Environment

Ice Ice Baby: Carving Instruments from Frozen Lakes

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Every year world-class musicians, ice sculptors and other artists gather at the Ice Music Festival in Geilo, Norway. Led by Terje IsungsetPål Medhus, and Bill Covitz, the young festival has quickly become popular. Photographer Emile Holba writes:

"This year I was assigned to join the team and document the ice's journey from it's 'birth' in the frozen lakes of central Norway through its transformation into various instruments and finally being played in live performance. This year the ice came from a lake called Vassfjorden in a remote area of Norway. One of the criteria I had for myself was to be present at the point of extraction, at the very beginning of the ice's journey. This meant arriving 7 days prior to the live performances and recording sessions.

Terje had Even and Knut (the two young ice extractors on the lake with me) scouting around various lakes that are up to 3 hours drive time away from Geilo (where the ice festival is staged) in the weeks leading up to the festival. Terje is extremely particular about the ice's acoustic performance. I would never have considered naturally formed ice as having such a range of sound. I was gobsmacked how subtle the range and 'sound' of the each block is! The location of ice extraction varies each year depending on the quality of these samples. Even offered Terje samples from Vassfjorden and Terje went completely bonkers saying the ice was the best sounding in 7 years! (I recall him telling me this on more than one occasion). Henceforth, I arrive with camera and Even and Knut to start extracting the big blocks.

Facts about the ice extraction

1) Each block you see has a minimum weight of 1322 lbs - any heavier and more complicated machinery is involved and that normally breaks the delicate structure/acoustic properties of the ice - hidden internal fractures alters the sound dramatically.2) The longer and colder the winter, the better the ice -2009/2010 was cold and long even by Norway's standards.3) Each time it snows a new layer forms overnight and after a few weeks the sheer weight starts to compress the lower layers and presto - ice music starts.4) When we were there, the lake was frozen to a thickness of over 32 inches5) Once the block is extracted, it is longitudinally cut to remove the upper layers or what is referred to as 'junk'.6) A protective layer of around 10 cm is kept for transit - Vassfjorden was 1 hour's drive from Geilo.7) It took 2 men with chainsaws, 2 4X4s and a tractor 14 hours straight to extract and load 4 blocks.

All of the ice you see in the 'blue' photo of Terje is the same as I shot at the lake, including the ice horn he is blowing into - a very primeval sound! The support columns and the body of the ice harp however are shipped in from northern Sweden as it's acoustically completely dead and therefore required for structural purposes only."

It takes over 16 hours to cut and move 4 blocks of ice from lake Vassfjorden, Norway, 2010.

Even working long into the night. This block became an 'iceophone' for Terje. Vassfjorden, Norway, 2010.

Bill Covitz creating the bass Ice Harp, Norway, 2010.

High quality ice ready for Terje's igloo recording studio, Norway, 2010.

Terje Isungset blowing Ice Horn, Geilo, Norway, 2010.

From the Earth to the Sky, from Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012)

Photo Credits: Richard Misrach

Shopping Cart, Tanger Factory Outlet Center, I-10, Gonzales, Louisiana, 2010, from Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012)

Photo Credits: Richard Misrach

Holy Rosary Cemetery and Dow Chemical Corporation (Union Carbide Complex), Taft, Louisiana, 1998, from Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012)

Photo Credits: Richard Misrach

Trailer Home and Natural Gas Tanks, Good Hope Street, Norco, Louisiana, 1998, from Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012)

Photo Credits: Richard Misrach

Swamp and Pipeline, Geismar, Louisiana, 1998, from Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012)

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