Julianna Barwick on bringing her one of a kind music to St Paul’s Cathedral

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Julianna Barwick on bringing her one of a kind music to St Paul’s Cathedral


Julianna Barwick’s music is somewhat of an experience – her unique technique of creating almost acapella melodies through looping vocal sounds to construct swelling, harmonised soundscapes is nothing short of magic.

Despite her immensely creative approach, Barwick humbly attributes much of her niche sound to luck, explaining that it was born largely through experimentation.

“My music is definitely informed by all the choral singing I did when I was a kid. Whether or not it’s a direct influence, I, of course, am inspired and influenced by all of the people making music around me and all the music in the world,” says Barwick. “Even if it’s just an element or a tone or a moment in a song. And there’s life experience, because my music is always made spontaneously and in the moment. I hit record and see what happens, and that’s the way it’s always been.”

Barwick’s method of using her voice as an instrument – or rather, an entire band –  and, in turn, performing as what you might call a one-woman choir means her live performances are always one of a kind.

“The voice is such a unique instrument, it’s part of your body and it’s coloured and influenced by so many things, so many factors, so it can be very fluid,” she says. “It depends on so many factors, if you’re kind of tired your voice can sound tired and if you’ve had a really rough day or you’re sad, you can hear it in someone’s voice – it’s a direct reflection of what’s going on in their mind and heart.

“My music is very malleable. There could be a song that I’m performing but I could play around with it every night and can be a little different every night and I really like that, I really like that I’m not just sitting down, playing my songs word for word. I’m incapable of making music like that. I’m in awe of singer-songwriters who can do that and make it interesting, I was never able to do that – that’s why making vocal loops clicked for me.”

It’s this immersive and fluid nature of Barwick’s live sets that has seen her performing alongside the likes of Sigur Ros and Yoko Ono, as well as her more recent endeavour collaborating with BalletCollective for which she composed new music which she then performed live as part of the BalletCollective: Translation performance in New York – an opportunity she almost partially declined when asked by BalletCollective founder, Troy Schumacher.

 “At first I told him, ‘I would love to make this music but I’m not going to perform it with the dancers and perform it live. That just sounds like an intimidating nightmare,’ because it’s sort of the antithesis of what I’m used to doing, which is getting up on stage and playing my own music, however, I want to play it and I’m not accountable to anyone else,” she explains. “I didn’t know a whole lot about that world so it just seemed very intimidating but he talked me into it.

“I’m so glad that I worked it out with myself to figure out how to play that 30-something minutes with the ballet because it just, it made everyone’s efforts come to fruition all at once, Troy’s choreography and all the dancers’ hard work in rehearsing and my writing the music and then figuring out how to play it live in perfect time – it just was a celebration every night of all of it coming together.”

Among her current busy touring schedule, which she describes as “a country a day” across Europe, Barwick will soon make her way to Australia where she’ll headline Melbourne Music Week’s opening night at St Paul’s Cathedral.

“It looks amazing and I always get excited about playing beautiful places like that, it’s just awe-inspiring,” she says. “Also my dad is meeting me there, in Australia and hanging out with me for the week. He’s never been there, so it’ll be wonderful. We’ll be staying out on Bondi for part of it, so hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can have a nice little holiday after the shows are over with. I’m very excited, I love being there a lot.”