2015-05-27 / Features


Natalia “The Saw Lady” Paruz

Affectionately known as “The Saw Lady,” Natalia Paruz has spent two decades bringing the art of playing music on a carpenter’s saw to audiences around the world.

She performed with many orchestras at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. And her television appearances include FOX (Good Day New York), ABC (Good Morning America), NBC (New York Live), MTV (Andy Milonakis Show), VH1 (Behind the Music),History Channel (Tool Box), and PBS (New York Voices).

Paruz’ film appearances include Dummy with Adrian Brody and The Heart is a Drum Machine.

Natalia“The Saw Lady” Paruz Natalia“The Saw Lady” Paruz Paruz’ musical saw can be heard on the soundtracks of films such as the HBO series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, Time Out of Mind with Richard Gere, Fox Searchlight’s Another Earth, El Carnaval Sodoma, American Carny, and I Sell the Dead.

QG: What inspired you to play a saw as a musical instrument?

NP: A combination of the sound, which is angelic, spiritual, otherworldly and the visual – not the fact that it is a tool (some even say weapon) that makes music, but rather the fact that it is one of very few instruments where the entire instrument moves as it is played (not just the bow, as is the case with violins and cellos). So it is a complete experience, both sonic and visual.

QG: What are some of your favorite places to dine in Astoria?

NP: Bahari (Greek restaurant on Broadway) and Point Brazil (38-01 31st Avenue). I loved Athens Cafe, but it closed. Butcher Bar on 30th Avenue is another favorite of mine.

QG: What are your favorite pieces/songs to play?

NP: My favorite is usually whatever new one I am learning to play at the moment. Right now I’m rehearsing the J. S. Bach “Agnus Dei” to play as a saw-duet at the Saw Festival, and it is deliciously challenging. Anything by Scott Munson, since he really knows how to get the best out of the saw (such as the music he wrote for the movies, Another Earth and Time Out of Mind). I also love playing spirituals, such as “My Lord what a Morning,” which I am rehearsing now to play at a Sunday Service in June.

QG: Who are your favorite musicians?

NP: Cellist Jacqueline du Pré, theremin player Clara Rockmore, and anybody who plays ragtime piano!

QG: How did you find other people who also have a similar interest in saw playing as well?

NP: The internet is very helpful, but even before the internet, people seeing me play came to tell me of other people they had seen play the saw. For example I was told that many years ago (50 years ago and before) there was a saw player who played regularly at a bar down in Long Island City!

QG: How did you come up with the idea to found and direct the Musical Saw Festival?

NP: Musical saw players visiting New York City would contact me and ask to meet with me. I was shy to meet with them, strangers to me, by myself, so I said “OK, but let me also invite some other ‘sawists’ to the meeting.” At these meetings, the sawists said how we should do this in public and for some strange reason they all thought I should be the one to organize it. Eventually, when my house proved to be too small to contain the sawists and their growing number of interested family and friends – I succumbed and agreed to be the one.

QG: What do you look for in saw compositions as a judge at numerous international saw festivals?

NP: I look for music that is conducive to the sing-songy nature of the saw, lyrical, and not too fast and not too jumpy. As far as good saw playing: the sawist needs to be in control of the inherent slide the saw has, and of course hit the pitches clearly. However for me, personal style is also very important – each musician strives to develop their own sound, and saw playing is no different in that.

QG: If you didn’t play a saw, what instrument would you play?

NP: I also ring bells... but my retirement dream is to learn to play Irish fiddle.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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