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Sculpted Ice Cello for Charlotte Moorman

Ice Music by Jim McWilliams

Charlotte Moorman performed the piece Ice Music by Jim McWilliams seven times during the 1970s.

McWilliams did not give specific directions about the construction of the cello. He told her to make a full-size cello from ice, play it (in the nude) until it melted, wearing only a garland of fresh flowers around her neck.

Sculpted Ice Cello – No More Ice Cube Cellos!

After the first performance of Ice Music for London on a blob-like cello made of ice cubes, Moorman hired ice sculptors to make her instruments. Sometimes she provided them with a paper template to use.

Yellow Ice Music for Washington

This ice cello was placed in front of the Harold Rivkin Gallery in Washington, D.C., before her 1973 performance of Yellow Ice Music for Washington by Jim McWilliams.

It is not clear if she used this instrument or not, but likely this was a publicity ice cello, rather than a performance ice instrument – one to draw the audience to the concert.

This shows a much more cello-like shape than the original blob of ice cubes.

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  • Charlotte Moorman Archive, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library.
  • Rothfuss, Joan. Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman. The MIT Press, 2014, 276-79.

Charlotte Moorman

Madeline Charlotte Moorman (18 November 1933 – 8 November 1991), from Little Rock, Arkansas, was a classically trained American cellist, student of Leonard Rose, and graduate of Julliard. She is often called "The Topless Cellist" and is known as a performance artist and advocate for avant-garde music.

Jim McWilliams

Jim McWilliams (born February 10, 1937) is an American artist and graphic designer who was active as an avant-garde performer and composer during the 1960s and 1970s.

After 1966, McWilliams's artworks and performances were often realized in collaboration with Moorman. He composed numerous works for her, including Ice Music (1972), in which she used a file, a saw, a long strip of plexiglass, and other tools to play a cello made of ice until it melted.