$40,000 Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize
Susan Alcorn is an American composer, improvisor, and pedal steel guitarist active in contemporary music and free improvisation.
Alcorn started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, quickly immersing herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960’s. A chance encounter with blues musician Muddy Waters steered her towards playing slide guitar. By the time she was twenty-one, she had immersed herself in the pedal steel guitar, playing in country and western swing bands in Texas.
Soon she began to combine the techniques of country-western pedal steel with her own extended techniques to form a personal style influenced by free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, indigenous traditions, and various folk musics of the world. By the early 1990’s her music began to show an influence of the holistic and feminist “deep listening” philosophies of Pauline Oliveros.
Though mostly a solo performer, Alcorn has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, Chris Cutler, Joe Giardullo, Caroline Kraabel, Le Quan Ninh, Sean Meehan, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, and Johanna Varner.