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
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.
Pfaff, W.P. 2014. “Participant Observation: Constructing a Cultural Context for the
Music of the Diné (Navajo),” College Music Society Northeast Regional Chapter Conference
Pfaff, W.P. and Abigail Clark*, Elidia Lopez*, Elizabeth Raner*. 2013. “Let the Students
Teach: Illustrations in a Cross-discipline Collaborative Learning Environment,” SUNY
Plattsburgh Conference on Teaching and Learning
Pfaff, W.P. 2013. “Listening To My Heart in a World Not My Own,” SUNY Plattsburgh
Tuesday Reflections Faculty Lecture Series
Pfaff, W.P. and Waters, A., 2011. “Extended Techniques and Real Time Digital Processing
in a Composition for Solo Electric Bass,” College Music Society Northeast Regional
Pfaff, W.P. and Waters, A., 2010. “Facilitating Effective Communication between Students,
Instructors and Administration in the E-learning Environment,” Lilly-East Conference
on College and University Teaching, U Delaware, Newark, DE
Pfaff, W.P. and Kasper R., 2010. “Technology and the Pedagogy of Community in the
Classroom,” Conference on Instructional Technology (CIT), SUNY Plattsburgh
Pfaff, W.P. 2006. “Form and Structure Interactions in Canons (to the memory of Igor
Stravinsky),” by Roger Sessions, College Music Society Northeast Regional Chapter