There are dozens of music festivals every summer in New York City, but not too many of them could double as a carpentry convention.
This Saturday, musicians from around the world will convene at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria for the annual New York City Musical Saw Festival with the unusual combination of carpenter’s saws and violin bows in tow.
When combined, they produce an eerie wailing sound akin to a theremin or soprano voice. Any ordinary saw from the hardware store can be played, but most professionals play specially designed music saws with multiple-octave ranges, and, conspicuously, no teeth.
“There’s no one technique,” says saw virtuoso and subway performer Natalia Paruz, best known by her alias “The Saw Lady”. “Since most players are self taught, they sort of reinvent the wheel.”
Listen to Natalia Paruz, “The Saw Lady” perform “Bend,” composed by Scott Munson for musical saw and string orchestra:
Ms. Paruz founded the festival eight years ago as a way of bringing together the disparate musical saw community and drawing attention to the instrument. Players arrive from as far as India and Japan for the event, and performers debut classical pieces written especially for the saw.
“People always consider the saw to be a novelty instrument,” says Paruz. “But it’s totally capable of being a serious musical instrument playing serious music.”
Highlights form the 2009 NYC Musical Saw Festival:
Every year, the assembled saw players perform one piece all together. In 2009, fifty-three performed, earning them the Guinness Record for Largest Musical Saw Ensemble: