Episode 7: Terje Isungset – When the coldness of Ice resonates

Terje Isungset, ice instruments

In the new episode of the Nordics Unveiled, Eldbjørg Hemsing is joint by one of Europe’s most accomplished and innovative percussionists Terje Isungset.

With over two decades of experience in jazz and Scandinavian music, Terje has already made a significant mark in pushing the musical boundaries far beyond tradition. His distinctive artistic works are exploring the interdisciplinary performances of sound and shamanistic rituals.

Crafting his own instruments from natural elements such as arctic birch, granite, slate, sheep bells and most remarkably the ice. Terje is highly recommended to those sensible to the poetry and simplicity of sounds, with ‘timbres’ and ‘colours’ being central in his music and compositions.

Media praises him as innovative, visual, energetic and different from any previously known concepts. Percussion Profiles publication has listed him among the 25 of the world’s most creative percussionists and he was also named the Norwegian Jazz musician of the year.

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“It was years ago, when I was asked to do a concert in a frozen waterfall in Lillehammer. I thought what should we do, work against or with nature? So I decided to work with nature, went to location and started to collect stones, wood and since I was there in the winter I also checked the ice… When I head the sound of ice and saw it, I just simply fell in love and from then on, cannot stop it.

Terje Isungset, The Nordics Unveiled
Terje Isungset percussionist (ice instruments)
Percussionist Terje Isungset with ice instrument

First you need to harvest the ice, which is the most challenging part. But even before harvesting, it is crucial to know that the lake (where the ice will be harvested from) has sound – not every lake has the sound. If the ice is there, I can make instrument in between two to three days. Then we can make various types of horns, ice drums, iceophones that can be tuned.

Terje Isungset, The Nordics Unveiled

If I go to perform in India, China or Japan, we always make the instruments there. Sometimes I bring a little box of ice also from Norway, because I have experienced, for example in Japan that it is difficult to find a well-sounding ice. I can of course always tune it, but the sound difference would effect the music because of the resonance. The range of sound is really big, from a completely death sound, to almost singing. The longest resonance I had with one instrument was 18 seconds.

Terje Isungset, The Nordics Unveiled

Listen to Terje Isungset’s music


Production of podcast “The Nordics Unveiled” was made possible with generous support form foundations Dextra Musica and Bergesenstiftelsen.

The Nordics Unveiled © Hestia Arts AS

Matic Gajsek, Executive producer
Mathias Myren, Sound production