Canyon song

Composer takes inspiration from ancient ruins

There is a composer in the canyons this week listening and watching for musical inspiration.

Music professor Bill Pfaff has been chosen for the artist-in-residence program at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Pfaff is exploring the ancient ruins in the monument for seven days, taking photos and composing an original piece of music that echoes his experience.

“It is a real honor to be chosen for this program,” he said in an interview. “Being from the East Coast, the wide-open landscape and peacefulness of this area is striking. It is a break from the bombardment of man-made sounds and all the clamoring of the city.”

From his Monument experience, Pfaff will create a multi-media slideshow accompanied by his own guitar playing and electronic music created from a computer.

A first draft of this unique “monument music video” will be presented to the public on Saturday, August 23, at 1 p.m.

The Monument’s deep connection with the past and the present fascinates Pfaff. He describes the canyons and ruins as alive today as they were 1,000 years ago.

“It is the people who lived there that I want to respect, them and their ancestors living today,” Pfaff said. “I’d like to include the spoken word from people in the area who have a connection to this land.”

Pfaff is careful to let his on-the-ground experience be the basis for his creations.

“I’m not a pre-determined artist, I’m shaped by what I see and what I hear,” he said.

Pfaff is currently a professor of music at State University of New York, in Plattsburgh. His works have been featured in Cairo Egypt, at music festivals, and at college campuses throughout the East Coast.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument encompasses thousands of archaeological sites, including 13 Ancestral Puebloan settlements identified for visitors. Created in 2000, it is believed to have the highest density of ancient sites in the U.S.

Pfaff will take a year to perfect his soundtrack set to a slideshow of photos, recorded interviews, and historical information. He hopes his creation will bring awareness of the fragile state of the ruins and the importance of preserving our shared cultural heritage.

“I feel like I’m on a journey to sacred ground. During a week of camping, I’ll just be scratching the surface,” he said.