Ever See Anyone Play The Saw?

There are a lot of strange musical instruments out there.  The didjeridu is a giant pipe that plays a barely-audible bass tone.  The organ has hundreds of little nobs, keys, pedals, and switches to create several different sounds.  The theremin plays eerie music without anyone even touching it.

But I have never seen anyone play a saw:

You heard me right.  A saw creates a slight tone when a violin bow is rubbed on the smooth edge.  By bending the saw, you create different tones.

If you live in the New York area and have been on the subways, you may have seen this woman perform.  Her name is Natalia Paruz, the “Saw Lady”, and she has perpetuated playing the saw as an art form.  She has performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Royal Air Moroccan Symphony Orchestra.  She has performed all over the world, including in the New York subways.

You can find more information about her on her website: http://www.sawlady.com/.

You can also learn about her busking on her blog: http://www.sawlady.com/.

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Don’t ban the buskers | thevillager.com

Currently, there is a huge debate between buskers and the New York City Parks and Recreation.  There have been several new regulations limiting where buskers can perform, specifically in Union Square and Washington Square.

Under the new rules, buskers can’t perform in Union Square’s Southern Plaza, or perform within 50 feet from any monuments or 5 feet from a park bench in Washington Square Park.  The reason for these regulations is to prevent congestion and allow unobstructed views of the monuments.

Don’t ban the buskers | thevillager.com.

Where To Busk and Where Not To Busk

Busking is technically not illegal.  In fact, in many circumstances, prohibiting it is actually a violation of the First Amendment.  However, there are a few small rules that must be observed.

If you are in a public place, like a park or a street corner, there are really no laws against you performing there.  Some areas like Central Park may have designated “Quiet Areas”, but in general, the police can’t say anything unless you are disturbing the peace.  So, if there’s a scheduled event right next to you, like a wedding or a charity event, it’s best to take your guitar and find a different venue.  If you are planning to have a set audience of 20 people, though, you will need to get a permit from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Subway stations might be a bit of a different story.  It is a public place, so there’s technically nothing stopping you from performing there.  However, these are small, enclosed spaces where overcrowding and noise is an issue.  As such, some police officers will ask that you don’t perform on the platforms or trains.  The New York MTA offers several auditions every year for artists who want performance licenses, as part of their Arts for Transit program, so that’s definitely worth a look.

A lot of residential areas often have noise ordinance laws that prohibit you from playing.  It’s also not a good idea to perform right in front of a business, as this often has the side effect of driving customers away.  If a local resident calls in a complaint, the police may have a valid reason to ask you to stop.

Of course, different cities, and even different neighborhoods in the same city, have different laws about this, so it’s best that you do a bit of research first.  Also, this should go without saying, but avoid getting arrested.  It’s never nice to see a musician getting cuffed just for playing “Stand By Me” on a subway platform.

My True Inspiration

Now I’m not just a fan of music.  Having studied percussion for over twelve years, I have been part of it for a while.  While most of my performances were part of school ensembles and personal recreation, I still considered myself to be a drummer through and through.  There were many different reasons why I chose drums and percussion.  One was because I wasn’t any good at guitar.  Another was because my elementary school band needed drummers.
Perhaps the biggest reason why I started playing, however, was because of Stomp.

Yes, those are trash can lids. And yes, he's playing them like marching cymbals.

Stomp is a performance that combines percussion ensemble music with choreography and comedy.  The catch?  The only “real” instruments are the occasional pair of drum sticks or mallets.  All of the music comes from trash can lids, brooms, newspapers, hubcaps, matchboxes, and pretty much everything that makes a sound!

The first performance was at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre in 1991, lead by Brighton, UK‘s Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.  After that, they played around the world, from Dublin to Hong Kong, and in 1994, they finally opened up shop at the Orpheum Theater in New York’s East Village, where they have been playing for seventeen years.

What really gave them exposure in the US was the television special “Stomp Out Loud“, a 45-minute television performance that featured many of their more famous acts and aired in 1997 on HBO.  I was nine years old at the time, so I was a pretty impressionable kid, and when I saw this, I immediately decided, “I want to be a drummer!”

You may be all asking yourselves, “What does this have to do with busking?”  Actually, quite a bit.  It takes ordinary things and makes music, just as buskers take any ordinary venue and use it as their own personal Carnegie Hall!  This is what really made me interested in street musicians, many of whom actually perform on pots, pans, and trash cans like the Stomp performers.

Check out their website for more information, including tour dates and performances!