Terje Isungset : Playing With Mother Nature

Terje Isungset started out as a regular percussionist. However, coming from Norway, where you're surrounded by ice for much of the year; Isungset started to use what was around him, and began making instruments out of ice. He went on to found the world's first ice festival, held annually in Geilo, Norway. I caught up with Terje to talk about a band fronted by Mother Nature herself.

How does the whole process work?

There are many different ways to do it. For recordings in the "studio" - the world's only ice music record company - All Ice Records - we build an igloo, we get the ice from the lake/river, make the instruments by carving and cutting - and finally we record. Igloos are perfect for recordings: there's a stable temperature and it's totally silent inside. However, it's hard work and takes a long time to finish. I only do deal with the instrument making though.

For concerts it's a similar idea - to go to a place, create a venue out of ice and snow, get the ice from the lake, make the instruments, invite the audience, perform the concert and then to give everything back to nature after use. It takes around two days for two people to build the instruments after the ice is provided.

Do you help to make your instruments?

I do have assistants to help me, but I always do the finishing and final tuning by myself.

How do you find the perfect ice?

It is near impossible to find the perfect ice, and even if you do find a good place, the ice will be different from year to year. Nature decides this - the way it freezes et cetera. I do have some secret places though. One is luckily nearby - Geilo in Norway, where we have our annual ice music festival.

How do you deal with the extremely low temperatures when making the instruments?

The low temperatures aren't a problem as long as you have warm clothes. The most important thing is that we have temperatures below zero degrees!

Your music is extraordinarily atmospheric - are there particular sounds in nature you love?

Nature is full of fantastic sounds, and all of them can be seen as music! Of course, I love the ice instruments, but I also play on stones, wood, rams horns and so on, on a day-to-day percussion basis.

I've also used the sounds of birds in my compositions - it's beautiful - and I have done the same with fishes and whales - or even some very nice sounding Swedish frogs! Absolutely beautiful.

Apart from the ice festival in Geilo, you'll be heading to Bangalore this winter - what's the plan there?

Festivals and concerts... this year I have played on ice in Bangalore, Australia, Germany, England, Norway, Holland... amongst others!

The Icefestival is becoming more and more well-known - where do people sleep when they come?

Geilo is one of Norway's biggest ski resorts - there are lots of hotels, cabins, B&Bs, it's no problem at all. How do you deal with the constant low temperatures?

Oh it's not that cold - normally around minus 5°C. I bring warm clothes!!