Belonging to the generation of British improvisers that came right after that of Derek Bailey, John Stevens, and Evan Parker, Peter Cusack is often overlooked. It has much to do with the fact that he has split his career three ways between improvising guitarist, sound archivist, and organizer, although one could easily argue the three activities are in his case inseparable. He is mostly known as a member of the influential quartet Alterations, the composer of field and wildlife recording-based albums like Where Is the Green Parrot? and Your Favorite London Sounds, and an early architect of the London Musicians' Collective.
Cusack began to play guitar in the free improvising London in the early '70s. One of his first working groups consisted of a duo with clarinetist Simon Mayo named A Touch of the Sun. He made his first "major" appearance on record on Fred Frith's 1974 Guitar Solos. His mastery on the bouzouki, not the most common string instrument in England at the time, helped establish his name in avant-garde circles. In 1977, Cusack formed Alterations with Steve Beresford, David Toop, and Terry Day. The no-holds- (and styles) barred improv unit remained his main creative outlet until its dissolution in 1986, but in the meantime he had helped found the L.M.C. (with which he remained involved for 20 years), co-founded the artist-owned record label Bead, and released a handful of long out of print LPs on it. But most importantly, he developed an interest in field recording, especially wildlife. He began to create sound pieces with sound sculptor Max Eastley (finally released in 2000 as Day for Night) and later created radio pieces (found on the 1999 CD Where Is the Green Parrot?).
Between the mid-'80s and mid-'90s, Cusack remained discreet, creating music for dance and theater and occasionally performing in small settings, but leaving little recorded trace of his activities. He also spent two years at the STEIM studio in Amsterdam, where he developed an electronic side to his playing. By the end of the '90s, he was back to releasing music, including a live performance with Nicolas Collins (A Host, of Golden Daffodils, 1999), field recording works, and a song-based collaboration with singer Viv Corringham. ~ François Couture