This is from EAR, July/August 1978 (p. 8)
Playing Free In Nebraska
by Mike BergstraesserIt is a pleasure to share with you some of the esoteric music currently happening in Nebraska. First, let me give you a brief history of the improvisational and experimental music being performed in the state, particularly in Lincoln.
In September 1974 Randy Snyder, Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL), and Noyes Barthalomew [sic] formed the Lincoln Improvisational Ensemble (LIE). LIE, which is part of the UNL School of Music curriculum, offered less structured formats and more spontaneous improvisation than any previous ensemble.
Over the past four years LIE has consisted of many talented musicians including Paul Bendell on cello, Bill Buntain on trombone, Molly Baldwin on piano, Bob Reigle on tenor sax, and Preston Koch on synthesizer. Several of these members have gone on to organize improvisational ensembles in Oregon, Wisconsin, and Oxford, England.
|Lincoln Improvisation Ensemble performing in Temporal Matters by Barbara Ball Mason.|
From left to right: Mike Bergstraesser, Warren Schaffer, Tom Malone, and Randy Snyder
LIE's music runs the gamut from spontaneous improvisation to highly structured formats. LIE has accompanied poetry, plays, and dance. Most of the music and many of the dances, plays, and poems are written by members of the ensemble. LIE has also accompanied several works by a variety of artists outside the group.
SRE's music is as diverse as LIE's but emphasizes sonic exploration and spontaneity. SRE utilizes extensive percussion, sound-sculpture, and theatrics. SRE performs irregularly in Lincoln and has accompanied several dances by the Circle-Nicely Dance Company. Surrealestate Live is the title of SRE's first record, recorded late in 1977.
The instrumentations for LIE and SRE are very similar, since the groups share several members. All musicians play at least one instrument competently, and many players improvise on several different instruments. A typical piece may include flutes, saxophones, bassoon, brass, piano, synthesizer, tapes, electric guitar, and bass, and an occassional [sic] violin or cello. Percussion racks, toys, vocalizations, and spontaneous poetry round out the basic repertoire.
|Multi-media format for Surrealestate and the Circle-Nicely Dance Company|
The musicians and composers in both groups finance their endeavors in a number of different ways. Several members are musicians in local commercial rock, jazz, or country bands, some are music students, and others work in a variety of non-musical jobs to support their interests in composition and improvisation.
Mike Bergstraesser writes about his work:I have been active in LIE and SRE for the past three years and have written and performed about a dozen pieces for these ensembles. The flexibility and enthusiasm of both bands have been very valuable in the realization of my experimental music.
My compositions encompass many different genres including acoustic, electronic, and electronically modified acoustic music. Some examples of my music are:
Tree Music (1976) is a multi-media for Tai-Chi dancer, flute, piano, gong, cello, and photo-electric mixer. This piece integrates several ideas I have been working on including perspective, information theory, aleatoric notation, and gestalting.
The score consists of four different deciduous trees, one for each instrument. On the trunk and limbs of the trees I drew staves and on these staves I wrote the music which was a combination of very specific pitches and durations as well as aleatoric notations. The scores are laid on their sides when performed and the various angles of the staves in the limbs of the trees force the musicians to twist and contort, resembling real tree limbs.
A Tai-Chi dancer performs simultaneously with the music and when his shadow interrupts the photocell mixer, the instruments that are sounding at the time are amplified through the house P.A. system, dramatically projecting the sounds to the audience.
You've Got A Lot Of Nerve (1977) is a multi-media biofeedback composition for solo biofeedback performer, physician, electronic tape, and slides. This has been my most ambitious electronic composition and the only biofeedback piece performed in Nebraska. This piece consists of five movements, each combining different bio-potentials, different electronic textures, and different lighting and visual effects. An electronic program tape paces the performance and provides a central nervous system cleanse between each of the five movements.
So far in 1978 I have co-composed and performed the music for an originally choreographed dance entitled Temporal Matters by Barbara Ball Mason. This dance incorporates acoustic, synthesized, and tape music and was written and performed by LIE members Randy Snyder, Warren Schaffer, Tom Malone, and myself (see photo). This has been the most performed piece in the history of LIE and probably one of its most successful. 𝄇
I also located a short promotional article about Bergstraesser, Reigle and Surrealestate. This came from Jazz Echo, a publication of the International Jazz Federation, Inc. (Vol 9, No. 39, January, 1979 - p. 9)
New music is alive and well in the heartlands of America. Surrealestate is an improvisatory ensemble working out of Lincoln, Nebraska, that was formed about a year and a half ago by tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Bob Reigle.
During the summer of '77, Reigle and several other musicians got together and played regularly, often six days a week. The result of these intensive sessions can be heard on the group's first album "Bob Reigle with Surrealestate," released on their own Aardwood label (available through New Music Distribution Service, 6 W. 95th Street, New York, N.Y. 10025).
Describing the album, Reigle emphasizes, "All of the music was totally improvised--no parameters or structures were discussed before we started playing." The group's flutist, Mike Bergstraesser, explains that the music is "dictated by experience, with minimum control exercised by reason, exempt from moral and aesthetic preoccuptation."
Both Reigle and electric bassist Mike Mansfield studied at the Berklee College of Music. Reigle, Bergstraesser, flutist Tom Malone and French horn player Warren Shaffer all worked together in the Lincoln Improvisation Ensemble before forming Surrealestate. Other members of the group include trumpeter Preston Klik and percussionist Rich Jones, who has a master's degree in composition.
Surrealestate has performed at the University of Nebraska, on a local radio station and has also presented several concerts in the Lincoln area.
Robert F. Reigle
Lincoln, NE 68505