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Musical Nature

ICE MUSIC Isungset plays at the Ice Music Festival Norway. Brr! EMILE HOLBA

Do you play an instrument? Have you ever made one? Terje Isungset can answer yes to both questions. He’s a drummer, and he also makes instruments out of something pretty cool: ice!

IN THE IGLOO Musicians will play inside this unique concert space. It’s made of ice and snow.


He doesn’t use just any frozen stuff. “You can buy perfect ice from factories around the world, but it will not have any sound,” Isungset told TIME for Kids. He gets his ice from the wild. “It’s nature that decides the sound of the instrument,” he says. “There will be variations from year to year.”

Isungset got the idea for ice music more than 20 years ago. “I was asked to do a concert in a frozen waterfall,” he says. And that gave him an idea: The instruments should be made of ice.

ICE SCULPTOR Terje Isungset uses ice from local lakes to make musical instruments. A chain saw helps.


As far as he could tell, this hadn’t been done before. “There were no people to ask how to do this, there were no books to read about it, nothing on the Internet,” he says. “So I had to create everything by myself, and I had to make all the mistakes by myself. It was a lot of trial and error, and a lot of hard work.”

Finally, in 2006, Isungset helped start the Ice Music Festival Norway, in Europe. The 18th of these festivals is scheduled to take place from February 1 to 4.


AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION At the end of the festival, the audience helps give the ice instruments back to nature.


Almost everything at the Ice Music Festival is frozen. “As you can imagine, there are a lot of logistics logistics STOCKTREK—GETTY IMAGES the details that go into making something happen (noun) Working out the logistics for the rocket launch was a team effort. involved in doing an ice concert,” Isungset says. “We come to a place, we harvest the ice, and we build the venue venue WESTEND61—GETTY IMAGES a place where an event is held (noun) The park was the perfect venue for a picnic. out of snow and ice.”

Instruments include ice chimes, drums, and horns. If it were cold outside, wouldn’t your lips stick to an ice horn?

“Many people ask that question,” Isungset says. “If the horn were made out of metal, they would get stuck completely. [With an ice horn,] I might get frostbite on my lips.” His solution is to place a small piece of leather on the horn’s mouthpiece. “It’s the only part of the instrument that is not made of ice,” he says.

PLAY IT COOL Would your lips stick to this ice horn? To prevent that, Isungset attaches leather to the mouthpiece.


Some of Isungset’s instruments are based on familiar ones. Others he dreams up. “For the festival, I have a goal of trying to invent a new instrument every year,” Isungset says. “I very much like fantasy instruments, ones that don’t exist, but are based on the rules we have for real instruments.”

When the show is over, Isungset says, “We invite the audience to give the ice instruments back to nature.”