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 11 Questions for Susan Alcorn

Mostly, people associate the pedal steel with cowboy music. Not here at the KRAAK office, especially because we are big admirers of the Baltimore based Susan Alcorn, pedal steelist pur sang. She grew up playing country & western and alike, but became very soonish interested in free jazz, raga, contemporary classical music and deep listening practices. Alcorn is an open minded, true researcher of sound; the lap steel, with its endless possibilities is — despite its connotations — for her foremost a natural tool to pursue a new universe of sound.
15 November 2017 | AG 10

1.

Inge  Van den Kroonenberg

In your article 'Texas: Three Days and Two Nights' which later was published as 'The Road, The Radio and The Full Moon' you describe your experiences as a pedal steel player in the vivid but also c

2.

IvdK

When did you start to grow out of this traditional music to explore more experimental genres like jazz and improvised music? Or was that something that has always been a side track?

SA

It was always there. I’ve alwa

3.

Ivdk

Somewhere you mention an anecdote of you as a young child playing with the pedals underneath the piano while your mother was playing. A very intuitive and physical but also intimate connection to sound and instrument. Can you

4.

ivdk 

You are influenced by the compositions of Olivier Messiaen and Messiaen was fascinated by birdsong. Do you have a favorite birdsong? Are there other sounds in nature you like to listen to?

sa 

I love

5.

ivdk

How did you become connected with Pauline Oliveros and her Deep Listening music? In what way did it help you to grow in your practice as a composer and free improvisor?

SA

I first met Pauline in 1990 when I attended

6.

ivdk

For your album 'Soledad' you patiently spun out the Tango compositions of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla who played the bandoneon, an oversized accordion. Was it difficult to translate the emotional expression of Tango to the pedal

7.

ivdk

Which piece of music opened your ears? When was that and why did it affect you so much at that moment?

sa 

There were several piece of music that really opened m

8.

IVDK

You have explored and mastered a great range of musical styles on your instrument. Is improvising with other musicians a way to blend and transform these styles into other, more idiosyncratic forms?

SA 

Tho

9.

IVDK

Are there differences in playing free improv with European musicians compared to playing with musicians from the USA?

SA

I think at one time that was true, but now I don’t hear it as much, especially from younger mu

10.

IVDK

What is your favorite recording setting?

SA 

With some recording sessions there’s this attitude of “Let’s go for it.” I find these quite refreshing. I like recording at home too — there’s a sort of si

11.

IVDK

On which project are you currently working on?

SA

Right now I’m writing music to record a solo album. California saxophonist Phillip Greenlief and I recorded an album three months ago that, I think, came out really