Terje Isungset is one of the most accomplished percussionists in Europe. His innovations have been breaking the waves for over 20 years now. In 2002, he released his first album made entirely with ice instruments. Recently, the second such album came out on All Ice Records, called "Igloo." What is most impressive about these highly original albums is their listenability. The concept is obviously brilliant, but the quality of the music is simply amazing. Isungset and his collaborators have started playing Ice Festivals and are even organizing an Ice Tour for 2007. It is truly a wonderful new way to play beautiful, enchanting music. This interview was conducted via email in July of 2007.
I started playing drums at the age of 8. I used to play together with my father that is an accordion player. We did play for weddings, dances etc. Also my brothers and sister did play - so we used to have jam sessions at home.
Yes, American artists: Weather Report, Chick Corea and Billy Cobham.
I was asked to do music for their worldwide TV broadcasting for the millennium in 2000. This was first time ever someone playing on ice (I think). I thought I sounded amazing, and came back one year later to make a CD.
I got in touch with the Ice Hotel, I booked some of the best musicians, a good photographer and my sound engineer. Then we worked hard for one week. After this there where some editing in the studio. The release of world’s first ice music CD "Iceman is" was launched 2002.
The main reason for doing this at the Ice Hotel is that they have all kinds of tools for dealing with the ice. Also they have igloos or snow rooms that are perfect for recording, and they have the high quality ice needed for making a good instrument. They helped me putting all this together. For the same reason I recorded the album "Igloo" there. The coming album "Two Moons" was recorded in Norway - at Geilo. Now we are building a new igloo for every new recording. A quite expensive way of doing it - but it works.
A new album will be recorded in 2007 - also at Geilo in a special-built igloo studio.
Igloo first. We use a big special-made balloon for making the igloo. It is covered by snow from a snow machine. Has to be minus 10 - minimum. It takes 2 - 3 days. Instruments: we need clear ice from a lake or a river. It is hard work to get the ice... has to be of good quality. To build the instrument will take minimum 3 days for two persons – depending on how complex it is going to be - or also new instruments takes longer time to figure out. I am always trying to make something new. I am lucky being involved in the last part only....
Yes, there are several problems to solve. This is a very complex situation, and what we actually do is very close to impossible. This is extreme sport - kind of. We are always on the edge of the physical laws…. On the edge of what is possible - both musically and technically - and sometimes also as a human. This is hard work, but beautiful. We have to take care, and plan everything very well. Only the best available recording equipment and technician can do this job. Musicians also have to be of a real high quality.
First we use chain saws, the rest is poor hand crafting - using a knife mainly. The ice is super fragile, so it breaks easily. This happens quite often while making them.
All of the new ice albums will have the same design as “Igloo”. I am also thinking of reproducing “Iceman is” into the same label and design. I have been working closely with some very good designers over here. It took us some months to get it together, and some of the elements of the cover are special-produced for us. We had to produce the cover in parts at different factories in different countries - a bit expensive. Ice music is something special - then the cover should also be something very special. Aesthetic is VERY important I think. For “Iceman is”, I was not involved in the art work.
Thank you very much - for me also the water inside is very important! It really makes sense.
Ice music is just a little part of my work - I do lots of concerts and recordings all year. Mainly festivals etc. For 2007 there will be different: a high focus on the ice music. We will do world’s first ice music tour: 25 concerts, mainly in Europe and Norway, but also Japan. China is waiting for us, but no time before 2008. Also I am the programmer for ice festival at Geilo
. This is a part of the ice work. Right now I am composing a new piece of music for a brass band and me being a soloist on mouth harp. Next week we will work on mixing the upcoming ice album "Two Moons". Then several festivals - solo percussion or with different bands.
Photos by Knut Bry & Bård Løken.
-- Brad Rose (31 July, 2006)