One day I crossed the street and was hit by a speeding taxi-cab. I suffered permanent damage to my upper spine. Needless to say, I was devastated.
To cheer me up, my parents took me on a trip to Austria. You see, as a kid I loved the movie The Sound of Music. I watched it 14 times! So, my parents took me to the country where this film was made. While there we attended a show for tourists. One of the acts was… a musical saw player! Now I have never seen nor heard of a musical saw before. This was totally new to me, and it blew me away. I thought the sound was phenomenal—spiritual, angelic and different from any sound I heard before. But what really appealed to me was the visual—not the fact that it is a tool, but the fact that the whole instrument moved and the sawist’s upper body along with it. It was like a dance! The musical saw is one of very few instruments where the entire instrument moves (unlike a violin for example, where only the bow moves but the body of the violin never changes shape) and changes shape constantly as you play it.
I went back stage to talk with the sawist. I asked him to give me lessons. His answer was a flat and resounding ‘No.’ Of course I said I would pay him, and asked how much he wanted, but he just told me that I didn’t need a teacher. “Pick up a hand saw, hold it the way you have seen me do on stage, and you’ll figure it out,” was his instruction. As a “bonus hint” he told me that the more expensive a saw I get, the better it would sound.
Armed with these instructions I borrow an old saw from someone. It was rusty from time and woodwork, so it only had 6 notes left on it.
A trip to the local hardware store was an interesting experience. The owner was furious about the “whistling” that somebody was doing in his store. He was very puzzled when he saw where the sound was coming from, but let me continue to test all his saws when he realized I was going to purchase an expensive saw.
Indeed, the Austrian sawist was right. I did figure it out all on my own, and I am very grateful to him now, for having given me the satisfaction of being able to say that ‘I did it all on my own.’
I never thought of making a career out of playing the saw. It was just a hobby. But the hobby grew, and today I am the founder/director of the NYC Musical Saw Festival.