This year at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition, we're introducing (or re-introducing) you to members of our resident ensemble, the Grossman Ensemble. Today, we're featuring flutist Tim Munro. Read on to learn how music has made its way into Tim's parenting, what Tim's favorite extended techniques are, and how the Grossman Ensemble changed his relationship to music.
What has been your most memorable moment from your time in the Grossman Ensemble?
Honestly, the very first rehearsal. The moment we began playing together, I realized there was such a shared commitment to high-level, collaborative, collegial music-making. An important reason for that was Augusta (Gusty) Read Thomas's design: from the beginning we have had quite a lot of autonomy and responsibility, and Gusty picked a group made up of sweet, open, brilliant musicians.
Besides performing, how else do you engage with music in your life?
As I think about it, about 70% of my musical life exists outside of playing! I currently work as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's Creative Partner, which means that I work as a broadcaster, writer, curator, and consultant for them. It's joyful to work across the whole organization, from production to artistic, from development to publicity. I have come to think of myself as a storyteller first, musician second, and flute player third. Not to say that I don't love playing (the pandemic really helped me fall back in love with my instrument), but all of my work feels like I am trying to make a connection, from one person to another.
What is your favorite extended technique to play?
Extended techniques really expand our palette as instrumentalists. I love percussive sounds, because so much of the flute is airy, airy, air-air, and I can feel sort of like a badass. But perhaps my favorite thing to do is make a shushing sound directly into the instrument, which sounds like wind rustling through trees on a quiet night. I sometime begin practice sessions with that sound, because it almost feels meditative...
Is there anything that music has taught you about being a parent, or vice versa?
Wow. What a good question. I'll start here: my wife's theater training has been the really amazing gift as a parent, the ability to meet our toddler where he is, to go down such fascinating imaginative rabbit-holes. But I will say that I turn literally everything into a song. Early on, there was a very catchy pop hit with the first line, "Splatter-poo...oh, splatter-poo..."
Your biography ends with “On a sunny afternoon Tim might dream of ghostwriting a musician’s biography, of sketching landscapes, of writing a crime novel…” This brings three questions to mind: whose biography, which landscapes, and what crime?
Biography: I'd love to write a memoir for someone who is considered god-like and unimpeachable, to explore them as true, living humans...maybe a conductor? Landscapes: anything super-super-super up-close, something so totally zoomed-in that I can forget what it is, and just live in the play of light and texture. Crime: A dead conductor. Because I fantasize about murdering conductors? Maybe...but mostly because I'd love to unfurl the strange and unpleasant web of power dynamics in the music world. But who dunnit? You'll have to wait to read it!
Any book recommendations?
I just finished Patrick Radden Keefe's latest work of narrative non-fiction, Empire of Pain, about the Sackler dynasty and their relationship to the opioid crisis. It is a pretty harrowing read, but an important story told in a way that meant I could barely stand to put it down.
What has being in the Grossman Ensemble meant to you?
The Grossman Ensemble came along at a time when I was questioning my relationship to the flute, to music. A time when I was considering quitting the flute. And it has allowed me to build confidence, to build joy, to develop so many meaningful musical relationships. And that truly has meant everything for me.