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Volume 68, Issue 105, Thursday, February 27, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Steel guitar goddess Alcorn set to perform

By Chris Goodier
The Daily Cougar

Pairing the slide of a pedal steel guitar with the Lone Star State evokes one image ­ country and western music, especially during rodeo season. Leave it to Houston-based composer and musician Susan Alcorn to defy pedal steel conventions. 

The pedal steel guitar is outfitted with multiple whammy bars, and players use the contraptionis knee and foot levers to cajole smooth licks similar to the violinists in ethereal Indian ragas. One may recognize the smooth swelter of the steel guitar in Buena Vista Social Club recordings. And no popular depiction of Hawaii lacks the instrumentis characteristic swell.

However, Alcorn use of the guitar approaches free-jazz, contemporary classical music, and music of the Indian subcontinent with the reserve of a veteran picker. 

It is by trading the honky-tonk for venues like The Axiom, DiverseWorks and The Sound Exchange that the virtuoso finds her niche audience.

The apathy of Houstonis concert-going public forced Alcorn to go to Europe. Maybe the expulsion wasnit such a bad thing. It was there that she began to work with experimental electrified drum kit extraordinaire Chris Cutler.

No stranger to the art of unique sound, Cutler grew up playing Londonis psychedelic scene of the late i60s. Going from unemployed to steady gigs, Cutleris band followed Syd Barrettis Pink Floyd through the same foggy night clubs. 

Influenced by the imaginative flux of bebop, free-jazz and the music of John Cage, Cutler extended his talents to the avant-garde British project Henry Cow. 

Cutler recorded and toured with dance and theater until the late i70s. Recently, Cutler worked as Pere Ubuis rhythm man, founded his own record label and lectured on theory and music-related topics at universities across the globe.

Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houstonis staging of Houstonian steel twanger Susan Alcorn accompanied by Chris Cutleris electrified drum kit should provide a challenging discourse on the limits of musical possibility. Tickets for the event are $8 at the door. Doors at Fire Station 3, located at 1919 Houston Ave., open at 8 p.m. Contact Fire Station 3 at for more details.

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