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dancer Sergei Polunin

The amazing Siberian ice orchestra playing on the world's deepest lake

By The Siberian Times reporter
30 December 2012

This evocative melody is literally the sound of Nature as a group of Russian percussionists make music on the frozen waters of breathtaking Lake Baikal.

Check it out - the world's purest ice! Efim Viktorov, 21, filmed during group's ice gig. Picture: Etnobit group
In minus 20C, they found by pure chance that the one metre thick ice has a distinctive and haunting rhythm all of its own, the coolest music on earth. We all know New Wave music, but this is Frozen Wave, with the tune made from tapping the ice-bound water of the 25 million year old lake, the oldest and deepest on the planet.

'It was the most fantastic experience I have ever had - and a very personal one',  said Irkutsk architect Natalya Vlasevskaya, 31, a mother-of-one and organiser of Etnobit percussion group.

'I felt like we were playing on the drums that Nature has left out for us, alone under the sun on the frozen waters of the world's most magnificent lake.'

How did they realise they could make their own Coldplay on Baikal? 

'The wife of one of our drummers, Sergei Purtyan, slipped and fell down, and as she landed on the ice, she made a very musical 'boooooom' sound -  so nice and deep that her husband, who has a very good ear, said 'Hold on, what was it? How did you make that noise?'

World's coolest music

'I will always remember the first feeling. You see your hand touching the ice, you hear the sound, but your mind just can't take it in. You cannot believe that, yes, this beautiful clear sound is indeed produced by ice. Picture: Etnobit group

'She laughed but then got curious, too, and they started touching and drumming on the bits of ice, realising it was making a melody. He recorded it on the phone, got back to Irkutsk and let us listen, asking if we might want to go together to the same spot and try and record our ice drumming. 

'Of course we wanted it! Never mind that it was a six hour drive to that particular spot close to the island of Olkhon. So we all got together and set off a day in advance, arriving late on Friday night. 

'We woke up on Saturday, walked across the thick ice to the spot which was some 50 metres from the shore. It was a magnificent day, very pleasant and sunny, the air still with a temperature of minus 20C.

'So we walked to the same spot where Tatiana, our drummer's wife, fell down so fortuitously, and started touching the ice, feeling how it sounded'.

In fact, for some reason, the ice in other parts of the lake does not produce the same stunning results. While Baikal is 1,642 metres (5,387 feet) deep, in this part of the lake there is only five metres or so of water under them as they perform. 

World's coolest music

'It was the most fantastic experience I have ever had - and a very personal one',  said Irkutsk architect Natalya Vlasevskaya, 31, a mother-of-one and organiser of Etnobit percussion group. Picture: Etnobit group

'I will always remember the first feeling,' said Natalya. 

'You see your hand touching the ice, you hear the sound, but your mind just can't take it in.

'You cannot believe that, yes, this beautiful clear sound is indeed produced by ice. 

'We played and played, with the camera on, for about two hours. The sun was high, and we even got hot because it reflected from the ice. 

'As you know, the fresh air helps stimulate the appetite, plus we had our children with us,  so we went for a lunch break, aiming to watch our performance as we ate'.

But they had forgotten to press the 'record' button - so they had to go back and repeat the exercise. 

World's coolest music


World's coolest music


World's coolest music

'People later asked us how we found the spot where different bits of ice sounded so much in harmony with each other. The answer is, I don't know. This is  just how was, as if arranged by some magic conductor'. Pictures: Etnobit group

'In fact, we were lucky to have another ice session together - and this time, given that it was the second attempts, we tried things like breaking large bits of ice. People later asked us how we found the spot where different bits of ice sounded so much in harmony with each other.

'The answer is, I don't know. This is  just how was. This is perhaps what I mean by saying about it being the wonder of Nature, that all we had to do was to discover that place, get there, and start playing. 

'Everything else was ready, arranged for the most perfect harmonious sound - as if by some magical conductor'.

World's coolest music

World's coolest music

'The wife of one of our drummers, Sergei Purtyan, slipped and fell down, and as she landed on the ice, she made a very musical 'boooooom' sound -  so nice and deep that her husband, who has a very good ear, said 'Hold on, what was it? How did you make that noise?' Pictures: Etnobit group

The group - comprising Natalya, her husband Alexei Vlasevskiy, 34, Efim Viktorov, 21, Tatiana Epifantseva, 41, and Anna Isaikina 25, all from Irkutsk - have won plaudits for their recital, though not everyone agrees.

'Some people with several musical educations came to say that we were just fooling people, and it was all made up, which is not true', she said.  

'Still, I understand precisely why not everyone could believe it was for real.

'When I first realised Baikal's musical potential I, too, well remember the feeling on overwhelming excitement and joy - but also disbelief'.

* The Siberian Times sincerely thanks Alexander Dubynin from Novosibirsk Scientific Centre (Akademgorodok) and his scientific blog http://eureka-info.ru for putting us in touch with 'Etnobit' group. 

Listen to the World's Coolest Music: 


Comments (17)

Inspiring!!!
Avar, Estonia
19/01/2014 22:11
0
Thank you! Beautiful!
Lilly, New York USA
02/12/2013 02:25
2
I frequent a forum about handpans (pantams); that's where I shared your ice-playing. You percussionists might be interested in reading on the forum: http://handpan.org/forum. Here is my mention of your playing and this site: http://www.handpan.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=9295&p=90261#p90258. You people would play beautiful music on handpans - pantams - and one of the greatest makers is in Russia (Victor Levinson)
CarolW, Canada
03/06/2013 13:31
2
I saw this about a year ago, but lost the YouTube link - was reminded of it this evening, and went looking, and finally found the YouTube video again. This is a most BEAUTIFUL performance by very fine musicians - not to mention the lovely instrument - the lake! Thank you ever so much for the discovery, the playing, and the post!
CarolW, Canada
03/06/2013 13:21
2
wonderful and I have never seen lake ice in crystalin form
richard denston, canada
14/01/2013 07:24
3
I think it's possible. If you've ever heard a frozen lake thawing in spring, it makes incredible musical notes and vibrations.
Mags, US
08/01/2013 22:28
9
Ice - i mean ace. awesome sound
Brad, Florida
05/01/2013 00:39
9
HOAX!

As a percussionist, it sounds to much like an actual hand drum. How it vibrates. Also, the acoustics of the sound.. there are no mics near the ice as far as I can tell. They are outdoors, so even if it did produce the sound that they are claiming, it would sound way different from it being outdoors, I think. I don't think it would sound exactly like a hand drum, as it does, but rather just make a slapping sound, if anything.. but probably not much vibration at all.
Human, EARTH
03/01/2013 21:37
4
THAT'S THE AWESOMENESS OUR GOD.
Simon Emeje, Idah, Nigeria.
02/01/2013 23:08
3
Ребята, вы круты! Слушаю вас все утро, и рассказываю друзьям. Молодцы
Елена, Тюмень
02/01/2013 11:22
8
This is just superb!! I gonna definitely go to Siberia after watching this, and I'd like to take my friends with me
Tomas, Israel
02/01/2013 11:17
10
great idea. Thank you for sharing with us and Happy New Year!
Galina, Tyumen
01/01/2013 14:23
10
They ought to produce a music video or some such thing. They could make proper ice drums, maybe even an ice digeridoo. The possibilities would seem endless.
Philip, UK
31/12/2012 19:19
14
you guys are cool!
Steve , Australia
31/12/2012 09:28
16
i just love them - thank you so much for writing about them. Lake Baikal looks divine, and these guys are simply genious
Margarita, Spain
31/12/2012 01:47
16
12

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