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Where's the musical saw?
March 16, 2011 7:17 AM   Subscribe

The musical saw is an instrument with close to a 300 year history. The musical saw sprung out of the Appalachian hills with mountain music, and then it found a home in Vaudeville. Despite its spotty documentation, the musical saw lives on.
posted by rageagainsttherobots (32 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
You forgot the best singing saw song. Three part harmony!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:19 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


and in at least 2 Jean Jeunet movies
posted by edgeways at 7:24 AM on March 16, 2011


Previously, with tutorials on how to play the saw.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:26 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The criminally unheard of Frontier Ruckus has a musical saw player.
posted by timsteil at 7:28 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Melissa Swingle of Trailer Bride could play a mean saw. I remember someone once called her the unplugged Wendy O Williams. Still makes me laugh.
posted by NoMich at 7:32 AM on March 16, 2011


and in at least 2 Jean Jeunet movies

Here's the clip from Delicatessen, I can't seem to find the other one.
posted by chambers at 7:46 AM on March 16, 2011


I really wish this hadn't immediately made me think of this.
posted by limeonaire at 7:53 AM on March 16, 2011


Black Heart Procession - A Light So Dim
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 7:56 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have gotten ahold of 3 different rusty saws from my garage and from garage sales.

Ruined a couple of used bows. . . nary a sweet note. Frustrating.

I am convinced that one would need to buy a specialized saw that is made to make music, not to crosscut a board.
posted by Danf at 7:58 AM on March 16, 2011


Yep. They sell 'em, toothless and sweet. I suppose you could accidentally run across one in your garage...but I'd try a wooden hammer before you ruined a bow!
posted by kozad at 8:06 AM on March 16, 2011


The gentlemen who brought us the notion of cello homoerotica with Smooth Criminal are, apparently, multi-talented: O Sole Mio, for saw and cello.
posted by gilrain at 8:34 AM on March 16, 2011


My dad is a bluegrass musician and a friend of his brought his saw to my wedding. He played Hava Nageela on it.

Yes, we danced the Hora to a bluegrass band led by a saw. That's North Carolina Judaism for you!
posted by MatthewTie at 8:51 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


My dad is a bluegrass musician and a friend of his brought his saw to my wedding. He played Hava Nageela on it.

That may beat out the wedding where somebody did it on bagpipes for awesomeness.
posted by immlass at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2011


SAW: The Musical? Hmm.
posted by haroon at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugly Casanova - Smoke Like Ribbons
posted by meows at 9:17 AM on March 16, 2011


I truly love the musical saw. It's some freaking awesome.
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:19 AM on March 16, 2011


No discussion of the musical saw is complete without mention of The Music Tapes. Lead singer Julian Koster is sort of a go-to musical sawster, performing with fellow E6 bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, and providing the musical saw interlude in They Might Be Giants' "James K. Polk."
posted by cottoncandybeard at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if these saw musicians ever considered composing a song solely with the sounds a saw makes when its teeth are stripped off because Moe has dragged it across Curly's head.
posted by digsrus at 9:50 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have gotten ahold of 3 different rusty saws from my garage and from garage sales.

Ruined a couple of used bows. . . nary a sweet note. Frustrating.


There's a technique by which you bend the saw into an S with one hand, then smack it with the meat of the thumb of your other hand. It's more percussive and staccato than playing with a bow, but if you can do it, you can head down to the hardware store and check out the saws for tone. I've tuned a few heads at Home Depot before, thwacking on various saws, looking for the right one. I posted a song with me thusly thwacking a saw to music.metafilter a while back

Bowing a saw is hard!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


sprung?
posted by kitchenrat at 9:59 AM on March 16, 2011


Mercury Rev - Holes

big saw solo around 1:45

not to mention flugelhorn at 4:15
posted by kersplunk at 10:19 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


tuned a few heads?
posted by kitchenrat at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2011


Koster has recently been performing Music Tapes songs and saw solos with the E6 Holiday Surprise tour.
posted by ijoshua at 10:32 AM on March 16, 2011


tuned a few heads?

Heh, I type about as well as I play hte saw. - tuning a saw turns out to be impossible, thus the turning of the heads, I think.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2011


I find it really hard to play the saw without going a bit sharp.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:42 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's had some remarkable pwoponents
posted by steganographia at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2011


You can pretty much play any wood saw, but the range is very limited. Put a shallow S-bend in the blade, and strike the point where the bend changes direction. Incredible sustain and wobbliness will be yours. Ancient article I wrote for Bizarre Stuff You Can Make in Your Kitchen: Musical Saws.

Julian Koster is a very, very good player. And a nice bloke, too.
posted by scruss at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2011


Eels tend to use the saw every so often, particularly live. Here's a video of them putting it to good use, performing Bus Stop Boxer.
posted by ZsigE at 2:18 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a flea market in northern WI (Adams/Friendship if you're ever up there) that always had this older gentlemen who would play the saw the whole time (I never saw him speak to anyone). It was rather surreal to me, wandering around booths of junk and eating truck-vendor food in the rural northwoods while the eerie theremin-like sounds floated through the air. I haven't been there in years, but I hope he's still around. Ever since, I've wanted to learn more about it; thanks for the great post!
posted by nTeleKy at 2:32 PM on March 16, 2011


Yeah kersplunk! Mercury Rev makes great use of the bowed saw. My own fave is "Kiss From an Old Flame" off their excellent "See You On The Other Side" album.
posted by Hoopo at 3:02 PM on March 16, 2011


Don't just jump in and post your favorite musical saw tune without checking out the FPP's final video: amiina - seoul is pretty magical. The belles on bells! So sweet!
posted by artof.mulata at 6:13 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Singing Saw Shadow Show were amazing. They really did look and sound like this: Singing Saw Shadow Show — Never Mass Cult
posted by scruss at 7:35 PM on March 16, 2011


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