By Rick Banas of assisted living provider BMA Management, Ltd.
Residents of Heritage Woods of Dwight were treated to a different king of “heavy metal” music one Friday afternoon.
Wendell Lighty talked about and performed saw music at the affordable assisted living community that BMA manages in Dwight, Illinois. Wendell hails from Saunemin, Illinois, a small town located south of Dwight and east of Pontiac.
Saw music is created by rubbing a fiddle, violin or cello bow across the bent metal blade of a handsaw. To create the desired bend, the handsaw musician grips the handle of the saw with one hand and usually clamps the other end between his or her knees. Wendell has a wooden knob installed on the other end of his saw.
The length of the saw can affect of tone. Shorter saws have higher pitches. Adding to the length tends to lower the tone.
There are tenor, baritone and bass saws, Wendell said.
Wendell plays the saw by ear; he says he is not aware of any saw sheet music.
No one is quite sure of the origins of saw music, but in the United States it is primarily found in bluegrass and country and western.
Saw player Tom Scribner played saw music on Neil Young’s “This Old Homestead” and saw music can be heard in Sarah McLachlan’s “Last Dance,” Tom Waits “November,” and the Flatlanders’ “Down in the Light of the Melon Moon.”
A fellow by the name of Jim Leonard penned a book called “Scratch My Back – A Pictorial History of the Musical Saw and How to Play It” that was published in 1989 by Kaleidoscope Press.
Here is a sample of some of saw music performed by Wendell Lighty for the assisted living residents at Heritage Woods of Dwight.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of affordable assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”