Australian composer, percussionist, and mixer, Pieter Bourke is highly regarded internationally for his role in a number of successful projects. His current partnership with renown vocalist and composer, Lisa Gerrard, has enabled his eclectic sound to successfully translate to the film soundtrack environment. Following on from their collaboration with American Director Michael Mann on the soundtrack for the film "The Insider", Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard have recently completed writing the score for Mann's next film, a biopic about boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.
"The Insider" was released in 1999 and received both public and industry acclaim worldwide. It was nominated for 3 Golden Globe awards, including best soundtrack. Bourke and Gerrard's score provided a brooding, atmospheric, chilling evocation of the film's real life drama about a tobacco industry whistle-blower (played by Russell Crowe) and the "60 Minutes" reporter (Oscar winner Al Pacino) who puts both their careers, and lives, in jeopardy.
Mann, who was familiar with Gerrard's work (she had contributed to his film "Heat"), originally approached Gerrard to write several musical cues for the film, who then invited Bourke to collaborate with her on the project. "Their work was so spectacular that we went from Lisa doing three or four cues to she and Pieter becoming the composers for the picture," said Mann, who was so pleased he invited the pair to move to Los Angeles and work with him closely on finishing the music for the movie. "Lisa and Pieter throw themselves into projects with total artistic commitment. It's been a great, great experience working with them. I listen to their music and I'm transported. Hopefully it does that to you."
Pieter and Lisa have been collaborating since 1994 when Gerrard was recording her first solo album, "The Mirror Pool" on which Bourke performed percussion. He then accompanied her for tours of North America and Europe in 1995 before joining Dead Can Dance in 1996 for live shows in support of the band's last album, "Spiritchaser".
These experiences led to Bourke and Gerrard's 1998 duet record, "Duality", an album of luminous, tranquil and moving music created with voice, percussion, keyboards and samplers. During the recording of the album the duo uncovered a gentle equilibrium, an unspoken common ground that has continued to be the foundation for all their subsequent collaborations. The music is neither classical nor modern and it is not easy to place it within a category. On the other hand, it may not be very important to search for a label, as one often finds that "timeless" works contain that special mix of new and old, without clear cut boundaries.
After finishing Duality, Bourke and Gerrard tackled the score for Italian Director Ivana Massetti's "Nadro", the story of 74 year old philosopher Frederic Bruly Bouabre, a man dedicated to spreading his knowledge of African culture and it's richness to the world.
Bourke believes that the abstract nature of his work, both with Gerrard and with other musical partners, is particularly suited to supporting a visual narrative, although it took him several years to realize this. " I have always been drawn to music that allows the listener to find a reflection of themselves somewhere in the soundscape. Being exposed to a lot of the "ambient" artists from the last fifteen years has been instrumental in shaping my aesthetic, as has the sonic experimentation of dub music. By working with the pauses or silences, as much as the sounds in music, I think you can open up a pathway for the audience to travel down, where, hopefully, they will come into contact with more than just their hearing senses. I feel it is this sense of "space" within the music that allows it to fuse dynamically with a visual medium."
Parallel to his work with Lisa Gerrard is Bourke's partnership with David Thrussell, under the name "Soma". Thrussell is a Melbourne based musician and DJ best known as the central member of Snog and Black Lung. Beginning in 1993, the pair began fusing their respective musical tastes and styles to create what have been described as "milestones of modern sonic sculpture". With astonishing savvy, Bourke and Thrussell combined elements of trip hop, trance rhythms, dub effects and sci-fi spheres, ambient soundscapes and world music elements to create a sound that is full of imaginary force and musical surprises. A new 4 track e.p, titled "My Ancient Vihmaana" has just been released.
On the surface, the music seems a world away from the sparse serenity of his work with Lisa Gerrard. "Yes. There is a different dynamic in the music I have written with David," reflects Bourke. "There is an interest in contrast and the unexpected clash of sounds and rhythms from a very broad palette involved. But underlining all that, just below the surface, is a deep appreciation and respect for all of the elements we incorporate. Amidst the chaos, strangeness and humour, there is some beauty."
With the Michael Mann/ Ali soundtrack having just been completed, Pieter Bourke has a number of projects that he is involved in which should see completion in 2002. These include a follow up to "Duality" with Lisa Gerrard, a new Soma album, solo work (under the name Earthling), and a new collaborative effort with fellow Australian musician and DJ, Brian Westbrook.
"I really feel privileged to be able to spend my time creating music", says Bourke. "My life has benefited greatly from this activity, and I'm not talking about material things here. No matter who you are, or where you are, or what others say you are, there is something that each of us does uniquely, and to great satisfaction and happiness. This is my pursuit."