Watching Terje Isungset examine ice is mystifying. Like a Nordic Stradivarius, he lifts individual pieces to his ear, taps them lightly, and listens for something none of the rest of us can hear. From time to time, a small smile will cross his face, and he’ll nod to his dedicated crew that this piece has passed the muster. Other times, his brow furrows, he shakes his head silently, and moves on.
Yesterday, Isungset and his team met up with the press at Ace Ice in South Minneapolis to begin work on the instruments for his performance at The Cedar tonight. As it turns out, not all ice is created equal, and the tonal qualities of freshwater ice are preferable to machine-made blocks of frozen, distilled water. Both were available for him to peruse in Ace’s massive warehouse, with the “real” ice in question being sourced from our very own Crystal Lake near Burnsville.
Bill Covitz acted as Isungset’s primary technician and carver, shearing the chunky river ice with the practiced ease of a man who wields a miniature chainsaw frequently. Covitz looks for ice with as few impurities as possible, and his practiced eye easily spotted cracks and snow cavities that the casual observer would miss. Once the block had been broken down into smaller samples, Isungset led us to Ace’s gargantuan walk-in freezer, so he could further test the ice’s sound in a more stable environment.
Using an iPhone Chromatic Tuner application and their own gifted sense of hearing, Terje and his assistant assembled their potential instruments on a highly technical wooden pallet and checked each piece for resonant frequencies. Sometimes using a smaller shard as a mallet, the musician would tap on his assembled blocks like a percussionist on a marimba, sampling the relative tones. During one such session, his “mallet” broke off and with a sheepish grin he announced, “Well, it is very fragile”.
—Zach McCormick, Cedar Intern
(Video by Michael Rossetto)
Come see the fully assembled ice instruments in action tonight at The Cedar. More information here. Catch this once-in-a-lifetime performance before it literally melts away.
Photos of the carving can be seen here: