Here you will find behind the scenes snippets, vigenttes and occasional deep dive into my projects and commissions.

Icy Sonic Wonder
During winter 2024 Ice Music Festival Norway celebrated it’s 19th year by performing in Bergsjøstølen, Norway in February and Ilulissat, Greenland a month later.

This year also sees my 15th year providing photography, managing the extensive media interest and co-producing the festival. 15 years is quite a commitment, so I would like to take the opportunity to offer some insight about my on going relationship with the frozen world of Ice Music.

After photographing and experiencing Terje Isungset perform his Ice Music in London in 2008 whilst working with the London Jazz Festival, I became very curious about where the ice came from as I felt there was a story to be told. Email exchanges followed, along with a chance summer meeting in 2009 hatching a plan to join the annual Ice Music Festival in Norway (back then commencing its 4th year).

When winter arrived I made a trip deep into Norway’s winterscape to make a story about the process, skills and effort required to produce the annual Ice Music Festival.

This is a picture rich Journal entry, enjoy.

Left, Ice Music Pioneer Terje Isungset at the controls. Below, a shameless selfie alert.

I arrived on a mid-week evening train from Oslo that rolled into a very snowy and desolate Geilo station. I was greeted on the platform by the festival’s co-founder Pål Knutsson Medhus. Pål checked me into the cosy Bardøla Hotel and explained that Even Rygg would pick me up at 6am to head out into the mountains to extract ice. It was -23ºc that following morning and throwing my gear into a Nissan pick up loaded with chainsaws, generators and gallons of black coffee, I definitely caught a glimpse of what was to come - 10 arduous hours harvesting ice from a lake high up in nearby Ål kommune. Assisted by his friend Knut, we three extracted 12 x 600+kg blocks of ice from the lake that winter’s day. The combination of cold, the diffused light, incredble location (working on a frozen lake, like it was completely normal) and the opportunity to make some insightful documentary photography meant that I was immediately hooked.

Over the course of the next 10 days, a skilled team consisting of Bill Covitz, one of the world’s finest ice sculptors, a hardy group of volunteers (from many different countries and professions, from Portuguese architects - yes you Helder, to English oil industry engineers - yes, you Adam) musicians, artists and sound engineers descended on the mountainside at Kikut, Geilo to construct a venue and install an incredible range of ice instruments. Battling deep cold, blizzards and 2am finishes, the team were ready with a grand venue to welcome a truly international audience. Incoming from the USA, Japan, Australia, just about every EU country, Nordic neighbours, South Africa, Brazil, Russia and China - icy sonic wonder attracted music fans with an ear for the something a little different, and who wanted to venture into a white, moon illuminated wilderness.

I left Norway that year with a lovely photo story, along with great memories made with a brilliant team, receiving super Norwegian hospitality and just hanging out in stunning mountainscape for 10 days. Roll on 2011 and there was a gap in my diary when the Ice Music Festival dates fell (traditionally guided by the first full moon of the year) and the temptation to return was strong. You guessed it, I went back to join the team, with camera in hand. 2012, 2013 and 2014 followed and, well, by every year since...

For the first couple of years, I simply photographed the whole production process, to document fresh venue designs, changes in the musicians’ line-up and wildly ambitious ice instruments - which included a 650kg Ice Harp and 9ft long Ice Tuba. I also combined those photographic duties with ice extraction in some beautiful (yet secret) locations in Hol & Ål kommunes with Even. The serene calm and stillness when the chainsaws stopped was simply wonderful.

As the years passed, I took on additional roles of building the website and managing international media. You name a big network; BBC, CNN, Russia 1, CCTV, ZDF, Deutsche Welle, Vice, HBO, ABC, Reuters, NRK (to name just a few) have all visited the festival, along with countless noteworthy freelance journalists, tenacious radio correspondents, brilliant film makers, intrepid travel writers and the new wave of social media junkies. And each and every time they arrived in person, all were completely beguiled by the festival’s spirit and unique atmosphere.

