Ice music: The sound of nature
Updated 17:41, 29-Oct-2019
Yang Meng

The moan of melting glaciers, the roar of polar beasts – audiences in Shanghai felt as if they were in a world of ice and snow at the Yihong Theatre. Musicians from the polar region of Norway brought them a stunning ice music feast ahead of schedule in 20-degree weather.

The insulation clothing is removed from the instruments carved out of ice while the musicians are dressed in heavy coats. From the ice-bass and ice-horn to the ice-drum, those beautiful and unique ice instruments can produce the most original sounds of nature.

Ice from the Great Wall

Musician playing with a bass made of ice. /CGTN Photo

Musician playing with a bass made of ice. /CGTN Photo

It is not an easy task to make instruments out of ice since many factors can influence their sound. From picking ice tubes to carving them into musical instruments, it takes a lot of experience and sometimes luck.

"The most difficult part is to find ice in the nature that actually has good sound," Terje Isungset, the founder of the Ice Music Festival who is a musician himself told CGTN, "polluted water, tap water and artificial frozen water normally cannot sing, and the ice sounds different from country to country and from year to year.

"You never know, sometimes I have to try hundreds of pieces until I find one that can actually sing, it takes me 20 years to understand how I can do it, I think every day I learn something new."

The ice we see today in Shanghai is from a lake near the Great Wall in Beijing. Isungset is very satisfied with the sound.

It takes a minimum of two to four experienced people three days to carve out all those instruments under ideal conditions, Isungset told CGTN.

'Nature is the boss'

Terje Isungset playing the ice drum. /CGTN Photo

Terje Isungset playing the ice drum. /CGTN Photo

Unlike other musicians who can keep adapting to their instruments, ice music artists use new-carved instruments that are disposable after each show, and this means they have almost no time practicing before they step on the stage.

"All my practicing has been on stage," Isungset said, and hundreds of concerts gave him a solid experience to draw from. Even so, "Nature is still the boss," he said.

Isungset shared with us a common incident that had occurred during one of his performances.

"Playing outdoor can be a problem for the fingers; if it is very cold, I have to protect them… sometimes my gloves stick to the ice, then I need help to get the ice off the gloves, and this is ice music… we need to trust in nature."

Melting on stage

The ice music band from Norway. /CGTN Photo

The ice music band from Norway. /CGTN Photo

The temperature in Shanghai is above 20 degrees, although temporarily unused instruments are immediately covered with insulation clothing, they begin to melt during the performance, which lasts more than an hour.

Water is dripping, and Isungset believes the melting instrument goes back to nature in this way.

Isungset has been holding ice music concerts since 1999, and over the past 20 years, he has been traveling around the world to let more people enjoy the sound of pure nature and called on everyone to protect the environment.

On November 3, Isungset's team will tour to Beijing, and audiences in Beijing will also have the chance to experience their special ice music concert.

Reporting & editing: Yang Meng

Video shooting & editing: Xu Haoming

Cover image design: Du Chenxin

Executive producer: Deng Junfang

Producer: Si Nan

Supervisor: Zhang Shilei