FolkWorld Issue 41 03/2010; Article by Eelco Schilder

Ice Music
But Terje Isungset Is Hot

Letís be honest. I could present the works of Terje Isungset as something totally new, but he might just be doing what the first human musician did many thousand years ago. I mean, the first flutes were made out of bones and drums were made of wood. The first musicians on earth used those things that nature gave them, and Isungset is doing exactly the same, although he lifted the idea to another level. It isnít bones or wood he is using, but the ice from the country he lives in. His Ice Music is a real hype and a new album has recently been released.

Isungset hails from the surroundings of the Norwegian village Geilo and comes from a family where music was part of life. His father was an accordionist and Isungset performed with his three older brothers and sisters with jazz related music, a style that leaves its marks in his music until today.

Terje Isungset

Terje Isungset @ FolkWorld: FW#40

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As a youngster he loved jazz-rock bands like Weather Report and Bill Cobham and since the age of six he was absolutely sure he would become a drummer and got his first instrument when he was eight years old. Until 1986 it were the many sides of the jazz music that he loved playing, but in that year the folk music got his interest as well.

When he was twenty five years old he realised that he was a decent drummer, could play lots of things but nothing that wasnít done before. He made a radical decision and started from the scratch, all over again. He started a search for new sounds and instead of him telling the music which direction to take; he wanted to do it the other way around. It should be the music, the instruments, that tells what direction to take, a difficult process that might be never ending.

His love for ice music started in 2000 when the commission of the winter games in Lillehammer asked him to compose and play in a frozen waterfall. He took the challenge and only used the things the river gave him; stones, ice, water and some wood. He experimented with the sounds those products of nature make and let the possibilities of the products direct him to a composition. In 2001 the first ice music album was released and this year the sixth should be released and the project, which spans over a decade, will end in 2011 when the seventh album will be recorded.

Isungset describes the process as hard work and a continuing learning process. As soon as the river offers enough ice they find a local lake and cut out the ice. With a simple knife he cuts the ice cubes and turns them into instruments. In the past he has created a lot of ice percussion but also ice guitar, ice harp, iceridoo, ice fiddle and many other iced instruments. People who know him as one of the Groupa members, might think that his music is rooted in tradition. Isungset suggests that he does not play traditional music, but that his music is somehow more rooted in that style than in, for example, classical, rock, country music or whatever. He feels totally free to improvise and doesnít stick to a style.

Each of the ice albums have a different character. His last album Hibernation focused on the lullabies from the Sami people and images of people living in the Northern part of Europe. On this album he is joined by Sami Joik-singer Sara Marielle Gaup, according to Isungset one of the few Joik-singers whoís way of singing fits perfectly to the style Isungset creates. It also was an old dream, he wanted to work with Sami singers for many years and finally that dream came true. After concerts in the North he got good response by the Sami people who recognised the natural link between Joik and ice, they belong together!

The next album will be different again. Isungset improvises and his music is always in progress and he constantly feels the urge to take new directions and never copy earlier recordings he made, not even when he is totally satisfied with them. He is now recording a two cd set with winter songs. New compositions for ice harp, ice fiddle, ice percussion and Lena Nymark as vocalist. The project ends, as written before, in 2011 with a meditative album with solo ice only.

Photo Credits: (1) Terje Isungset (from website).

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