Sawnic Revolution

An emerging musical saw scene is setting the city’s teeth on edge.

By Steve Korver, 18-10-2007, Amsterdam Weekly.


‘There are six of us,’ says Erin Woshinsky, when asked if there’s an emerging musical saw scene. And indeed, there seems to be many following the sawdust trail set by Marlene Dietrich—who used hers to entertain the troops—and the protagonist of Delicatessen who played his on the rooftops of Paris whenever he felt bummed out.

Woshinsky, AKA Miss Whips, plays singing saw in the duo Bad Kitten with a guitarist who could be David Lynch’s even weirder brother. Woshinsky explains: ‘I first heard it on a Melvins’ record a couple of years ago. It was such a sad, but beautiful, song. I got a normal saw and made a bow out of a stick and some fishing line. It worked—kind of. But later, someone gave me a Stradivarius.’

Before being given one—also a Sandvik Stradivarius—for his birthday 10 years ago by a musician friend, Wim Elzinga (‘I am a painter/musician/huisvader’) had only heard of the musical saw from Pippi Longstocking. ‘Apparently, beside Sandvik’s huge saw factory in Germany, there’s some old guy in a shack who makes them.’ While one can use any old saw—in theory—the official musical saw has unsharpened teeth that all go in the same direction. ‘Once, in an emergency, I actually had to use it to saw something and it worked, but not so well,’ says Elzinga, ‘with every stroke or two, it got stuck. But I do imagine Scandinavia when I play it—that it was invented by some lumberjacks who just got bored, drunk and stumbled across the sound.’

Woshinsky, meanwhile, sees it as a hillbilly thing: ‘Whisky. Back porch. Saws and spoons. You know.’

Elzinga has a broad saw repertoire: ‘People are really impressed when I break into the ‘Wilhelmus’. I also like to play Caruso songs, all that Naples opera stuff. I was on vacation on Sicily and it was working out horribly: we got robbed, but we bought a tape of Caruso at a gas station and it really saved the trip. In fact, I think the saw sounds like one of those over-the-top fat lady opera singers. All vibrato. It’s really a compelling sound. More metallic and not wooden like a violin. When you amplify it and add galm… Ah, it’s just beautiful.’

Woshinsky has had a variety of feedback to her playing. ‘People react really weirdly to it when we play on the street. Some think it’s hilarious. Others think I’m tricking them—that the sound is coming from somewhere else. Once on the streets of Taiwan, a goose started squawking in time to the music. Another time we were playing under the entrance to Zuiderkerk and someone from the apartment above dumped water on us. And just last weekend, some young pimply-faced cop said we couldn’t play it on the streets because it was a weapon. Can you believe that?’

In December, Elzinga is programming Tuesday nights at De Nieuwe Anita and hopes to get together with a couple of other local saw players. A power-saw trio? You heard it here: not even the  police will be able to keep this  revolution down.

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