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Thread: The Mental Musician

  1. #1
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    Is it just me or are we all nuts? I mean that in a good way...maybe.
    I have been playing music for a long time and I have come to the realization that all artist, be it musician, painter, potter, sculptor or what have you, that we are all just a bit disturbed. Moody may be a better term but I believe it goes a bit beyond moody. I like to refer to it as "Dark"

    I have also seen it in reverse. I have seen a lot of people who think they want to play guitar and buy one and try for a while then put it in the closet for the rest of their lives...these people do not seem to be as Moody or Dark as those of us who have stuck with it and play because we need to, it is our release or escape or in my case something I can not live without.

    I tried for a while, there were a few years when the only time my guitar got taken off the wall was to dust it, throughout those years I ended up on medicine for depression and had a very short fuse. Then the opportunity presented itself for me to get back into a band and now five years latter I am off the meds (have been for about three years) and I even smile every once in a while.

    I don't expect many replies to this post...I mean face it how many of you are willing to admit to being a "mental musician"
    Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

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  2. #2
    I'll take it! JGWoods's Avatar
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    The whole world's crazy except me and thee, and I ain't so sure about thee.
    Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
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  3. #3
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    I know that playing music helps keep me out of the padded room.
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    Success in any endeavour is dependent upon both talent and hard work. Becoming competent with a musical instrument requires time and concentration, and in the earlier stages this is usually done in solitary fashion. In today's world, and especially regarding people born in the last 30 years or so, it is uncommon to find folks willing to devote themselves to solitary, time-consuming pursuits.

    Thus it seems to me that to be successful an aspiring musician needs to embody some introverted, seemingly antisocial traits. Does this make them "weird"? Only to those folks who have other things to do with their time, and probably much shorter attention spans. Short attention spans are encouraged by the devices of popular culture, I've always thought. Why read a book when you can watch the tube? Why practice an instrument when you can pop a CD into the player, or crank up the ipod?

    Given the choice of medication or mandolin, I'll pick up the mandolin most every time. (Depends on the medication, for sure). I'll freely admit to being weird; most people I meet would agree with me on that. But I don't much care - I can make my own music, and court my own Muse, and she brings me gifts that sustain my soul.

  5. #5
    Registered User bjc's Avatar
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    I don't know about "dark" but "moody" and "a little off" might be apt descriptions...I think people who are musicians, poets, writers ect...all have to be a little different...
    PeacE
    Brian

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    Registered User CharlieKnuth's Avatar
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    No Grant, it isn't just you. You can include me in that nuts catagory. Playing music has kept me from going to the dark side. Life is full of travails and playing music has sustained me through it all. May we continue to be nuts until the day we die.

  7. #7
    Grasslander B. T. Walker's Avatar
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    Always thought I marched to a different drummer, but I went to a pickin' campout a few months ago that made me question my sanity no longer. Some of those folks were professional loons.
    Brian T. Walker
    Down beside the Alamo
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    "Ignorance is when you don't know something and somebody finds it out."
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    Jason Wicklund DryBones's Avatar
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    I may not play well but I enjoy the shopping and plucking I have been doing. I do know my blood pressure is down and I don't "hate" going to work anymore.
    Jason

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  9. #9

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    i think the creative life is a euphoric and addictive drug unto itself. The Man doesn't want you to be creative. That spells trouble for the status quo. i struggle everyday with it. But fear not, if cancer or a crazed driver doesn't get you, there's always the nursing home.

  10. #10
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Yes, and no. I've met some real crazies in my life and many of those weren't musicians or artists or anything. They're corporate ladder climbers with MBAs and use words like opportunities, challenges, and multiphasic approach to implementation of multi-generational software plans using a six sigma black belt approach.

    I tune those people out and listen to Compton/Long, Grisman, and Public Enemy.

    But I hear what you mean about the creative mind... A bit different from some of the other minds.

    Jamie

    PS Don't turn your back on crazy... you might get a promotion!
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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  11. #11
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Hey, don't call me crazy! I only play mandolin because the voices in my head order me to.

  12. #12
    Closet Mandolin Player Mark Walker's Avatar
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    Man - what an interesting thought that started this thread! #

    I was a 'closet' musician - only playing at church (where no one would throw anything at me) for nearly 25 years. #Mostly guitar, but then picked up the mandolin seriously about four years ago.

