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Dr. Pfaff's compositions are characterized by a strong sense of line, clear harmonic motion, and gestures that have been described as "profound and extravagant." His principal teachers were Martin Boykan, Yehudi Wyner, Allen Anderson, and Niel Sir. In 2010, Pfaff was named the Allen and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence at Lafayette College, Easton, PA. As part of the residency, he was commissioned to compose for the Lafayette Concert Band. His work, Second Mesa, was premiered in May 2010 under the direction of Dr. Kirk O’Riordan. In 2009, Pfaff was selected to be an Artist-in-Residence at the Petrified Forest National Park. While in residence he composed Unconformities, a work for five electric basses. The work was performed, recorded and mastered by Dr. Drew Waters (California State University at Monterey Bay) and is now part of a multi-media presentation featuring Pfaff’s photographs from the park. He is currently working on two collaborative projects with Dr. Waters: a group of compositions for electric bass and bass clarinet and a series of works for solo electric bass, devices and the max/MSP based software, AudioMulch.
In Fall 2010, he worked with Ann Ellsworth (horn, Stony Brook University) to organize the intra-SUNY event, New Music and Culture Symposium. The composer’s forum and concert were presented at both SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Stony Brook. Artists from SUNY Stony Brook performed works by composers from SUNY Plattsburgh, Purchase, Albany and Stony Brook. Pianist Ellen Ryun Hwangbo performed Pfaff’s composition, November’s Augury.
In 2006, Pfaff created the SUNY Plattsburgh Guitar Festival to showcase the instrument’s breadth of styles and expression. As Artistic Director he has programmed not only new music, but also works from traditional repertoire, lute and vihuela compositions and Latin American music. Pfaff performs his own works for electric guitar, acoustic guitar and devices. Premieres include: Give Me an A, Tracery, Reading the Water and Quirpon. "Bill's unique compositions for guitar show a deep sense of creativity and form. The 2006 composition "Quirpon," written for acoustic guitar, exhibited classical and many extended techniques that had a refreshing and challenging sound. His 2007 composition "Reading the Water," dedicated to his father, showed a knowledge of scordatura tuning, and facility on the electric guitar. In these pieces, Bill has crossed bridges between classical and many other genres to show a remarkable blend toward a new type of concert repertoire." (Ted Mann, Keene State College faculty).
Dr. Pfaff has been a fellow at the Gregg Smith Singers Choral Workshop, Composer/Conductor Program at the Hartt School of Music, May in Miami Festival, June in Buffalo Festival, and the Wellesley Composers Conference. In May of 2004 he was an Artist-in-Residence at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. He is co-founder of the electric guitar duo, Trapeze. The ensemble is dedicated to free improvisation and interdisciplinary collaboration. Trapeze has performed concerts and presented workshops in a number of venues including the SUNY Plattsburgh Guitar Festival, Society of Composers, the College Music Society, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Teachers College of Columbia University and the WOMR radio show, The Latest Score.
His theoretical work, "An Analysis of Cadence Formation in the 'Introduction' to Roger Sessions' cantata, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," was published in the Spring/Summer 2006 issue of Ex Tempore (a journal of compositional and theoretical research). The research focuses on hierarchical cadence articulations in Sessions' rich, chromatic language. At the College Music Society Northeast Regional Meeting in March 2006, he presented a paper on Sessions' composition, "Form and Structure Interactions in Canons (to the memory of Igor Stravinsky)." He has presented papers on music theory pedagogy at the College Music Society and the Society of Composers. His current theoretical work centers on Sessions’ Concertino.
Dr. Pfaff holds the position of Faculty Liaison at the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Teaching Excellence. He assists Director Dr. Becky Kasper on a variety of projects including the annual SUNY Plattsburgh Conference on Teaching and Learning, faculty development workshops and faculty learning communities. He has been a member of the Center for Teaching Excellence Task Force since its inception.
His expertise in pedagogically integrated applications of technology informed the instructional design collaboration with Dr. Drew Waters to create the online courses, Music Appreciation and Fundamental Musicianship. Dr. Pfaff is the chair of the campus-wide committee, Teaching, Learning and Technology Advisory Group (TLTAG). As a member of the E-Learning Advisory Committee he was a co-author of the SUNY Plattsburgh publication, E-Learning Best Practices. His has achieved regional and national recognition in these areas through presentations at the Lilly-East Conference on College and University Teaching, the SUNY-wide Conference on Instructional Technologies and the SUNY Plattsburgh Conference on Teaching and Learning.
Office: Myers Fine Arts 227
Phone: (518) 564-2469