It's not everyday you get to meet a "Saw Lady," so let's ask her some questions!
Anand Bhatt: How did you get interested in music? Was it always a passion of yours or did it develop later in life?
Natalia Paruz: My mother was a concert pianist. She told me that when she was pregnant with me, whenever she played the piano I used to kick her stomach in rhythm to the music. So I guess my love affair with music started before I was even born... At age 5 I learned to play recorder, then piano, guitar and I sang in a choir in elementary school, but throughout my childhood I was more into dance than music.
I was very dedicated to dance, and performed a lot as a dancer. Eventually I was accepted to be a trainee with the Martha Graham Dance company, which was my biggest dream. But then my dream was snatched away from me: returning home one night from Lincoln Center, I was hit by a car. That put an end to my dance career.
Needless to say, I was devastated. I have dedicated my life to dance, and now what was I going to do?
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'.
So this is how I was ushered into the world of music, without me actually planing it. What happened was that I was kidnapped by the musical saw - it has become my life.
Anand Bhatt: LOL Kidnapped by the musical saw??? So who were some of your very early influences?
Natalia Paruz: My mother, who was a concert pianist, was the biggest influence on me. Today I am sorry I didn't listen to her more... It is very important to expose children to live music starting at a very early age - it makes a huge difference in developing ear-training skills. I am immeasurably grateful to my mother for taking me to hear the Philharmonic Orchestra at age 4.
Another influence when I was little was pianist Glen Gould. He was my baby-sitter one day and he told me to always insist on my musical vision, even in the face of opposition from people of authority.
Another influence was my mother's good friend, composer Olivier Messiaens. He showed me one can map out music not just in musical terms, but also with colors. This lead to me developing my own visual method of learning music by heart.
Anand Bhatt: What is it like being a "saw lady" - is there much competition in the saw music realm?
Natalia Paruz: First let me say that there are many musical saw players (or 'sawists'), but only one 'Saw Lady'... 'Saw Lady' is my legal trademark, which came about from my work as a busker. Many buskers legally trademark themselves, for protection of their act since they are in public space.
When I started playing the saw, 20 years ago, it seemed all sawists at the time were men. When I participated in my first musical saw festival in France, I was the only woman:
When I founded the NYC Musical Saw Festival, for the first 2 years I was still the only woman saw player. When I started the festival there were 4 other saw players beside me. Last year there were 60. I am very happy to say that the number of saw players is growing, and also the number of composers writing music for this instrument. The biggest problem for saw players is not so much competition, but the lack of music composed for the instrument.
Anand Bhatt: You performed inside a mausoleum! What was that like?
Natalia Paruz: Wild! In NYC there is a growing trend of entertainment events being held at old cemeteries. At these events they open 19th century mausoleums that are usually locked up, and put different performers inside. The atmosphere is amazing. Particularly if the events are held at night. It's not just the acoustics, which is phenomenal - the sound recoshet's from the marble walls - but it's the strong history which influences one's performance. It's as if you sense the presence of the spirits buried there and you connect with them.
Anand Bhatt: How would you describe your music in 6 words or less?
Natalia Paruz: Otherworldly, relaxing, inspirational
Anand Bhatt: Do you have any advice for all the aspiring musicians out there?
Natalia Paruz: Diligence, application, and cheerful persistence!
Learn as much as you can from different styles of music - don't limit yourselves. But hold on to your own vision - develop an original voice and have something to say through the music. Think about how you can use your music as a tool for communication.
Anand Bhatt: I second Cheerfulness! Probably the most important quality of a successful musician. What can we expect next from you?
Natlia Paruz: This month a commercial for the new LG phone is supposed to come out, where you can see/hear a hip-hop collage with me, a bucket drummer and a chef, composed by Mr Green.
A couple of movies coming out in 2017 have my musical saw: you can hear my playing on the soundtrack of David Arquettes 'When Jack Went Glamping', and you can see as well as hear me in the movie 'Scenes From the Underground'.
The new album of singer/song-writer Kat Edmonson is coming out this spring with my playing on it. (You may recognize Kat from Woody Allen's Movie 'Cafe Society').
This month I am starting to work on a music video for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, as part of their 175th anniversary project, the 'New World Initiative'.
I am also very grateful to Malmark handbell manufacturers for lending me a 2 octave set of their bells. My plan is to learn a new solo to ring for a performance art act in honor of Martin Luther's 500th anniversary.
You can follow Natalia @ www.SawLady.com and her Facebook and Twitter.