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Sweden's Ice Orchestra Plays Bach on Frozen Instruments Made from Sculptor Tim Linhart

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Jan 24, 2014 03:17 PM EST

Now that a deep freeze has settled over many parts of the world, some daring souls choose to revel in the frigid temperatures by engaging in activities that are only possible in a cold climate.

Just outside of Luleå, one of the coldest places in Sweden, an Ice Orchestra made up of violins, celli and basses performs every winter inside a concert hall made entirely of ice.

Ice sculptor Tim Linhart crafts all the instruments out of ice, carving faithful reproductions of the bodies of stringed instruments. They are made almost entirely of ice except for wooden fingerboards and real strings. Linhart also makes frozen guitars, banjos, drums and marimbas.

Inside the frozen music palace, illuminated by eerie LED lights, the scene looks like a nightclub on Hoth or another frozen alien world.

The group performs dozens of Ice Music concerts a year in their frozen music palace, and occasionally travels to other cities in cold climates. Their repertoire includes pop and world music, as well as classical.

In fact, the group will present their own tribute to ABBA in March, called "Icing Queen."

Linhart, who was born in the United States, came to Luleå 10 years ago to help build one of the world's first ice hotels. He ended up staying--working as a stone sculptor during the warmer months.

Each winter, he spends up to a week crafting the instruments of his orchestra. "My personal interest in this is to make it real music, not just clinking and dinking on a bunch of hanging ice cubes," Linhart recently said in a CNN interview.

By "real music," Linhart means music that is tuned correctly, with actual melody, harmony and rhythm.

And these ice instruments really do play. Linhart says that the sound is both ethereal and crystal clear.

"Ice is stiffer. It picks up all the vibrations. That's why it makes your hair stand on end," he told CNN.

"You might think the sound on a normal instrument is perfectly clear--until you hear an ice instrument and go, 'Ah ha!' The clarity is crystal."

Here, then, is the Ice Orchestra of Luleå, Sweden's crystalline rendition of Bach:

Of course, such instrments are exceedingly delicate. Just breathing on an instrument can make it go out of tune. The violins are suspended from the ceiling so that a performer's body heat doesn't melt them.

But fixing cracks is much easier than on a wooden instrument.

"If you want to glue a crack in an ice instrument, you just take a little straw, blow through it until the ice melts and then let it freeze again," Linhart said.

"With wood, you can only carve. With ice, you can also grow."

You can hear these exceedingly rare instruments only in winter, at Ice Music concerts from now through April. Come spring, they will melt away.

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TagsIce Orchestra, Ice Music, Tim Linhart, Luleå, Sweden, ABBA, Icing Queen, Bach, CNN

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