Faculty Member Creates Cool Sculpture to Celebrate 'ICE'

March 05, 2015

Sometimes it's hard to find a reason to get outside during a Boston winter (especially this year). With feet of snow and below-freezing temperatures, most artists limit their creative ventures to the inside of studios, theaters and practice rooms until the usual signs of Spring. But this week, Boston Conservatory faculty member John Murphree found a reason to get outside—to create a marimba out of ice.

Murphree built the playable ice instrument on Thursday, March 5 to celebrate the residency of guest artist, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), which is in-residence at the Conservatory until March 7. With a mission to push the boundaries of music and reshape how music is created and experienced, the ensemble is modularly comprised of 35 acclaimed instrumentalists from all over the world. It seems like the perfect time to push the boundaries of what composes a traditional instrument.

How did you get started with ice sculpture instruments?
Murphree: This is only my second one. I've made many percussion instruments and the principles are the same, but here the materials are a little cooler. 

What have you made in the past?
M: In 2009 I made an ice xylophone for the Chisels and Chainsaws ice sculpture competition (pictured above).

What is the most challenging thing about making these ice instruments?
M: The first time we made one we were just winging it. This time I want to try to improve on the process. Making sure the chainsaw cuts are right will be the most difficult part because I want the walls to be thin but not to crack. 

What do you need to do to make it a 'playable' instrument?
M: It needs a resonating chamber, made from ice, resonating bars and mallets in order to be playable. It will work fine acoustically by itself, but I'll put a couple of microphones in it as well to play with electronic effects. All students and visitors are invited to play it.