Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ice Music

Terje Isungset, the Norwegian percussionist renowned for his ice horns, is here in Britain again.  We went to see him last night at LSO St. Lukes in a concert that began with the solo percussion piece called Tribute to Nature.  This was played on his special drum kit, featuring sheepbells strung up with rope, a ride cymbal on a weathered stick, bundles of clave-like arctic birch sticks and pieces of granite. It started quietly with the tapping of sticks and the scraping of stones, grew louder and more expressive with horns and Jew's harp, and ended with a long sigh of breath. He then left the stage to be replaced by the LSO's Wind Ensemble, who performed Carl Nielsen's Wind Quintet (1922).  A fill collaboration between Isungset and Phil Slocombe, 'The Idea of North', was supposed to be played at the interval but never materialised - instead we waited expectantly for the appearance of the ice instruments.  Eventually they emerged - two white blocks carried onto stands and adjusted by a sculptor-roadie, wrapped up in a parka and woolly hat.  The ice had been driven here from Norway; the first clip below shows Terje Isungset carving his instruments directly from the frozen landscape.

Ice Music, the second part of last night's concert, featured Isungset's regular singing partner Lena Nymark (you can see them on stage together towards the end of the second clip above).  She is evidently pregnant, prompting my wife to speculate on the benign influence this music was having on the unborn child.  Isungset began by crunching and tapping one of the ice blocks before moving on to an ice xylophone which he played with ice sticks and bare hands (as he says in the clip below, ice has a surprisingly warm sound when tapped with the finger).  The ice horns only came out for a short time - but since they melt whilst being played this was not too surprising.  At the end of the concert I went up to the stage and held a shard of ice lying on the floor, wondering if this had come from the 600 year old Jostedalbreen glacier.  Terje Isungset has said that the instruments he makes are eventually returned 'back to nature where they belong.'

After the concert - ice remnants

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