The Late Movies: Musical Saws and Barbed Wire Fences

Ransom Riggs

I love the eerie sound of the musical saw, and it made me wonder what other unusual instruments are out there. As usual, YouTube has plenty of examples, and these are some of my favorites. Let's start with an example or two of the musical saw at its coolest. In this first one, saw virtuoso Austin Blackburn plays "Ave Maria."

A chorus of saws plays a nightmarish version of "Over the Rainbow." Don't listen to this one before bed ...

Jon Rose plays barbed wire fences for audiences all over the world. He's even brought them into performance halls, and the Kronos Quartet has performed some of his fence compositions. He's Australian, which seems only right considering what a staggering amount of fence the Aussies have.

Here are intonarumoris of various sizes being played. I don't really know what this is, though it appears to be a box within which some sort of diaphragm through which air is forced at various speeds, making a sound not unlike a didgeridoo on crack.

Sometimes the human mouth itself can be used as an experimental instrument. In this guy's case (update: legions of upset Faith No More fans have demanded that I identify him as Mike Patton) his bizarre talent landed him a gig on a Bjork record.

This guy made something called a "chime wheel" out of a bicycle gear apparatus and a bunch of bells and metal things. It's pretty cool, actually, though it might sound best on a Pink Floyd album.

This fellow created something called the Springboard, which is a one-man-band kind of experimental instrument that can make all sorts of funky sounds.

OK, too much weirdness. Back to the relatively normal saw! Here's Austin Blackburn again, this time performing on Britain's Got Talent. This is fun -- watch him get the Susan Boyle treatment.