PIC-bio page

Philip Miller (born 7 June 1964) is a South African and international composer and sound artist based in Cape Town.  His work is multi-faceted, often developing out of collaborative projects in theatre, film, video and sound installations.

Miller is currently an honorary fellow at ARC (The Research Initiative in Archive and Public Culture) at the University of Cape Town.


Philip Miller trained firstly as a lawyer at the University of Witwatersrand and practised as a copyright lawyer. He studied music composition in South Africa with composers Jeanne Zaidel Rudolph and Peter Klatzow at the University of Cape Town Music School. He completed his postgraduate studies in Electro-Acoustic music composition for film and television at Bournemouth University. Whilst doing so he studied with UK composer Joseph Horovitz. He then returned to South Africa to begin working full time in music

Collaboration with William Kentridge

One of Miller’s most significant collaborators is the internationally acclaimed artist, William Kentridge. His music to Kentridge’s animated films, and multimedia installations, has been heard in some of the most prestigious museums, galleries and concert halls all over the world, including MoMA, SFMOMA, The Guggenheim Museums (both New York and Berlin), Tate Modern, La Fenice Opera House and Carnegie Hall.

This collaboration dates back to 1993 when he wrote the score for Kentridge’s film Felix in Exile, part of his celebrated Soho Eckstein series.  This evolved into the live concert series Nine Drawings for Projection and Black Box/Chambre Noir touring Australia, the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, France and the US.

The lecture-opera production Refuse the Hour, as well as the multimedia installation on which it is based, The Refusal of Time were presented at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

2016 has seen  Triumph and Laments in Rome  which featured Miller’s music for two processional marching bands of Italian and South African soloists and musicians, and dramatic live shadow play, all performed against the backdrop of Kentridge’s 500m frieze along the banks of the Tiber River.

A number of their collaborations are on tour in Europe in 2016, including Paper Music, which makes its German premiere at the Berlin Festspiele in July and The Refusal of Time at Whitechapel Gallery in London in September

 Original Works

Miller’s compositional process could be best described as one of both musical excavation, fragmentation and then, rebuilding these fragments or shards working with both elaboration and layering and ‘sound collage” techniques.  It often incorporates samples of “ found sound’” recorded texts and  shards of conversations which serve as counterpoint to the musical context in which they are embedded, intertwining both acoustic and electronic sound elements into his work.

His works reflect on his pre-occupation with using sound as a means of exploring memory, states of trauma and the re-examination of historical archive in a sound world of his creation.

These techniques and have been incorporated in his compositions. They include

Rewind, a Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony

Conceived and composed, in 2007, became an award-winning choral work, based on the testimonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The cantata had its international debut in New York at the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival and has been performed at the Royal Festival Hall, London, Williams College 62 Centre for Theatre and Dance, the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, and Baxter Theatre, Cape Town.

Extracts from the Underground

An opera, in which Miller explores the subterranean sound world of miners in South Africa.

His own sound works have been exhibited at The Venice Biennale (2013) Spier Contemporary (2011) (South Africa) and Looking for Kovno used recorded telephone conversations with holocaust survivors which were then incorporated into the recordings of a local Lithuanian Choir learning to sing an old Yiddish Folk Song which was popular at the time of the mass executions of Jews.  This work was installed at The Kaunas Biennial (2009) (Lithuania).

His work” Special Boy” which was selected for the prestigious Spier Contemporary exhibition in South Africa- used old tape recordings of his voice as a thirteen year old boy practicing his speech for the customary coming of age ceremony- his barmitzvah – juxtaposing these recordings with his own adult voice as a gay man reflecting on questions of masculinity and sexuality and religion.

In 2014, Miller composed and created the small chamber –opera Anatomy of a Mining Accident in association with Cape Town Opera and the vocal ensemble both in Sweden and in Cape Town. This was then commissioned by the Art Museum of the University of the Witwatersrand (WAM) and refigured as a sound installation on the walls outside the gallery with video projections and the erection of a sound sculpture.    The focus of this work dealt with the subterranean sound world of local miners – exploring the use of a localized mining language or dialect- “fanakalo” –a pidgin language used in the mines and how this reflects back on the current mining crisis in South Africa and the tragic massacre of 38 miners at Marikana in 2013.

