Boomkat Product Review:
Peach-dealer Jonny Trunk presents a ripe beauty with Ernest Berk’s haunting, technoid 1970 ballet soundtrack - newly rediscovered and remastered from original pressing by Jon Brooks (The Advisory Circle).
Receiving a long overdue release proper, ‘Electronic Music For Two Ballets’ is the first readily available example of Berk’s conviction that electronic music best suits contemporary experimental dance performance. He was hardly the first to acknowledge this - Merce Cunningham and John Cage, Pierre Henry, Xenakis all wrote music for contemporary dance - but this rare, surviving example of Berk’s work perhaps most starkly highlights a line from his work to the stripped down, keen angularity of Jlin’s stunning score for Wayne McGregor’s ‘Autobiography’ in 2018. And it’s with thanks to Jonny Trunk that we can even hear Berk’s piece to draw that link, as the original LP was long thought lost in a tragic collapse of the Historical Archive Of The City Of Cologne, who owned his entire collection, until a copy mercifully resurfaced with his family.
With interest in Berk piqued some years ago by a Wire article, which lead to fruitless searches for his music, this LP, along with a couple of tracks on the CD accompanying Ian Halliwell’s ‘Tape Leaders’ book, make a scant amount of Berk’s work now available in the public sphere. It serves to prove he had a keen understanding of electronic music’s potential to generate thrilling movement in dancers, just as the rest of the world has realised over the past 30 years on a much wider scale.
A dancer himself, who arrived in England after fleeing the Nazis, Berk “feels that electronic music is able to express the feelings of contemporary society in a more potent and communicative way than conventional forms of music”, according to the original LP sleevenotes. As you’ll hear in the LP, he patently uses electronic music for its suggestively proprioceptive/spatial qualities, using it to create clearly structured yet abstract narrative frameworks of communication between dancers and audience. Following a theme about “modern youth and its ritualistic behaviour” you hardly need to know that to enjoy this record. It’s a must-check for anyone fascinating by the deep, instinctive connection between electronic music and dancing bodies.