The festival increased in scale and size, with some years attracting over 1,000 people, resulting with nearly two weeks of work to complete the venue construction. Elaborate lighting and projection systems were employed and the festival morphed into a visual, as well as a musical spectacular. In 2018 the festival moved up to higher ground 30 miles away in Finse and also took on the full time presence of design and architectural degree students from the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design at the University of Bergen. A design team led by Professor Petter Bergerud, who has built extraordinary structures from snow & ice for decades.

During this transition, the festival continued to expand its compelling programme of talks and presentations focused on climate change, hosted by world leading scientists from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, including Professor Kerim Nisancioglu - who creates insightful narratives about the damaging effects of climate change.

Our time 3 years in Finse was also noted for the area’s extremely harsh weather, with 2+ day storms with near national record breaking wind speeds and bitter temperatures, with 2019 seeing our venue completely destroyed, twice! Working in shift patterns with lights to guide teams through the blizzards, it felt more like a scene from The Thing. We delivered the festival that year though (on time) after many long nights. This exposed environment strangely complimented the more intimate nature of the festival, an intimacy with the remote area enhanced by the fact that Finse is accessible by train only. Once the few daily trains departed, nature’s silence returned. This change in location and weather also offered me a different tonal palette to work with.

Ice Music itself is performed by Terje in other parts of the world throughout the year, and in some places he’s known for his musical ice skills before his composition and accomplished percussive talent. Over the years I have accompanied Terje and his small team (normally consisting of a mini ice shaping crew, singer and sound engineer, with Maria Skranes & Asle Karstad in the current aforementioned roles) to a few of these performances, with a notable trip to Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada.

Qallunaaq of Iqaluit offers a glimpse into my time in the coldest of winters on one of the world’s most remote islands. Deep cold took on a new meaning there, with air temperature low of -56ºc at one point (definitely a living a scene from The Thing). On the island for 11 days, I made a story for Roads & Kingdoms called The Sounds of Silence where I wrote about recording music in -40ºc and the local community that supported it.

Luckily the festival survived the SARS-CoV-2 haze, though the safety restrictions imposed during the pademic forced us to rethink and imagine what we could offer with a reduced audience. These restrictions also allowed us the chance to pause and reflect on past years’ many achivements and take time to look at new opportunites, both in terms of location (yes, the highly volatile weather at Finse defeated us) and what we offered artiscally.

Entering winter 2021, we relocated to another remote and fantastic wilderness location at Bergsjøstølen in Norway, where we’ve based ourselves ever since. Alongside musicians and artists, we’ve introduced more conversation and events about climate science (even running workshops with local schools and interested audience members). Our team is ever more international with 2023’s edition combing creative talent from 13 countries representing 3 incredible art & science institutions!

This revised creative focus has proved really successful - so much so, we grabbed the opportunity to develop a partner festival in Greenland that continues to merge music, art and climate science beautifully. Taking place in addition to our annual festival in Norway, the Greenland Sessions were performed for the first time in 2024 in Ilulissat, on the west coast of Greenland and 250km north of the Arctic Circle.

The Greenland Sessions were staged on the terrace of the beautifully designed Icefjord Centre in the town of Ilulissatm, with the centre providing a perfect backdrop for the Ice Music Festival to collaborate with talented Greenlandic artists. With Greenland experiencing the effects of climate change at a faster rate than most of the world, weaving the magic of Ice Music into the local Avannaata community’s lived experience made an important statement about life surrounded by earth’s most precious resource - water. The Greenland Sessions offered an extraordinary experience immersed in fragile arctic beauty.

The festival is close to my heart (and I speak for fellow organisers’ too) and being so closely involved for such a long time is a commitment that is not rooted in commercial gain (the festival is a non-profit organisation) but for the simple art of expression and developing ideas in a collaborative way.

I once stated in a Deutsche Welle TV interview that the festival balances a very fine line between art & lunacy, as it is completely dependent on the climate, weather and creative minds prepared to rise to the challenge of participating in such a unique cultral offering. Ambitious plans are afoot for winter 2025, so watch this space

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