Musical Saw Lecture/Demonstration at Lincoln Center

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May 29, 2008
By Posted in musical saw | 3 Comments »

I was invited to give a lecture/demonstration about the musical saw at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. My lecture was part of a series about unusual musical instruments (the other instruments in the series were the theremin and the glass armonica).

Lincoln Cneter Library for the Performing Arts
Alexander Calder’s statue ‘Le Guichet’ (The Ticket Window), 1963, sits in front of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center outside Avery Fisher Hall.

Lincoln Center Library

At the lecture I talked about the history of the musical saw, different saws for playing (regular carpenter saws versus saws made for music), prevalent misconceptions about the history of the musical saw, the musical saw in contemporary compositions, in movies, etc.

I was accompanied by pianist Margrit Zimmermann (who’s hair color matches mine :)

Playing with Margrit Zimmermann

To demonstrate the use of the musical saw in contemporary music, baritone Seth Gilman joined us in playing ‘The Undeterred’ by composer Scott R. Munson (the piece I played at Carnegie Hall last November, but with different pianist and baritone).

‘Undettered’ with baritone Seth Gilman

The lecture was followed by questions from the audience. People asked me about the connection between the musical saw and the theremin, whether I play other musical instruments, about the musical saw in folk music, etc. One little boy asked me if playing the saw is similar to singing.

After the lecture many people from the audience stepped forward to talk with me.
One older lady told me that the last (and only) time she had seen/heard the musical saw was in London at Piccadilly Circus – an older gentleman was playing the musical saw in a restaurant. A little boy asked me how when I put a screw-driver through the hole at the tip of the saw, to use as a tip-holder, the screw driver doesn’t fall.

talking with fans

Right after the lecture I was filmed for an educational video for children, and immediately following that I went downtown to the Bowery Poetry Club, where I performed at the Flarf Festival. This is an annual poetry festival. In it I accompanied poet Mitch Highfill reading his poetry. The theme of the evening was poetry inspired by Google – the poets were to google certain words and use only what Google gave as the few lines on the results page as material for the poetry. Amazingly, this actually worked.

Flarf Festival with Mitch Highfill

The poems are particularly focused on the notion of inappropriateness. Mainly, Flarf is funny. It’s like a cross between poetry & satire, with theatrical elements mixed in.
What I accompanied was a series of poems based on a news story about tear-drinking moths in Madagascar. the sound of the musical saw actually went very well with these poems. How could it not work well, when the poems had fabulous lines such as
“and you hasten to where there is nothing at all
nothing but moth music from outer space.”

Bowery Poetry Club


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3 Responses to Musical Saw Lecture/Demonstration at Lincoln Center

  1. John Ross on May 30, 2008 at 5:42 am

    The pictures in the blog are nice. Great to read this blog.

  2. laurie on May 30, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    wow, what a great lecture.

    and i love the kids’ questions. it does sound a bit like singing–like wordless singing. keening, almost.

  3. Moof on June 4, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Wasn’t there also a short film about you premiered at the Toronto Film Festival the same day as well?


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