    Two years ago a singer-songwriter hired me to play for her, culminating with a CD of original tunes. We did the 'festival circuit' in Michigan in the summer of 2004, and while she was well-receieved (her songs are well-crafted, unique and 'catchy') I realized (after encountering MANY of them) there are a million people with more talent in their little fingers than I've got in my entire body. #(Her included. #She has a great voice, and does an incredible combination of strumming and individual notes using a flat-pick and finger picks at the same time with Chet Atkins-style results...) #She returned to her native Tennessee and is doing well there with 'real' musicians in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area.

    The new Pastor at our church doesn't like stringed instruments so I no longer have that venue for music. #As such, I've not had an instrument of any kind in my hands since about April. #My Silver Angel is on 'indefinite loan' to a cousin who's a phenomenal mandolin picker and a member of a prominent West Michigan bluegrass band. #My guitars, b@njo and beater mandolin sit around the house and collect dust. #

    Depression? #Maybe - kinda sort of. #I'm 'normal' with the wife and family; just have lost any desire whatsoever to play music. #It's like the realization that I'll never be very good (we're all stars only in our own minds, right?) sort of set me back - not to mention so many real-life encounters with incredibly talented individuals... It's gotten to where I'm much happier listening to REAL talent performing music than trying to do so myself. (I especially like hearing MY mandolin with someone behind it who KNOWS what they're doing with it!)

    Friends tell me it's a temporary thing. #My wife seems just as happy I'm not doing music, though she maintains she never really cared when I was playing music. #(Though it IS strange sitting next to her in church; for years she was in the seats alone and I was in the choir loft or up front doing the music... )

    So at one end of the 'mental spectrum' I felt creative and worthwhile; at the current end, I feel more 'darkness' - untalented and worthless... But I DO love to listen to music yet! #



    "The more I learn, the more I realize how ignorant I truly am..."

  13. #13
    Registered User otterly2k's Avatar
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    This is an interesting thread to me. #I work in mental health, and know many people with serious mental illnesses for whom music can be a lifeline to all sorts of positive (and normative) things like interpersonal relationships, self-expression, community integration, recovery of functioning and hopefulness, etc.

    So, maybe music transcends the crazy<-->sane continuum...

    I think creativity requires some non-conformity, so if that's what you mean by "nuts"... perhaps most creative musicians just are... but I'd call that peculiar, non-conformist or anti-establishment (depending on the flavor) and not "crazy".



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    If you're gonna walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!

  14. #14
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    The Music BUSINESS will drive you a bit loopy, .. Cheapskate Venues ... fee splitting, band internal battles , etc... #



    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  15. #15
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    I only started to feel sane as an artist when I finally stepped away from the music-as-a-business approach to my art.

    Since that major change, I feel like music occupies a normal, healthy role in my day-to-day life. I come home from work, sit on the porch, and sing songs with my lady. Every few weeks, my friends and I get together, head down to the local coffee house and play for the neighborhood.

    OTOH: I nevertheless feel very much like an outsider, since the non-playing whole-at-large still views music (and all us musicians) via the music-as-a-commodity lens.

    We constantly argue and constantly ask #... Who's better than whom? Who owns all this music around us? What digital format is the best one out there? Where can I get a ticket to tonight's show?

    But none of those questions deal with the music itself. We no longer conceptualize music as cultural phemomena. It has been reduced to a mere commodity to be bought, owned, sold, collected ...

    I feel like a number,
    Just like a number,
    Like a#stranger in this land,
    I feel like anumber.

    - Benig




  16. #16
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    I'm still confused.
    Is "mental health" good or bad?

    Curt

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    One more:

    I know a guy that is an excellent flat picker and mandolin picker. Once i pressed him as to why he wasn't in a band, recording, touring, etc? He said, "I'm just good enough to drive myself crazy." Wow. I hear that echo everyday. I'll admit that only the chosen few can make a buck playing, but you can't put a price of satisfaction. Playing music for the fun of it, is where the muses live.

    i think folks treat musicians like the old gladiators. They cheer and follow their favorites fanatically. But wouldn't have one in their home. Case in point, my wife says i'm close to being fed from a dish on the floor with the rest of the critters.

