Susan Alcorn is a Baltimore, Maryland-based composer and musician who has received international recognition as an innovator of the pedal steel guitar, an instrument whose sound is commonly associated with country and western music. Alcorn has absorbed the technique of C&W pedal steel playing and refined it to a virtuosic level. Her original music reveals the influence of free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, Indigenous traditions, and other musics of the world.
Having started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, she quickly immersed herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960s. 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 1990s 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, Earl Howard, Le Quan Ninh, Sean Meehan, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, Walter Daniels, Ellen Fullman, Jandek, George Burt, Janel Leppin, Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols, Evan Parker, Johanna Varner, Zane Campbell and Mary Halvorson .
Nathan Bowles is a multi-instrumentalist musician and teacher living in the Piedmont of North Carolina. His work, both as an accomplished solo artist and as a sought-after ensemble player, explores the rugged country between the poles of Appalachian old-time traditions and ecstatic, minimalist drone. Although his recent solo recordings prominently feature his virtuosic banjo, Bowles is also widely recognized as a masterful and versatile drummer, and he considers himself first and foremost a percussionist, with banjo as a natural extension of his percussive practice.
He and his bandmates in the popular and critically acclaimed old-time group the Black Twig Pickers steep themselves in local traditions of Appalachian folk music and dance, very much a vital part of cultural life in their region of Virginia. As a member of the long-running improvisational drone outfit Pelt, Bowles focuses on the various sonic possibilities inherent in struck and bowed percussion—metal, wood, skin, or otherwise. When playing by his lonesome under his birthname, he prefers either minimal and hyper-nuanced percussive drone or tranced-out solo clawhammer banjo. He currently records and tours as part of Steve Gunn’s band, the Outliners. Bowles has also recorded, collaborated, and performed with, Jack Rose, Hiss Golden Messenger, Black Dirt Oak, Scott Verrastro, Pigeons, Spiral Joy Band, and others.