Norwegian Musician Creates Ice Instruments with a Chain Saw and Sub-Zero Weather

Most pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians have a very spe­cial rela­tion­ship with their instru­ments. Male gui­tarists treat their favorite gui­tars like girlfriends—maybe bet­ter in some cas­es. Trav­el­ing cel­lists buy air­line tick­ets for instru­ments. It’s just too risky to put your liveli­hood in car­go.

Not so for Ter­je Insungset, a Nor­we­gian musi­cian who, among oth­er things, carves instru­ments out of ice. His back­ground is in jazz and tra­di­tion­al Scan­di­na­vian music, but he’s built a rep­u­ta­tion as an artist who makes music on uncon­ven­tion­al mate­ri­als. Con­sid­er­ing where he is from, it’s not sur­pris­ing that he has turned his atten­tion to ice and its musi­cal poten­tial.

Turns out the sound of an ice xylo­phone is lovely—soft, deep, tin­kly. The ice horn sounds like a lone­ly beast call­ing out across the tun­dra. Insungset col­lab­o­rates with vocal­ist Mari Kvien Brun­voll. Togeth­er they per­form around the world, some­times indoors and some­times in the snow, with elab­o­rate micro­phone cords draped around and beau­ti­ful light­ing.

There’s even an ice gui­tar.

Insungset has also built instru­ments out of arc­tic birch, slate, cow bells and gran­ite. His inter­est in ice as a mate­r­i­al devel­oped when he was com­mis­sioned to play music in a frozen water­fall at the 1994 Win­ter Olympics in Lille­ham­mer, Nor­way.

Unlike most musi­cians, he has to build his instru­ments in situ, as he did for recent con­certs in Cana­da where the tem­per­a­ture was 36 below zero with a light wind. Per­fect weath­er for ice music.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Har­ry Partch’s Kooky Orches­tra of DIY Musi­cal Instru­ments

“Glitch” Artists Com­pose with Soft­ware Crash­es and Cor­rupt­ed Files

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Vis­it her web­site, .

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Comments (3)
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  • Great!
    A glass­bow through the sound, just as a rain­bow divid­ed light!
    Con­grat­u­la­tions from Paris, France.

  • Thierry Desnclos says:

    absolute­ly mag­ic I love it thanks & respect
    from France

  • Sylvia Fertsch says:

    Your ice instruments(also singing)are real­ly unbe­lie­ve­able and thrilling. Thank you for doing anoth­er medi­um for sound.

    So sor­ry you must suf­fer with the cold — don’t know how you stand it but glad you do.
    Sylvia — USA

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