An Appreciation of the Musical Saw

The musical saw might be forgotten, but it is not gone.

One of the fun things about noise shows, besides the weird BDSM vibes you sometimes get, is the absurdly crazy equipment people will use to generate a wall of crushing sound. While some are content to detune their saxaphones or attack an electric violin with a pick, the best stuff happens when somebody goes out of the box and into the toolshed for gear-based inspiration.Take, for example, the musical saw, which enjoyed a bit of popularity in the early part of the 20th Century. However, when World War II hit the nation, our supply of metal went largely towards the manufacturing of military equipment, and demand for musical saws went to zero. The final nail in the musical saw's coffin was struck by the dominance of the guitar, and these days a mere three companies are making the things in America.

However, if you want a high-pitched drone and can't afford a theremin, the musical saw is your go-to. Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel uses one, and Kev Hopper of the British expiremntal band Stump released a record of musical saw tunes titled Saurus. And, of course, the above appearance of the musical saw on Home Improvement.