SUSAN ALCORN

One of the world’s premiere exponents of her instrument, Susan Alcorn has taken the pedal steel guitar far beyond its traditional role in country music. Having first paid her dues in Texas country & western bands, she began to expand the vocabulary of her instrument through her study of 20th century classical music, visionary jazz, and world musics.

 

Though known as for her solo work, she has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Chris Cutler, the London Improvisors Orchestra, the Glasgow Improvisors Orchestra, Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Nate Wooley, Ingrid Laubrock and Leila Bourdreuil, George Burtm Evan Parker, Michael Formanek, Zane Campbell, and Mary Halvorson among others.

 

In 2016, she was voted "Best Other Instrument" by the International Critics Poll. In 2017 she received the Baker Artist Award, and in 2018, along with saxophonist Joe McPhee, she was the recipient of the Instant Award in Improvised Music.

 

The UK Guardian writes, “As an improvisor and composer, Alcorn has proven to be visionary. Her pieces reveal the complexity of her instrument and her musical experience while never straying from a very direct, intense, and personal musical expression.”

Her latest release Soledad is available from Relative Pitch Records

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MUSIC

I was introduced to music at an early age and have been playing music since I was three years old when I sat underneath my mother’s spinet piano and pressed the foot pedals while she played and sang classical and church music in our living room. In grade school I played viola, in middle school cornet and then guitar; then at the age of twenty-one I found the pedal steel guitar.

Of all the circuitous paths through life, music is the one I chose (or perhaps it chose me) - there has always been a certain magic, feeling the vibrations through my bones as a child and now as an adult. With that magic, there has always been, for me, a need to wade deeply then swim in those vibrations and communicate what it feels like - an experience beyond pleasure or pain, beyond emotions. A feeling of transcendence but also of being rooted like a tree in the earth below. A connection with that mysterious universe of musical vibrations, vibrations within vibrations, and the spaces between in which stillness is only relative.

I view the instrument I play, the pedal steel guitar, not as an object to be mastered, but as a partner with which to share with the listener a meaning, depth, and hopefully profound awareness of each fragile moment we’re together. It is this dynamic of which I try to be cognizant in both my writing and performance.

There are basically four directions to the music I play and have played for years - the composition and recording of my own music, adaptation of adventurous works of music written by others that speak to me in a personal way, free improvisation with like-minded musicians, and collaborations with various outlier musicians on the fringe of music and society who have important things to say. as an object to be mastered, but as a partner with which to share with the listener a meaning, depth, and hopefully profound awareness of each fragile moment we’re together. It is this dynamic of which I try to be cognizant in both my writing and performance.

There are basically four directions to the music I play and have played for years - the composition and recording of my own music, adaptation of adventurous works of music written by others that speak to me in a personal way, free improvisation with like-minded musicians, and collaborations with various outlier musicians on the fringe of music and society who have important things to say.