Sunday, April 5, 2009

Playing The Saw

This 1948 ad startled me, since I had never heard of such a thing. And "voice-like beauty"? Well, I could not imagine that. But then I went off to You Tube and sure enough there were loads of clips of people playing the saw, and saw-playing tutorials. The things you learn on YouTube!

According to Wikipedia there were 10 companies manufacturing musical saws in the early 20th century. And did you know that Marlene Dietrich was a sawyer (as they are called) and played the saw both in Berlin and for the troops in World War II? Tom Waits and Sarah McLachlan are among the modern artists who have used the saw in their music.

Here's a Norwegian commercial for Christmas grogg, starring Natalia Paruz, the "Saw Lady," whose site is linked below. She is very gracious to the grogg guy in the silver jacket, don't you think?And the saw really does have a strange, haunting vocal sound.



Natalia Paruz, the "Saw Lady," has a most informative website, if you want to learn more. And if you're in New York you can go to the NYC Saw Festival - it's in July.

21 comments:

Tori Lennox said...

Somehow, I just can't picture Marlene Dietrich playing the saw. Does not compute.

The Hawg! said...

Never heard of that? Heck, that was fairly common here in scenic Arkansas when I was a kid.

Impressive stuff...

Lara Lutrick said...

I have heard of playing the saw since I was little, never liked it much, too high pitched or something.

Erica said...

I kinda like saw playing, but it's not something that goes well with any occasion -- good for haunted houses and that's about it :)

Me-Me King said...

I grew up in the South and it is amazing the implements that were used for instruments. In addition to the saw were spoons, crock jugs, wash tubs, wash boards, etc. These folks were definitely making their own kind of music.

Amy said...

I haven't heard of playing the saw but I"m sure it's not impossible, people have used other household items too such as washboards...

Ghosting Miranda said...

I am a big fan of both of your blogs. I want to ask you, how did you come up with your idea's on what to blog on. I know you have to really like what you blog. How do you come up with the material that your going to blog on? I just think it is great because it is so different

Lidian said...

Tori - I kind of like imagining her playing the saw! ;)

The Hawg! - Ah, but I'm from NYC, and when I was growing up they weren't hosting Musical Saw Festivals...

Lara - It is high-pitched, such an odd sound, rather haunting too...

Erica - I wonder if they used it for sound effects on mystery-theater type radio shows?

Me-Me - All of which is very cool. I had forgot about those other instruments, thank you for mentioning them! :)

Amy - Yes, absolutely. Comb and tissue paper, too.

Ghosting Miranda - Well, I guess it helps to have a lot of odd things roiling around in my head...I've always been interested in the history/pop stuff that we weren't studying in school...old mysteries, urban legends, Victorian oddities. Anything off the curriculum! :) I try to write about things that just grab me for whatever reason, and try to write to share that, which can involve some heavy editing :)

Relax Max said...

You don't need a specially manufactured saw. Any hand saw will do. It must be held double bent (warped) as you draw the bow across the back edge and tighten or relax the warp to vary the pitch. It quavers too. In the academy award winning film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", starring Jack Nicolson, a saw was played during the Chief's escape at the end, as well as through the closing credits.

Lidian said...

Max - Thank you, I didn't know all that.

Carl said...

OMG!!! Thanks for your post. It brought back sweet memories. I remembered seeing this guy playing beautiful music from his saw when I was a child back in the 60's. I was always in awe because I couldn't believe how talented he was. Somehow, I forgot all about the musical saw after that. Until today, I saw it in your post. Awesome.

Celine said...

The Asylum Street Spankers have some wonderful tunes that feature the musical saw! I think it's a beautiful instrument.

A. said...

We have an ad running on UK television these days with people playing music on pieces of cars. Making music from weird things used to pop up on television with some regularity, though I have never seen anything like the one in your ad, actually made for the purpose. It begs the question, why? I can understand (sort of) why people might find it a challenge to create music from an everyday object, but to make a musical saw? Odd.

ettarose said...

I also remember the saw in One flew over the cuckoo's nest. When played right it has a beautiful sound.

Nancyrowina said...

We have a band on the Isle Of Wight who have a saw player, it is a really unusual thing to hear these days let alone see. If you ever get a chance to see someone play one live don't miss it as it is fascinating.

Heather Cherry said...

"Sawyer," eh? Learn sumthin new ever day!

Lidian said...

Carl - Thank you, too, for commenting and sharing that; I'm so glad it brought back some nice memories! :)

Celine - I liked the clips I listened to, it is really quite cool.

A. - I think that Me-Me, the Hawg and Amy made some great points about how the saw and other ordinary items have been used creatively as instruments for many years...

ettarose - I really want to see Cuckoo's Nest now, and hear that.

Nancyrowina - I surely will, I really liked the YouTube clips. It must be even better live, as you say.

Heather - You said it...and usually I have NO idea what new thing it's gonna be (fingers crossed that it's something good, like this!)

Cookie Brochette said...

I was all set to be a smart ass, but...the sound is actually pretty cool! Thanks.

Cookie B.

Lidian said...

Cookie - You know what, so was I. And then I listened to the clips and was like, that IS cool. But when I saw (heh) the ad I thought, oh this is going to be a good old laugh, making fun of this.

Hairball said...

*raises hand* I too am familiar with the saw being used as an musical instrument. I always think of it as a country instrument though as I believe I first a saw player on Hee-Haw. LOL Yes, Hee-Haw! My father loves country music and always watched the show when I was growing up. *grins*

Lidian said...

Hairball - Me too, I used to watch Hee-Haw too! That is, my parents did, and I have no idea why (they were from Brooklyn and Queens, and had no special interest in country music). Another childhood mystery! :)

I have no memory of the saw on the show, but then it is all rather a blur of straw and Minnie-Pearl's price-tag hat and singing, much singing...