Ice sculptures can get pretty ornate, but when you compare them to musical instruments—where any change in design can completely change the sound—there's no contest. That is, until ice sculptor Tim Linhart took a crack at carving instruments from ice, and the orchestra he created must be heard to be believed.
A Frozen Orchestra
Linhart created his first ice instrument two decades ago in a village in Sweden, he recalls in a video for Ice Music, the name for his frozen orchestra. He carved the body of a contrabass out of ice, and added real strings, tuning pegs, and the other components it needed, then played its first note. "I was so excited by what I heard that I put on my skis, I skied all the way down to the village, and I told them what happened to me and how excited I was," he says. "They pretty much thought I was a kook."
He continued, however, and created all sorts of instruments. Today, Ice Music is made up of violins, cellos, guitars, a marimba, and a wide variety of percussion. Since the instruments would melt in a normal concert hall, the musicians play in a special concert igloo in Luleå, Swedish Lapland, which is designed to vent the audience's warmth while keeping the instruments frozen. During concerts, colored lights glow from within the instruments, lending the performances an otherworldly feel.
As you might expect, there's a lot of upkeep required to keep the instruments playing in tune. As they melt, string instruments go down in pitch—the instrument itself gets shorter, so the strings lose tension.
But percussion instruments have the opposite problem. Just think about the difference in pitch when you strike a thick water glass versus a thin wine glass: the wine glass has a higher pitch because its thinner sides vibrate more quickly. An orchestra that goes out of tune in two different directions sounds like a nightmare—literally and figuratively—which is why Linhart and his team do their best to maintain the instruments despite the heat of the musicians and their audience.