing sort of story arc, allowing us the opportunity to provide our own words to the music

There is some indication that Gerrard claims Christianity...but what is important about this story is that

1)  singing in tongues is a habit

2) it is formed

3) it is nurtured

4) in Gerrard's case it has nothing to do with the religious experience.

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8 thoughts on “Lisa Gerrard and Glossolalia

  1. This is interesting.

    I think it's important to remember that because something can be imitated, faked or attributed to another cause, does not make the real thing non-existent.

  2. Oh of course you are both right. I was writing about Gerrard's case in particular.

    It does pay to "test the spirits" - claiming that tongues is "evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit" doesn't work - since you can have tongues without it being part of that religious experience.

    "speaking in tongues" is evidence of "speaking in tongues".

  3. I appreciate these posts on "speaking in tongues." It's always facinated me since a friend became a Pentecostal.

    It sounds like a infant-like babbling to me.

  4. Thanks...sometimes it is, sometimes it's more complex. The next post is a bit shorter - tongues in other religions (and secular situations)

  5. Great post. I had never heard of her before. Do you happen to know if she sings this way spontaneously or if she has "lyrics" much like someone who sings in their native language?

  6. KitKat, it's all ad lib. Gerrard is incredibly talented and she shows up quite a bit in my iTunes...

    Hans Zimmer said, "you better be recording when Lisa starts to sing because whatever she starts singing cannot be duplicated."

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