What to Expect at Miller and Kentridge’s Present Music Concert

See the renowned artist and composer come together at the Milwaukee Art Museum Wednesday night.

Milwaukee’s legacy performance organization Present Music is bringing “Miller and Kentridge: Flat on your back on the dry wintry grass- a cine concert” to the Milwaukee Art Museum on Nov. 16. The show is a one-time performance featuring the rarely seen animated films of William Kentridge, set to live music composed by Phillip Miller.

David Bloom, co-artistic director of Present Music, is excited to celebrate the ensemble’s 41st season in a rare way.

“The title for the evening comes from one of the songs we will be preforming,” Bloom says. “The event is a part of Kentridge’s own festival, that includes a majority of his work. The only art he didn’t create was his own music. That is where we come in.”

William Kentridge in Rome; Photo by Adine-Sagalyn, courtesy of Present Music

The event includes the world premiere of new music arrangements by Miller, longtime Kentridge collaborator, visiting Milwaukee from South Africa. It is also the world premiere of poetry by Eliza Kentridge, the artists sister.

Bloom will be conducting Miller’s original score, alongside Miller, played to Kentridge’s five different featured films. There will be two singers from South Africa and 12 Present Music instrumentalists. Miller has scored many of Kentridge’s most renown film and media installations.

John Shannon, co-curator of the Kentridge festival, describes Miller’s new music as memorable.

“We wanted to bring him here to Milwaukee, so that we could hear Miller’s music not as a supplementing a film, but rather his own pure creation, as well as Kentridge’s own,” Shannon says.

William Kentridge: See for Yourself exhibit interior; Photo courtesy of the Warehouse Art Museum

Kentridge is viewed as one of today’s greatest living artists, tackling political issues over a vast spectrum of media. The concert addresses the history and struggle of apartheid, something that influenced the life and work of Kentridge.

“Kentridge grew up in South Africa, but the values of his work, as an artists tackling the apartheid, draws important parallels to the current American experience,” Bloom says. 

Kentridge is unique as an artist because of drawing in his films. Unlike traditional animation, that uses multiple drawings to change movement, Kentridge erases and alters a single drawing while recording the changes with a stop-motion camera.

Present Music performance French Connection; Photo by Alvin Connor, courtesy of Present Music

The event will take place in Windhover Hall of the Milwaukee Art Museum. John Shannon, co-curator of the Kentridge Festival, hopes the event showcases that Milwaukee is a center of creativity. 

“We are a world city, and we attract world renown artists,” Shannon says. “This is not just a film, nor a score of music. Kentridge and Miller do not make art for the sake of making art, but for a reason. Their sense of humanity shines through their work, and allows for people to emphasize with their narrative.”

This event is expecting about 650 guests. Tickets for the event are on sale still, and can be purchased here. The event can also be live-streamed from home. More information about Kentridge and other artists in attendance can be found here.