Made On Earth — Ice Music

Craft & Design


“I go up to a very high place in the mountains. In the shadows next to a stream I set up my little workshop under a couple of tarps,” says, Taos, N.M. ice-instrument maker Tim Linhart.

While Linhart creates his fully functioning 14-piece ice orchestra, his wife, Birgitta Linhart, oversees construction of the Celestial Sphere concert hall — a complex of giant igloos with holes at the top for audience and performers’ body heat to escape.

“We make the orchestra, concert hall, install laser lighting and the sound system, and are putting on music six weeks after we start … it’s a super explosive time frame,” Tim explains.

Unlike other makers who carve instruments from blocks of ice, Linhart uses an additive method to create many of his. (His giant xylophones and a few structural components are exceptions.) He packs a slush of snow and water onto various forms in the shape of drums, pipes, and his ingenious Rolandophone (a unique “compression instrument” that’s a sort of hybrid marimba, drum, and pipe organ). When the slush hardens, it becomes a “white ice” shell, which is then separated from the form.

Linhart’s hand-sculpted stringed instruments have standard necks and a strip of wood running down their bodies. They are delicate; the ice is shaved very thin so that it’s vulnerable and flexible under the tension of the strings. “It’s like playing chicken with an explosion: the closer you get to beautiful sound, the closer you are to the explosion.”

Other makers let their ice instruments melt away, but Linhart takes another approach.

“All the players can hammer their favorite instrument to bits. … There’s a joy in destroying perfection. It’s only ice — it’ll come back next year.”

Celestial Concert:

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