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Portrait of Bill Pfaff

Bill Pfaff

Professor of Music Theory, History, Music Technology, Composition

The music of Bill Pfaff is characterized by a masterful use of musical space, timbral juxtapositions and gestures that have been described as “profound and extravagant.” His harmonic language reflects deep levels of evocative and potent sonic interactions. Known for his collaborative impulse, Bill has produced music for theater, dance, film, and art installations, working across styles and genres. Within this cross-disciplinary context, his language embraces electronic sources, traditional acoustic instruments, electric guitar and found sounds. Recent commissions include Thoreau Piano Trio, Consortium Ardesia and Cadillac Moon Ensemble. As a performer on the highly nuanced soundplane, Bill explores composition that combines physical modeling synthesis, granular synthesis and acoustic instruments.

Inspired by the unique geography and cultural landscape of the United States, Bill has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Ucross Foundation, Escape to Create, Petrified Forest National Park, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. He was selected as a fellow and composer-in-residence at California State University at Monterey Bay, Lafayette College, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, High Point University, Wellesley Composers Conference, June in Buffalo, and May in Miami.

Bill’s sustaining interest in ethnomusicology, particularly the music of indigenous Americans, has led him to be inspired by and integrate traditional Native American instruments, musical concepts and cosmology in his work. In 2014, he traveled to the Caribbean, where, as Composer-in-Residence at Birdsong Academy of Music in Trinidad and Tobago, he created and composed for the Birdsong New Music Ensemble, a fusion of steel pan and traditional instruments. An ever-evolving and developing composer, Bill’s creative output represents several decades of immersive dedication to his craft. Bill’s work has been performed throughout the United States and abroad and a selection of his compositions may be found at billpfaffmusic.com.

Bill holds a Ph.D. in Composition and Theory from Brandeis University and a M.A. in Music Theory and Literature from the University of New Hampshire. His principal teachers were Martin Boykan, Allen Anderson, Ed Cohen, Niel Sir, and Pulitzer Prize-winner and Guggenheim Fellow, Yehudi Wyner.

In recognition of his innovative, student-centered instructional approaches, he was the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2013.

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