By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
The group might be best described as one part classical music ensemble, one part rock band and one part performance art group. Not only are they innovative, but the Chicago-based ensemble has won three Grammy awards and is nationally recognized for their energetic performances that involve a theatrical style of movement on the stage.
Their performances appeal to a wide variety of audiences, from those into indie and unique pop music to traditional chamber-music enthusiasts, said Mary DuPree, director of the series.
Tim Munro is one of six members of eighth blackbird. He primarily plays the flute, but it’s not uncommon to see him singing, playing piano or even banging on car parts on stage. Here’s what he had to say about their visit to Moscow, their musical style and his own music experience:
360: This will be your third visit to Moscow. Do you remember anything unique or distinctive about the area?
Munro: We really look forward to our Moscow visit in particular because students at the university are so engaged and so interested in what we’re doing. We don’t encounter that everywhere. During our last visit, we watched an event where all the students in the arts programs put something together — music, dance, performance art. That the departments can work together like that, it seems like something quite special and unique.
360: The stage movement that eighth blackbird is known for, where did that come from?
Munro: I think the easiest way to explain it is that we’re trying to engage all of people’s faculties. We want to create a whole experience for an audience member. The movement is just acknowledging that audiences experience as much visually as they do aurally. Originally, it just happened because the group had played music to such a high level that the next step seemed to be that we take away the music stands. Once the music stands are gone, the possibilities are endless.
360: What is it that you’re trying to accomplish in your music and performances?
Munro: One of the things we are very interested in doing is connecting with our audiences. We make ourselves available. We’re interested not just in what they like, but in what they don’t like. We are trying to entertain and engage, but we’re also trying to provoke. And those things have to be balanced.
360: So what is it that you’re trying to provoke?
Munro: I enjoy art that makes me feel something. I might laugh. I might cry. I might be shocked. I might be entertained. I might be impressed. And all of those things are things that we want to provoke. We want to provoke feelings and thoughts and reactions. The reaction we’re least interested in is, “That was OK.”
360: Everyone in a group has their role. What’s your role in eighth blackbird?
Munro: I’m the token Australian. I think all groups need a token Australian.
360: You play the flute. How did that happen?
Munro: My mom tells the story that she found a book that lined up instruments with personalities and the flute was outgoing, gregarious and talkative and clearly she thought I was some of those things. So that’s how it happened. I would say that I am a musician first and a flute player second, if that makes sense. My passion is the art form and the instrument is my tool.
360: Now, don’t take this wrong, but out here we don’t have too many male flute players. Do you have anything to say on that matter?
Munro: (Laughs) The flute is a very blokey instrument. In the 18th century there’s a painting where a male flute player is leaning his flute towards a female harpist playing next to him. And it’s very obviously a phallic symbol, it’s suggestive. Until the 20th century, the flute was a blokey thing. Not so much now — maybe there’s been flutes associated with too many birds and princesses. But I’m comfortable enough in my masculinity that it doesn’t get me too much.
360: What do you do when you’re not doing music?
Munro: I read a lot of fiction, contemporary fiction. I tend to find an author I like and just read all of their books. Right now I’m reading Laurie Moore. She’s an American writer, predominately short stories. She gets right to the core of what it is to be a human. And I’m a beer snob and exercise junkie, in that order.
If you go:
What: eighth blackbird
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1
Where: University of Idaho auditorium in Moscow
Cost: $20/general admission, $10/students, $17/seniors. Tickets are available at BookPeople in Moscow and online at www.auditoriumseries.org.
Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 305-4578.