Chilled musician Terje Isungset.

He’s played concerts inside frozen waterfalls, on top of 3,000 meter high glaciers and inside massive ice-domes — at temperatures as low as -33 degrees Celsius.
Although it may sound strange, for Terje Isungset, the world’s first and only ice musician, these conditions are all part of the job…

The Norwegian-born musician has been playing ice instruments for over 10 years and is the founder of Norway’s annual Ice Music Festival in Geilo. His love of ice music began in his 20s when he was invited to play at a concert inside a frozen waterfall.

“As a composer I decided to work with the nature surrounding me and I tried out ice instruments for the first time,” said Isungset.

A percussionist, Isungset started with simple ice chimes, using stalactites which had formed naturally in the harsh Norwegian winter. Since then his repertoire has expanded to include ice drums, horns, harps and trumpets.

But as well as playing, Isungset has also crafted various instruments in ice form.

“I have challenged friends of mine to perform on ice and given them ideas of what to do. I’ve made ice guitars, ice marimbas, an iceridoo (didgeridoo) and traditional Norwegian langeleiks,” he said.

Rather than having a favorite instrument, Isungset says he takes joy in finding ice in nature that can “sing.”

“When I can find a piece of ice that can sing for a very long time, it’s special. The longest tone I have made from hitting a piece of ice is about 15 seconds. It’s very unique.”

But perhaps the most extraordinary of all Isungset’s instruments was his 2,500-year-old ice horn, carved from a glacier in Norway. It lasted only 50 performances, but by ice standards that’s a long time.

“We normally make an ice horn out of a large cube. We cut it with a saw and then with a knife,” Isungset told CNN.

“The shape of (the horn) is not so important, except for the mouth piece because the mouth piece creates a specific sound. But, as you can imagine, when you play an ice horn it melts. So the tuning and the mouth piece will change all the time. This makes it even harder to perform.”

How long an ice instrument can last all depends of the length of the performance and the weather on the day, but they usually only last a couple of concerts.

“With ice, there is no exact time for anything, nature decides everything,” said Isungset.

“I’m always searching for pieces of ice that can make a sound, so I’m working on a piece of ice and I’m listening to it all the time. It’s kind of a communication between me and the piece of ice.”

Terje Isungset