Culture Tip: Ice Music

With one hand on a knife-handle and the other guiding the blade, Terge Isungset scours a chunk of ice out of what appears to be an upturned vase. He pours some water onto the icy surface, gluing together the two sides of the hollow vessel. On the ground beside him lies a box made of ice, about the size of a chest you’d find at the foot of a bed, that’s been hollowed by chainsaw and chisel.

Isungset, who performs this evening at the Snowcastle, is carving the instruments, an ice trumpet and an ice xylophone (or iceophone), that he’ll be playing tonight. The other ice instruments – drums, chimes and horns – are in various states of completion when visits the Norwegian percussionist on Tuesday afternoon.

“The ice here is really good, nice and clear,” he says. And good ice means good acoustics. Inside the castle he demonstrates the rich tone of one of the horns and shows the material he places around the mouth hole, “So I’ll be able to kiss when I come home.”

Isungset is a world-renowned musician and, according to some, the inventor of ice music. The idea of using ice as an instrument came to him during a performance in a frozen waterfall in Lillehammer in 1999. He’d already been exploring unique sonic vistas for two decades, using everything from rocks to oil rigs as percussive tools – ice seemed like an intriguing next move and one with nice philosophical overtones.


“The ice is deeper. It goes with the environmental things, the importance of water on the earth,” he says.

Since then Isungset has been expanding the boundaries of ice music both as a recording artist and as the artistic director of the annual Ice Music Festival in Gelio, Norway, where musicians from around the world play everything from ice harps to ice cellos.

The Snow Castle set will feature a less elaborate ensemble than performances in Gelio – Isungset will be joined by only one other musician, singer Maria Skranes. But those who want to the ultimate winter experience, ice music in the Snowcastle isn’t a show to miss.

The show starts at 8:00, Wednesday evening, in the Snowcastle. Tickets are $20.


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