Arts Desk

The Sleigher: The Singing Saw at Christmastime

What it is: Multi-instrumentalist Julian Koster, of Neutral Milk Hotel and The Music Tapes fame, performs traditional Christmas songs arranged entirely for singing saw–an instrument which produces a sound that is not unlike a slowly deflating balloon.

The bike under the tree: As a devout fan of The Muppets, the guest-Sleigher finds some pleasure in hearing a version "Silent Night" that sounds as if it is being sung by Beaker.

The lump of coal: With its unsteadily oscillating tones the singing saw might rival the slide-whistle for the title of "Most Depressing Instrument Ever." It is difficult for the guest-Sleigher to listen to Koster's interpretation of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" without being plagued by visions of sad clown-hobos shivering in a rail yard alongside a starving dog and a dwindling campfire.

Cheer factor: Zero. Negatory. Practically non-existent. Still, as far as non-traditional Christmas music goes, the ethereal and downright bizarro sounds that Koster elicits from the saw make a preferable alternative to whatever Mannheim Steamroller is up to this year.

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  • Michelle

    Don't judge an instrument by its player - you said: "the singing saw might rival the slide-whistle for the title of “Most Depressing Instrument Ever.”
    Try listening to other saw players. Would you judge a violin by the playing of a beginner violin student?
    Cheer factor: Last week I saw the crowd standing by the 'Saw Lady' ( ) who was playing Christmas music at the Union Square subway station in NYC. Everybody was smiling!

  • d

    Hilarious post. Took me a while to realize I was listening to "White Christmas" and I kind of like it in an eerie way. Christmas goes no wave or something.