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Norwegian Festival Shows Off The Musicality Of Ice

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Norwegian Festival Shows Off The Musicality Of Ice

Europe

Norwegian Festival Shows Off The Musicality Of Ice

Norwegian Festival Shows Off The Musicality Of Ice

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  • Transcript

At the annual festival in the village of Geilo, the musical instruments are made of ice — along with other natural materials like birch wood or slate.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Norwegians were already putting their ice to the test this past weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE HORNS)

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're hearing sounds of the annual Ice Music Festival, as they echoed off the mountains near the village of Geilo. A composer from that village, Terje Isungset, is behind that festival.

INSKEEP: And when we say ice music, we do not mean music to figure skate by. We mean music made on instruments constructed of ice, along other natural materials like birch wood or slate.

TERJE ISUNGSET: To get a piece of ice to sound well or to kind of sing is really difficult. But, first of all, you have to find the ice that is good.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: The composer says man-made ice doesn't work.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

MONTAGNE: But the right natural ice can sing when carved into instruments by the musician's American collaborator Bill Covitz.

BILL COVITZ: The majority of the ice that we use comes from the lakes around and we have to go up by snowmobile. And we have to shovel snow off of lakes and use chain saws and cut the ice out, pull it out and bring it back to the venue here in Geilo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPLASHING)

INSKEEP: Covitz carves everything from marimbas and chimes to intricately sculpted ice cellos and even ice horns.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Tuning is a particular challenge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COVITZ: I help them kind of tune it but it's their ear. I try to bend the ice, or turn the ice, or make it thin, or make it narrow or wider. And it changes so easily and so dramatically with just slight changes.

MONTAGNE: And Terje Isungset says keeping ice instruments in tune isn't easy.

ISUNGSET: If it's below zero, it's normally no big problem, you know. But you have plus-degrees and it starts melting, we are in trouble. Then the instruments stop sounding, quite quickly.

INSKEEP: And the art of ice music becomes even more complicated when designing a wind instrument.

ISUNGSET: Because if you play an ice horn then it will gradually melt inside, because you put warm air into it and then the phonology changes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: So ice musicians must be able to improvise.

ISUNGSET: You cannot go on stage and expect a certain sound. You have to play with the sound that instrument actually can make. And then try to create good music out of this.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "A GLIMPSE OF LIGHT")

INSKEEP: That's "A Glimpse of Light," one of the pieces performed at this year's Ice Music Festival in Geilo, Norway. Give a listen before it melts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "A GLIMPSE OF LIGHT")

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "A GLIMPSE OF LIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in foreign language)

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