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Tim Linhart

Tim Linhart: “the orchestra composed of instruments made of ice: an experience  to challenge the impossible”

The american artist, founder of the ice music, explains how his idea was born, the secrets of the ice theatre and the peculiarites of the sounds made by the ice instruments.

“ I had been developing ice structures for many years and was looking for a new concept for my next work. I have always loved the shape of the violin and for this reason I decided to sculpture a giant one out of ice; at this point only as a sculpture though.  When I told a friend, who makes guitars, he remarked “who knows how it would sound”.  That question resounded in Tim Linharts head for a long time, until finally taking over his existence.  Almost an obsession this search for perfection “the first instrument burst under the tension of the strings before even making asound. Every winter since then I have created an orchestra with ice instruments which is in continuous expansion. Each year  I continue to develop and evolve new instruments and to refine this art towards its maximum potential”.

Why create an ice theatre?

The igloo structure which will house the 200 seater concert hall, is a building which will conciliate the needs of the public, the musicians and the ice instruments. These, of course, are,  understandably, influenced by the surrounding conditions. The design of the building allows a natural ventilation of the the heat created from the breathing of the audience, forcing it upwards and out of the theatre, whilst the instruments remain in the cold air on the stage. The igloo maintains a “safe place” for the instruments in which the conditions are ideal to produce the best music”.

What is the message you are trying to convey?

“The Ice Music concert hall and the instruments are constructed with same H2O molecules as we are. Wherever there is water on the earth, there is life; unless the water is frozen: ice.

My intention as an artist is to give life to the ice, to give style to the various instruments so that they wake up to the pull of the strings and have a voice. If there is a message that exists, it is the dialogue that the instruments have with each single spectator.

The one thing we can be sure of is that everything that is made of water or ice changes continuously: it freezes, it melts, it evaporates, it flows, it breathes, it grows, it lives and it dies. The provisional and fragile nature of the ice reminds us of the destiny which we share, which is that of transformation. This subliminal mortality is always close and accentuates the ice music experience.

Given the alarming scientific reports on climate change, have these had any environmental implications on your work…

“Yes, global warming is disgusting. I feel it at my fingertips year after year. For sure the warm temperatures have a negative effect on Ice Music. The season is shorter and creates difficulties for the presentation and the duration.

The ice is the measuring stick of how we judge our success or our failure on the question of climate. What the world needs at this present time are new ethics which value the teaching of working together on the elements and the environment until people are forced to change. Ice Music can act as an example because in order that you be successful with the music you must submit to the nature of the ice.

What do you feel when listening to music in an igloo?

“The entire experience of ice music is celestial. Ascending a mountain at night is already an adventure. Entering a concert hall within an ice theatre is like entering a discoteque in paradise: the ice orchestra and the walls sparkle and shine reflecting the beautiful colours of the rainbow. The rules of architecture are transformed by the very nature of the ice: straight is no longer a relevant word, the curves flow towards the arches. There is nothing which looks like a corner.

Many people arrive not knowing what to expect, they are curious but at the same time seriously doubt that the instruments will produce sounds. It is a difficult thing to believe. When the musicians begin to play the audience are delighted by the almost angelic beauty of the voice of the ice. They are surprised that the musicians are able to play such complex and high quality music, in such a cold environment. The entire experience exceeds their expectations.

The definition of magic is something implausible but which exists anyway. It sounds like a clichè, but it is an really a magical experience to take part in an ice music concert. It amplifies the idea that it is possible and gives people indefinable hope. It is uplifting.”

What is the difference between an ice instrument and a traditional one? How does the sound change?

“The term ‘cristallino’ can be easily understood and is a very good description of the sound: pure, transparent and defined.

What is not expected are the deep sounds created by the ice, harmonious, delicate, warm and intense. Ice is an acoustic material unexpectedly diverse, the more you explore it, the more you discover. This is just the beginning of the journey.”

What are the impressions of the musicians after having played in such a unique location?

“The musicians are put to the test by having to adapt their musical talent to what is for them an unknown environment. The position, the temperature, the clothing, the ice instruments, the setting up. Everything is super-exotic and it takes a few days to get used to. They have to earn their place in the world of Ice Music.

The musicians are amazed by how highly efficient the instruments are and are surprised that they have no difficulty in playing them. ‘Wow it is a real instrument’ is just one of the comments often heard.

Over the years we have seen how the musicians go beyond the limits of what they imagined on arrival, and how they give a magnificent spectacle. They are enchanted by the whole experience and are very proud of their efforts. Without exception the musicians say that these concerts are the ‘coolest’ and most exotic in which they have taken part: a very experienced Swedish ice-cellist observed that he often has a drop falling from his nose while he is playing the cello”.

Tim Linharts biography

Tim Linhart is an american artist, the founder of Ice Music and has 36 years of experience working with ice, behind him.

He grew up in New Mexico and has always loved the winter and skiing. One winter not being able to afford a ski pass, he made an arrangement with the manager of a ski resort: ice statues in return for a ski pass. Linhart created many sculptures, experimenting with various techniques.  This is how he discovered how ice would be the material he would work with in his life.

He realised that ice could emit sounds and went on to create instruments, which in turn gave life to Ice Music. His first orchestra of cellos was formed in Coloradfo. From that first experience he has constructed 16 entire orchestras with 20 different instruments: violin, cello, viola, double bass, banjo, mandolin, guitar, drums, xylophone, pan pipes and some other percussion instruments.