    Steve




  18. #18
    Grasslander B. T. Walker's Avatar
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    One of my favorite bumper stickers of all time had a picture of a grinning man fondling the point of a bowie knife with the caption, "Support Mental Health or I'll Kill You". #



    Brian T. Walker
    Down beside the Alamo
    In the Lone Star State

    "Ignorance is when you don't know something and somebody finds it out."
    -- Kenneth "Jethro" Burns

  19. #19
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    I'll never be any good at playing. Started when I was 69 and haven't made much progress. I do ok only when I am alone;freak out completely if anyone is listening..BUT..I keep a mando in every room in the house (yes,even the little convenient one with the reflective acoustics)and pick one up every time I hold still for more than a minute. I dunno why,but it does something good for me. I give up on myself about once a week,but then comes that time,usually early in the day,when everything I try comes easy and I am sailing through licks that usually throw me and I think "Well,maybe". I've been a one day at a timer for 19 years(doubled up on it ten years ago when I quit smoking too)and building and trying to play mean a great deal to me. Highly recommended.
    Jim

  20. #20
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    directed to closet mandolin player quote his preacher doesnt like string instruments ? Has he not read in the bible I quote ( I will sing my songs to the lord with stringed instruments )Time to take a look for a new preacher ?
    Ken Froman

  21. #21
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    I think many of us here, whether we be accomplished players or lone plinkers playing for ourselves, this instrument (or our others) serves our mental health (read as cardiac health or whatever). We play because we have to. If we don't play or create music with our instruments our lives are impacted negatively.

    I know I get a great deal of pleasure out of hearing/seeing pros play and admire their talent and fortitude to travel and earn a living that way (that's a good part of why I pay to see them and buy CDs at their shows) but I get as much/more pleasure out of picking a new tune (even a simple one) on my own.

    I feel for ClosetMandolinPlayer, I hope you can get the music back some time. You're playing for God even when you are alone, IMHO.

    I do think really creative people have a different perspective on the world and I also feel that people who don't understand that do what they do with things they don't understand, label them as evil or crazy (like I did to the corporate climbers!)

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

    + Give Blood, Save a Life +

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    Long ago, while in graduate school chasing an advanced degree in philosophy, mainly so I wouldn't have to get a real job, I remember being aware that a person with inspiration, but no art form through which to vent that inspiration, would go completely mad. Especially in a society as conservative and repressive as ours.

    I had chosen philosophy as my medium of expression. I had tried music, but I have no native talent at all. I was also at the rather odd disadvantage of being surrounded by extremely talented musicians who often tried to "teach" me, which only frustrated from both ends of the equation.

    (By "talented" I mean I was in Bowling Green, Ky. in the late 70's and early 80's and was hanging out with Byron House, and occassionally with his still good friend, Sam Bush, and Mark Meadows, who plays bass for Edgar Winter, Dweezil Zappa and others, Jonell Moser, who sang at my wedding and now has sung for everyone from Ringo to, well about anyone you can mention. Try being a no-talent fumble thumbed beginner with those folks trying to offer advice!)

    After I left grad school and came home to the farm where I could relate to critters I understood, I took up trying to learn music again, after 20 years. I'm still no good, but I now have a guitar, resonator guitar, mandolin and banjo and my daughters have a piano, saxaphone, marimba, and fiddle.

    My satisfaction is that my daughters seem to have real talent. But, more importantly, they don't mind listening to me struggle through the same rough renditions of tunes over and over. They seem to understand why I need to do it.

    I sometimes hope they can get college scholarships with their music, but I know enough people doing the "professional" circuit for real that I hope they don't go that route.

    "Playing with" (if not actually playing) instruments is the release I need to keep me going. It's a vent for something that has no other way out. Well, at least nothing legal... If I didn't have some kind of musical instrument to express (in the dictionary sense of to "release") whatever it is that is wanting out, I would have to be on medications, or heavy drink. I like music better.

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    Great topic! Musicians are an odd bunch to be sure, but I seriousely doubt that other people are happier or saner than we are. One thing I notice though is that those who play and practice a lot seem to get into trouble once they find to have time on their hands- I have been practicing quite a bit on a daily practice (as much as the job allows) and recently lost my motivation for some reason. Considering the pointless activities that occupy my spare time now, Im probably better off practicing! I read an interview with Keith Richards who admitted that he loves to tour because he admits to be very uneasy when he is at home.
    Who am I and if yes, how many?

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    Free Spirit Aran's Avatar
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    I'M AS MAD AS A BOX OF FROGS!!

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  25. #25

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    I think the word for most musicians ( me included) is tempermental. Keep pickin and enjoy.

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