02/11/2001 - Sunday - Queens Life section(G) Page 6
YOU CALL THAT MUSIC?
Yes, say these devotees of very alternative music. Their instrumetns: PVC pipe, saws and scrap metal

By Sorah Shapiro. Sorah Shapiro is a freelance writer.

FROM starched- collar classical music to the quirky esoteric, from the glitzy concert hall to the gray subway platform, Queens vibrates with rhythm of every variety and venue.

Within this world lives a number of classical musicians who have broken with tradition to explore new levels of expression, and even spirituality, through the eccentric sounds of alternative instruments.

Noting that "a newer generation of musicians is finding total fulfillment in pursuing untrodden paths," the noted contemporary composer George Crumb, a retired Annenberg professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, says, "One of the most incredible and beautiful aspects of our lives is pure sound. Any material, whether glass, metal, wood or other substance, can manifest its own secret inner voice, and this secret voice can unlock an intense spirituality."

Israeli-born Natalia Paruz, 27, of Astoria, achieves inspiration through the secret voice of a carpenter's saw.

A musician who sings, plays the piano and tap dances at the same time, she began her career as a "sawyer" by accident in 1994 when she was struck by a taxicab. On a recuperative trip to Austria, she saw a man playing a saw and fell in love-not with him but his craft-and pleaded with him to teach her to play.

Declining, he imparted one piece of advice: "Just pick up a saw and do what you saw me doing." When she returned home, she headed for the nearest hardware store and invested $18 in what was to begin anything but a second-fiddle pursuit.

Volunteering at first to test her mettle, she was soon invited to play at street and park festivals, churches, synagogues and on TV and radio ("Good Day New York" and "The Vicki Lawrence Show"), which led to formal concerts and guest appearances with orchestras such as the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

In her modest Astoria home one recent afternoon, Paruz rubbed rosin on a cello bow and taped a broken clothespin to her thumb to strengthen her grip.

Sitting, she positioned the handle of her Stanley 24-inch Professional Aggressive Tooth Handsaw between her knees, grasped its tip with her left hand, bent it downward and vibrated its smooth edge with the bow like a violin virtuoso, seemingly enraptured. What arose was a melodic, soulful, angelic, soprano-voice-like sound to the tune of "Summertime." "There is something in the vibrations of the metal as the saw sings that physically relaxes the body and speaks so directly to the soul as no other instrument can," says Paruz, who's known as "The Saw Lady." "It's such an otherworldly sound, as if coming from the heavens. To me, this is divine music.

Without regard to the melody and the context in which it is played, the pure sound itself is like the essence of prayer." Paruz can produce an entire composition, classical to pop, with or without musical accompaniment. "The longer the saw, the more notes it will have, and the more expensive it is, the richer the sound," she explains.

Jonathan Irving, adjunct professor of music at Queens College, says, "By devising their own instruments and involving themselves in the creation and organization of sound, these creative musicians are bringing themselves closer to a larger, more universal force, which may lead to a deeper spiritual satisfaction and fulfillment.

"They are in a sense returning to the values of the ancient Greeks, who believed there is a direct relationship between music, math, science and the creation of the universe."

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