Flexibility and Freedom in Design
Ice artist Bill Covitz had been making ice cellos for about 15 years. He has made 10 to 12 instruments, each differing slightly from the next.
Working with ice gives him the flexibility to be creative and experiment with the shapes and sizes of the instruments.
He collaborates with artists to personalize each instrument. He aims to create instruments to match the ideas in the minds of the performers.
Construction of the Cellos
If he has everything he needs on site, he can make a cello in four to five hours. Covitz says the biggest challenge is working with Mother Nature, because she’s 100% unpredictable.
He makes the bodies of the cellos from ice and uses wooden necks and fingerboards. He adds extra ice at the bottom of the cello and a metal rod to hold the instrument in place.
Sometimes he has to add a piece of wood between the ice and the tailgut, depending on the temperature.
Temperature Makes a Difference
Temperature has a dramatic effect on the instruments. If it is really cold, then you can get the top of the cello to vibrate, and you get more sound from the instrument.
Warmer temperatures suck the vibrations into the ice.
The instruments become fragile at either extreme. Performers cannot practice too much once the instrument feels right to them – or the instrument will warm up and change again.
Covitz explains that this is part of the challenge, and also part of the fun.
Expect Nothing – This is an Experience
Covitz says that every musician who comes to play the ice instruments is told not to have preconceived notions – to have no expectations at concerts.
Working with ice instruments is an experience for both the maker and the player. Covitz says:
It’s all about the experience.
Listen to Ice Cellos
These two videos show two cellos with very different body shapes. Please note: the cello plays a bigger part toward the end of the 2nd video.
Contact Bill Covitz
Visit the Ice Matters website for more information and to contact Bill Covitz.
- Ice Music, icematters.net/IceMattersIceMusic.html.
- Phone interview with Bill Covitz.