Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Guardian


Terje Isungset's ice instruments create cool classics
Purcell and Vivaldi are all very well, but it's a modern, avant-garde Norwegian who sends shivers down my spine

Blue lips ... Terje Isungset plays the ice trumpet. Photograph: Aas Erlend/AFP/Getty Images

Snow, ice, and frost music. We can do better than Debussy's The Snow is Dancing, than Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden or Vivaldi's Winter from The Four Seasons, better even than Purcell's Frost Scene, George Benjamin's A Mind of Winter, or Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen's Schnee (er, Snow), to give just a few highlights of frost-nipped classical music (even if the Abrahamsen, if you haven't heard it, is music of coruscating glacial brilliance).

But Norwegian musician and composer Terje Isungset takes the idea of ice-music to its logical, literal conclusion. He makes instruments out of ice – and, yes, I know it's cold out there everywhere from Cape Wrath to Cornwall, but if you can make British versions of Terje's ice-blocks, glocks, and horns while you're waiting for the AA to rescue you in a layby on the M3, then I want to see and hear the evidence.

And you haven't had enough of the snow by then, Terje plays the Icemusicfestival in Geilo, in the Norwegian highlands between Oslo and Bergen, at the end of January. But if you can't get out of the house to get to Scandinavia, stay in and warm yourself with Terje's new album, Winter Songs. For all their millennia-old origins in the glaciers of Norwegian uplands, Terje's ice instruments have a strange warmth, and a serene, haunting beauty. And maybe if this cold snap continues much longer, I'll be able to turn my pond into an ice-xylophone.

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