Thursday, June 28, 2007

Musical Saw: Natalia Paruz

Natalia playing

Natalia playing

Natalia playing

Natalia talks about how one picks up the saw

Natalia talks about her style of music

Artist: Natalia “The Saw Lady” Paruse
Medium: Musical Saw
Location: 42nd Street Times Square by the S train

Born in Israel Natalia came to the United States many years ago with her parents. Once here, she began training for a career in dance with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Unfortunately, her career was cut short when she was hit by a taxi. While she was trying to figure what she was going to do with her life post-accident, her parents took her to Austria to cheer her up. There, Natalia saw a show in which a man played the saw. Captivated by it’s unique sound and mesmerized by the distinctive dance like quality of the saw’s full-body motion, Natalia decided that she would learn to play the saw, if just for fun.

After the show, Natalia approached the saw player and asked if he would teach her his art. “No,” he said. Turning down Natalia’s money he told her “’pick up a saw, imitate what you’ve seen me do on stage and you’ll figure it out’, and he was right.” Thus, Natalia taught herself the saw.

Natalia started her training on an old carpenter’s saw. Due to rusting, however, the saw could only play six notes. In search of better instruments, Natalia went to a hardware store and began testing their saws (to the bewilderment of the owner and shophands). Having accumulated 17 different saws, Natalia finally has isolated her “ultimate saw.” It’s the one she plays in the subway, capable of playing two octaves, outfitted with a comfort enhancing handle and stripped of its teeth which, as Natalia learned the hard way, make it a weapon worthy of a $150 fine; regardless of what you’re using it for.

Natalia began playing in the street about 14 years ago and in the subway in the winter of that first year. Initially apprehensive about playing underground, she quickly found that she loved it for two reasons. First, having playing in Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center and a variety of large orchestra houses across the world, Natalia swears that the Subway has the “best acoustics ever”. Second, Natalia loves the people and finds the proximity to them intoxicating. “When you’re on stage you’re up there in the lights and the people are in the dark and you don’t really connect. In the subway…you can see the transformation of their faces…it is so nice, it feels like you’re getting so much love. Like a collective hug from the city.” Despite a happy career of playing in orchestra’s, recording studios and movie soundtracks, Natalia plans to play in public forever.

Even when Natalia is playing gigs, she makes the effort to get out in public and has played in some of the most illustrious streets of the world, including Paris, Prague, Rome and Tel Aviv. “I love it because it gets me to connect with the people of the country.”
In Prague, for example, Natalia didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language, and generally felt like a stranger. After half an hour of playing, though, she had tons of friends, people inviting her to go places and started picking up the language. “[B]efore I knew it, I felt at home there.”

Natalia plays a variety of music. Although much of it has a classical feel she plays a of lot original works which her husband composes which range from pop, to jazz to new age tunes. Natalia does enjoy playing classical music a lot, though, especially since, as a saw player, she has the ability to introduce people to it in a new way. Case in point: once Natalia was playing her saw for a group of teenagers on the 1, 2, 3 platform at Times Square. When she finished the group broke out in applause and asked what she had played. When she told them it was Choral Prelude by Bach they responded “this was classical music? No way! Classical music is boring, this was cool.” Apparently it took some convincing before they accepted it really was Bach’s work.

Natalia is active in the saw community organizing saw player gatherings every year. She plans to keep playing forever.

Like what you hear? Check out
Natalia’s influences - Sam Moore (a famous saw player from the days of Vaudeville when saw were popular), Clara Rochman (a theramin player), Jacqueline du Pre (a cello player)

Her website -,
Her blog -,
Her myspace -,

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Steve said...

I saw Natalia on the Columbus Cricle platform for the red - oops, 1 and 9 - train platform, but I couldn't stop. Thank you for bringing her music to me and everyone else. She is a dleight.

And for anyone who's wondering, that was also a theremin in "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys.

You've got a great blog here, my friend. :-)

Steve said...

P.S. If Natalias saws have handles, Ican see how she can "carry a tune!" Sorry, I couldn't resist.

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