He is a contributing composer for the 2016 Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music.

Music for Film and TV

He also composed the music for the first episode of Roots, the new series premiering on A+E Studios’ HISTORY channel on May 31. This historical portrait of American slavery is directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt, Patriot Games, The Bone Collector) with Questlove (The Roots) as executive music producer. The cast includes Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin, Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

He has scored numerous soundtracks to film and television programs, including his Emmy-nominated soundtrack to HBO’s The Girl. Other recent scores include Miners Shot DownThe Bang Bang ClubBlack Butterflies, and Phillip Noyce’s Mary and Martha.

Miller has worked with some of the most innovative filmmakers and visual artists to emerge from South Africa. He has composed music for the soundtracks to many local and international film and television productions. Recent film scores include Steven Silver’s The Bang Bang Club, which was nominated for a Genie Award in Canada, Black Butterflies; which was awarded best film score at the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA). Furthermore he composed the score for HBO’s The Girl directed by Julian Jarrold, Martha and Mary directed by Philip Noyce; as well as BBC’s The Borrowers.

He has scored numerous soundtracks to film and television programs including more recently his Emmy nominated soundtrack to HBO’s The Girl.  Other more recent award winning scores include: the multi-award winning film: Miner’s Shot-Down, directed by Rehad Desai,  The Bang Bang Club, Black Butterflies and Mary and Martha directed by the acclaimed film-director: Philip Noyce.

Miller is currently an honorary fellow at ARC (The Research Initiative in Archive and Public Culture) at the University of Cape Town.


He won Best Original Music Score Award at the Canadian Screen Awards in March 2016 for The Book of Negroes – a 2015 miniseries adaptation of the 2007 award-winning novel by Canadian writer Lawrence Hill. The miniseries stars Louis Gossett Jr. and Cuba Gooding Jr.

In 2008, Miller’s sound installation Special Boy was selected as a finalist for Spier Contemporary, major, national art exhibition in South Africa. Amongst his more recent commissions, Miller’s composition Can you hear that? was performed for the New York based Ensemble Pi in 2009.

Film scores include Steven Silver’s The Bang Bang Club, which was nominated for a Genie Award in Canada, Black Butterflies; which was awarded best film score at the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA).

Wawela winner award for Best soundtrack for feature film 2014

Mary and Martha  (HBO): soundtrack Wawela* winner award for Best soundtrack for feature film
The Girl: Julian Jarrold (Dir): Wall to Wall Productions: HBO Emmy nominee in 2013 for Best soundtrack for Feature TV Film
The Bang Bang Club: Steven Silver (Dir) Nomination: Best Soundtrack for a Feature Film: Genie Awards, Canada 2011
Gugulethu Seven: Lindy Wilson (Dir): commissioned by Nick Fraser (BBC) Avanti award in South Africa 2000
Black Butterflies: feature film soundtrack 1.Wawela winner award for Best soundtrack for feature film 20132. Winner of Best Soundtrack: South African Film and Television Awards
Book of Negroes: Six part series :BET/ CBC dir: Clement Virgo Canadian Screen Awards 2016:  Best Original Music Score Award:

*Wawela: These awards celebrate South African music creators’ accomplishments on the international and local stage over a particular defined period.


He has released many CDs of his music which include: Refuse the Hour, Rewind, a Cantata for voice, tape and testimony, William Kentridge’s’ 9 Drawings for Projection, Black Box/ Chambre Noire, The Thula Project, African Soundscapes and Shona Malanga.

Miller has also produced a number of albums including arrangements of traditional South African lullabies, The Thula Project, the soundtrack to both Black Box/ Chambre Noir and 9 Drawings for Projection by William Kentridge. Other works include Shona Malanga which is arrangements of freedom songs, and the soundtrack to White Lion.

His latest CD soundtrack release is The Refusal of Time, which premiered in 2012 at Dokumenta13 in Germany and will be presented at the New York Museum of Metropolitan Art.