Why You Should Check Out Present Music's Re:Re:Rewrite This Weekend

Composers take familiar music from Bach and Radiohead, and turn them upside-down.

Milwaukee music ensemble Present Music will kick off its 38th season with Re:Re:Rewrite, a show featuring original music by a handful of contemporary composers and musical groups, including Steve Reich, Caleb Burns, Gabriella Smith, and indie-rock band Radiohead. The show will also incorporate unexpected audio and visual elements, such as car horns and tires.

Showcasing a drumline, dozens of talented musicians, including Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Milwaukee Ballet members, along with the Extra Crispy Brass Band, Re:Re:Rewrite will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. tomorrow, September 7 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, 2419 E. Kenwood Boulevard. Tickets are $25 general admission, $55 preferred, and $10 for special industry professionals, musicians and artists.

Kevin Stahlheim formed Present Music, an ensemble dedicated to performing, commissioning and recording the works of living composers, in 1982. A member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) Present Music brings its exciting concerts to a number of venues in the Milwaukee area, including the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, and The Cooperage.

Re:Re:Rewrite will be the debut Present Music performance for David Bloom and Eric Segnitz, who recently stepped into the roles as co-artistic directors. Bloom and Segnitz have extensive backgrounds in conducting, arranging, musical performance, and education.

Present Music managing director Tai Renfrow said that the concert will focus on original music and fresh interpretations of classical, jazz and modern indie-rock works. For example, Smith’s piece, Brandenberg Interstices, was inspired by J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. “I can only describe it as a surrealistic take on Bach,” Renfro added.

Among the nine Re:Re:Write pieces performed will be Burns’ Escape Wisconsin, (a play on the state’s tourism slogan “Escape to Wisconsin”) a composition created for soprano saxophone. Burns, a former Janesville resident who now lives in New York City, wrote the piece “as a tongue and cheek homage to his native state,” noted Renfro. Nico Muhly’s Drones for violin and piano” and Everything in its REICH Place, Reich’s arrangement of the 2000 Radiohead song “Everything in Its Right Place,” will also be performed live. Each piece will be introduced by the honking of car horns. “The car horns are the real highlights—it’s quite a sight to be seen,” Renfrow said.

Having great improvising skills and exceptional musicianship are essential qualities for a Present Music ensemble member. For this particular performance, only two rehearsals and a dress rehearsal were held for the Re:Re:Rewrite ensemble. “They are some of Milwaukee’s top musicians,” Renfrow said.

An afterparty and conversation with Bloom, Segnitz and Renfrow will be held following the concert.

Renfrow said that Present Music is excited to begin the season with an innovative performance like Re:Re:Rewrite. “This is a really monumental time for us,” she added.