Terje Isungset with UK ice concerts

Early January sees composer and multi-instrumentalist Terje Isungset playing a string of unique performances on ice instruments in the UK.

Using instruments made out of ice, Norwegian composer and instrumentalist Terje Isungset will be giving unique live performances in an urban igloo by the Somerset House ice rink in January.

Isungset will be giving three concerts a day at Somerset House’s Riverside Terrace, playing ice horns, an iceophone and ice percussion, accompanied by Norwegian singer Lena Nymark. The instruments are all carved from solid blocks of ice brought from the mountains of Norway, some even from ancient glaciers. They are extremely fragile, and the performances therefore last for 30 minutes each only.

An evocative sound and video installation will also be on display in the space, meant to ‘transport the visitors deep into the Ideas of North’. Created by Phil Slocombe from Lumen media organisation, the installation aims to give people a distinctive experience of the Nordic climate and surroundings by projecting archive footage recorded by Mariele Neudecker for Opera North’s Winterreise (2003) onto the inside walls of the venue.

“We hope that the fragile nature of the instruments, as well as the opportunity to explore the sounds and sights of the Arctic and beyond, provide an opportunity for reflection as well as inspiration as part of this very special event.” the organisers say.

Isungset has been a great innovator in terms of customized instruments and the use of bare natural materials to create sound. He uses wood, rock and most prominently ice as the basis for new kinds of instruments, which he designs and plays to great effect. This makes his performances more than just musical expressions but rather a composite experience where visual and material aspects are also conveyed.

Over the past few years he has made “ice music” his speciality, and he has developed and refined a special expertise in creating his own ice instruments –customized for each concert, and meant to last only for the limited duration of the actual performance. He has thus explored the special relationship between music – in the way a live performance is a one-time event- and the non-durable, fragile material of ice.

Ice music is therefore an artistic expression that goes well beyond traditional musical performances because the material aspect is so prominent, and the hardware so fragile and unpredictable. Adding to the visual aspect - and the sort of shared haptic realm that playing on ice instruments creates between Isungset and his audience - there is also the element of unpredictability and uncertainty that comes from making music on “natures own condition,” so to spek, rather than on regular instruments over which the musician has complete control. Isungset thus combines musicianship in the normal sense with an aspect of playing along with and harnessing the raw natural material he makes use of.

It is no surprise then that Isungset and his ice music has become a sought after artistic expression at events and in circumstances where the aim is to give the audience an experience out of the ordinary. This goes for regular musical settings (jazz and contemporary), where the use of ice gives the aforementioned flavour of fragile and unpredictable naturalism, but also for the kinds of events where the material itself and its wintry nature, rather than music, is in focus.

January 2011 also sees the release of his latest ice music album, ‘Meditiations’.

Terje Isungset on MySpace

Terje Isungset on Last.fm

Terje Isungset on Spotify

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