Chilled Music: Performer Makes Instruments Out of Ice

While most musicians seek to avoid a frosty reception at concerts, for Norwegian composer and performer Terje Isungset a chilly feeling is nothing to fear: he performs with instruments he makes himself out of ice.

A recent performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall featured a set including ice horns, ice drums and an “iceofone” — an ice xylophone — accompanied by the vocal stylings of singer Maria Skranes.

He sees his work as being about more than making music, since he also aims to display the beauty and fragility of ice.

“I see it as a part of something bigger. It’s not me and my project and my ego — it’s the elements,” he told Reuters.

The Norwegian, equipped with a background in traditional Scandinavian music and jazz, makes his instruments using chainsaws and pick axes.

Founder of an ice music festival in Norway, Isungset plays at about 50 festivals and concerts a year, many in the cold conditions of Norway, Canada or Russia.

At concerts in warmer climes, however, hotter temperatures can pose difficulties, as spending any more than 50 minutes at room temperature could damage the instruments.

All of the instruments for the London show were made in Norway and shipped over in special containers, highlighting the fact that, when it comes to making ice instruments, not any old water will do.

“If ice is from polluted water it doesn’t sound that good. If it’s from tap water it doesn’t work because there’s some chemicals in it,” he said. The best ice, he said, was from 2003 in the north of Sweden, adding “I’m very interested in that ice.”

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