Bill Pfaff

Associate Professor of Music Theory, History, Composition

The music of Bill Pfaff is characterized by a strong sense of line, clear harmonic motion, and gestures that have been described as “profound and extravagant.” Recent commissions include works for North/South Consonance, Consortium Ardesia and the Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble. Other projects include a set of three works for solo electric bass and looping devices that were premiered at the International Looping Festival in Santa Cruz, Calif. by Dr. Drew Waters. The works will be released on CD by Asilowerks Productions in late 2014. Bill has also produced music for theater, dance and art installations that combines electronic sources, traditional instruments and found sounds. Solitude of Sea (electronic) was commissioned by choreographer Julia Gleich (U.K.), for a performance with Norte Maar. In 2012 he collaborated with visual artist Kerry Brooks (NYC) on a multimedia work, The Runaways, and he is currently composing music for an installation in collaboration with Virginia-based visual artist Ron Johnson.

Bill’s works have been performed in Cairo, NYC, Boston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Charlotte, London, Monterey, Cincinnati and Miami. In addition, his music has been featured at High Point University, Stony Brook University, Radford University, Winston-Salem State University and UNC Charlotte. Closer to home, his music is regularly programmed at the Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival (Northeast Kingdom). He has been composer-in-residence at several colleges and universities and during these appointments, he participated in concerts of his music, conducted master classes and demonstrated his innovative, student-centered approaches to teaching music theory. Recent residencies include: University of Massachusetts-Lowell, California State University Monterey Bay and the New Music Visions series at High Point University (N.C.). In 2010, Bill was the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence at Lafayette College. The Lafayette College Concert Band premiered his commissioned work, Second Mesa, under the direction of Dr. Kirk O’Riordan.

His music has been recognized by fellowships at the Wellesley Composers Conference, June in Buffalo, May in Miami, Gregg Smith Singers Choral Workshop and the Composer/Conductor Program at the Hartt School of Music. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Ucross Foundation, Escape to Create, the Petrified Forest National Park and the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. He holds a Ph.D. in Composition and Theory from Brandeis University and an M.A. in Music Theory and Literature from the University of New Hampshire. His principal teachers were Martin Boykan, Yehudi Wyner, Allen Anderson, Ed Cohen and Niel Sir. He is associate professor of music at SUNY Plattsburgh.

He is the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2013).


  • Ph.D. Composition and Theory, Brandeis University
  • M.A. Music Literature and Composition, University of New Hampshire
  • B.A. Economics, minor in music, University of New Hampshire

Teaching Areas

  • Music Theory (I, II, III)
  • Music History (I, II)
  • Topics in Music (Creativity and the Creative Process)
  • Senior Seminar (capstone)
  • Composition (all levels)
  • Improvisation
  • Ethnomusicology (music of the Diné- Navajo)
  • Music Appreciation/Fundamental Musicianship (online)

Selected Compositions

  • Merging Dawn (horn, bass clarinet, piano), 2013
  • Diné be’ iiná (fixed media, music concrete, six guitars), for Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, 2013
  • Arcturus (piano), 2013
  • Metes and Bounds (cl/bass cl, horn, cello, piano), 2013
  • The Road is All (chamber orchestra), 2012
  • Artifacts (clarinet), 2012
  • Beyond the Anchoring Ground (flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, violincello), 2012
  • Duo Recitative and Aria, violoncello and piano, (2011)
  • First Meeting, violoncello and electric guitar, scordatura, (2011)
  • RipTide (electric piccolo bass and looping devices), 2011
  • Cairns (elec. piccolo bass and looping devices), 2011
  • Etched in Sacred Time (elec. piccolo bass, synthesized sound, found object percussion), for Petrified Forest National Park, 2011
  • Surfaces (elec. piccolo bass and looping devices), 2010
  • Quintet (clarinet, string trio, piano), 2010
  • Second Mesa (concert band, piano, five percussion), 2010
  • Unconformities (five electric basses), 2009
  • Give Me an A (electric guitar duo), 2009
  • Tracery (three electric guitars and fixed media), 2008
  • In the Abode of Soundless Poetry (string quartet), 2007
  • Reading the Water (electric guitar, scordatura), 2007
  • Solitude of Sea (fixed media), ballet, choreographer, Julia Gleich, UK, 2007
  • Fuddy Meers (fixed media, music concrete, incidental music), 2007
  • Quirpon (amplified acoustic guitar), 2006
  • During Wind and Rain (chorus and English Horn), 2005

Ensembles and New Music Promotion

  • Co-Director with Ann Ellsworth, SUNY Stony Brook, New Music Productions
  • Co-Founder with Dr. Whitman Brown, Walnut Hill School, Trapeze (electric guitar duo)
  • Artistic Director, SUNY Plattsburgh Guitar Festival
  • Board of Directors, Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival

Research Interests

  • Music of Roger Sessions, Seymour Shifrin and music of the Diné (Navajo)
  • Electronic Sound Synthesis, Audio Recording, Sound Design
  • Inter/Intra-disciplinary Collaboration
  • Student-centered Learning
  • Technology Applications to Promote Diverse Learning Outcomes

Selected Publications

  • Article
    • “An Analysis of Cadence Formation in the ‘Introduction’ to Roger Sessions’ cantata, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Spring/Summer 2006, Ex Tempore
  • Recent Published Abstracts (*student)
    • Pfaff, W. P., 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. & Waters, A. (2011). Extended techniques and real time digital processing in a composition for solo electric bass. College Music Society Northeast Regional Chapter Conference.
    • Pfaff, W. P. & Waters, A. (2010). Facilitating effective communication between students, instructors and administration in the e-learning environment. Lilly-East Conference on College and University Teaching, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.
    • Pfaff, W. P. & Kasper R. (2010). Technology and the pedagogy of community in the classroom. Conference on Instructional Technology (CIT), SUNY Plattsburgh, N.Y.
    • 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 Conference.
  • Awards and Professional Involvement
    • Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2013
    • Treasurer, College Music Society Northeast Regional Chapter, 2013–2015
    • Institute for Ethics in Public Life, SUNY Plattsburgh, 2010


Social Media

Contact Bill Pfaff

Office: Myers Fine Arts 227
Phone: (518) 564-2469