ice trumpet: Terje Isungset

Ice music produces a range of sounds that seem familiar and strange at the same time. There’s an airiness in some sounds, while other ice pieces sound almost like glass when struck.

In this excerpt from a London concert last December, the Norwegian free-jazz composer and percussionist Terje Isungset plays a set of sculptured ice shards, including an ice trumpet. When a friend first forwarded this link to me last December, I was hooked. 

The ice trumpet kicks in at about minute 5. It’s spooky, more growly than I had anticipated.

And it’s incredibly old: the trumpet is carved from a 2,500 piece of glacier ice, which Isungset says produces a completely different sound than ice made in a freezer, or ice made outdoors overnight, because the ice is more compressed and drier.

This good, though brief, Dec. 08 interview with Isungset in The Guardian gives a nice overview of his approach. 

He says he has to be a “slave to nature,” but it’s a relationship he loves:

“We travel to a place, find ice, then carve the instruments there, play the concerts, and then give the instruments back to nature where they belong. You can have 100 pieces of ice; they will all sound different. Perhaps three will sound fantastic. Nature decides whether it’s possible to play or not: if it’s too mild or windy, we can’t.”

Isungset’s website is here. There should be more current information in the news about him soon, as he’s the opening act for a gala concert at the Bergen International Festival tonight – in synch with what several Norwegian news agencies – and the Norewegian government site itself – are calling an international high level climate change conference.

1 thought on “ice trumpet: Terje Isungset”

  1. […] Norwegian percussionist Terje Isungset started the simply-titled IceMusic Festival, likely the world’s first international ice music festival, in 2006 (see Located in the ski resort town Geilo, near Bergen, it’s scheduled to coincide with the first full moon of each year. Each festival edition profiles different ice instruments, such as ice udus in 2006, pictured above. The program also includes singers, dancers, performance artists and always plenty of percussionists. (For a taste of Isungset’s ice trumpet, see this Ice Cubicle post from last week.) […]


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