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Thread: The Mental Musician

  1. #26
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    It might also be useful to think of it as a form of addiction.

  2. #27
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    Sometime in the 1960s, I saw the musical, "The Fantasticks" (which, BTW didn't close until 2002), and if you've seen it, you may remember the young girl's line (as I recall it) "Please God, don't let me be normal". I was a young man, then, in my late twenties. I had seen enough of the world, by then (A lot of world had happened by the late Sixties.), to have decided that, if what I was observing of the hooman condition, was normalcy - I wanted nothing to do with it. "Please God, don't let me be normal." became my mantra - has been since then, and still is. Sometimes that made it difficult, doing the things necessary for feeding a family, paying the mortgage, etc., but now I'm 67, and who cares whether I'm "normal" or not? I've only been playing the mandolin for a little over a year now, and if my collection (since then) of mandolins, octave mandolin, concertina, whistles and flutes and bodhran; the fact that, also since then, I've disconnected from the world of television and newspapers, and when my wife came home and informed me that Israel and Lebanon were at it, I said that I wished them both well, and continued to play my mandolin; that I now constantly listen to the "voices in my head", that not only tell me to play, but to begin building them, as well, means that I am insane - then I suppose my quest for abnormalcy has been a success.

    An old Psychology professor of mine, once said that "Sanity is a nebulus thing which is decided by the majority. Who is to say that the caretakers of the asylum aren't the crazy ones, and the patients, sane".

    For my money, mandolin people are the sanest people I've ever met - even though we are probably, and profoundly, all nutz.

  3. #28
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    Great idea for a thread. Don't think this particular topic has been covered here, at least not in so many words.

    Our local art gallery last fall had an exhibit they called "Healing Arts". All the pieces displayed or presented were created by trauma survivors or responders. The theme was kind of "Work your grief up into art and it is gone". You know- victims of depression, or abuse.

    Anyway, no, I don't think you are nuts at all to post this question. You are right- we play because we have to.

  4. #29
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    I've been playing mandolin on and off for about 24 years (more off than on). #I occasionally sat in on a local jam, picking quietly in the background, but for the most part I played by myself.

    About a year ago, my wife and I separated after nearly 20 years of marriage. #It was a mutual decision; not a case of "he did this / she did that", but more that our interests had diverged to the point where we had little in common any more. #The divorce was finalized a few weeks ago, and we remain friends.

    When we separated, I made a conscious decision to really concentrate on my mandolin playing, and began hitting local bluegrass and old-timey jams on a regular basis, sometimes 2-3 times per week. #As I did so, I discovered that the music was bringing me a sense of peace and satisfaction that I never expected, considering everything else going on in my life. #As I played more and my playing actually improved somewhat, this feeling intensified. #In addition to this, I was making a whole new circle of friends.

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except to say that playing mandolin in a jam setting really helped me deal with the separation and divorce, and I feel more emotionally healthy now than I have in years. #My playing has improved to where I can hold my own with some of the better fiddlers in the area. #Also, somewhere along the line, I made the transition from "playing notes" to "making music." #It's an incredible feeling.

  5. #30
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    I'm not sure whether we're all a little nutty because we're involved in music, or whether our involvement in music has kept us from becoming nuttier still. Maybe a little bit of both? I do agree with those who believe that some amount of introspection probably is a required component of this condition from which we all seem to suffer - and I don't think it matters whether we play mandolin or sing opera: to do any of it, you must be willing to spend the time alone studying your music and your instrument. The contradiction is that some of the best musicians also either have to be, or have to mascarade as, Great Flaming Extroverts. How else would they present the shows they present? Curious that some of them seem to hate that aspect of their craft/art.

    Peace - Jon




  6. #31
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    I think that humanity evolved to support live music. That is, many people need to listen and a few need to play. The mix was usually right; there always seemed to be musicians and audiences.

    Then along came records and radio. Now the world doesn't need as many musicians; audiences can get their everyday music from machines, and their live music at huge venues with 10k+ other people.

    But the players still need to play. So we find each other and play at jams, or stay in the closet, while the rest of the world (the folks who would otherwise need to listen to us) listens to the radio and goes to megavenues.

    The phrase "in the closet" is used for lots of things these days, but I think it was originally used to describe musicians.

    As for being sane or not, I sometimes think I'm one step from the looney bin, until I look closely at other people. The fact that I might be one of the more sane people around me is scary.
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  7. #32
    Registered User otterly2k's Avatar
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    I like to think of myself as "relatively sane"... which means saner than my relatives...

    Karen Escovitz
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    Love this thread... I'd like to add that it's my opinion musicians (and artists in general) give long-winded directions to places too. Anyone else notice that? Might still get you there - but, way too much detail (minus actual street names and mileage...). My husband calls them "artistic directions".




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    Quote Originally Posted by (pat dinges @ July 27 2006, 22:28)
    Love this thread... I'd like to add that it's my opinion musicians (and artists in general) give long-winded directions to places too. Anyone else notice that? Might still get you there - but, way too much detail (minus actual street names and mileage...). My husband calls them "artistic directions".
    I had to laugh when I read this. I had not thought about it before but I am guilty of giving "artistic directions".

    I always thought I did it because most people can't follow directions so I try to include as many landmarks as I can.

    I once got directions from an old guy who must have been a musician...allbeit a stupid one (must have been a banjo player...Just kidding)

    We were way out in the middle of nowhere and I stopped at a little store and ask how to get to where I was going and he said..."Ys just go down here a bit and turn right by the red barn then keep going and take a left by the lake. Then just a little ways down there sets an old school bus, take a right there"... this went on for ten minutes. I decided I would go the direction he pointed me and stop again for direstions.

    As I went down the road I saw a red barn and the road I was on "curved" to the right, Latter there was a lake and the road "Curved to the left. Sure enough "just a little ways down" sat an old school buss and the road "Curved" again to the left.

    When I found where I was going I never left the road I was on. All of the directions he gave me just kept "Curving" by the landmarks. And once I got way back into where I was going and got out of my car I swear I heard "Dualing banjos" and off in a distance I could hear the old man who gave me ditections telling his buddy to "get the shot gun we's a headed for the creek."

    On the other side of the coin, we give long drawn out directions to people but when we get on stage we just look at the other musicians and say "this one's in 'G'" and we all know where we are going.

    Speaking of giving long winded directions, could my post be any longer???
    Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

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    Tempermental?....That's me 90% temper and 10% mental. Alho I didn't learn to play an inst till I was in my upper 20's, I can't imagine what my life and thoughts were before then. Music has been such a part of my life and always will be I guess. I always tell any woman who will listen (do they ever?) to never hook up with a musician. They will always play second fiddle if they do. BTW, music is my therapy. There is always a mandolin and a guitar, at least one or the other. sitting in the living room or within arms reach of wherever I am.

    Jack



    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood"

  11. #36
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    We also play in circumstances that a normal person would give into at a snap of the fingers.
    For instance, I just got in from pickin' on my back porch, in Oklahoma summer weather (it is 9 PM and it is 94 degrees) with about a bazillion mosquitos.

    I also played at a Bluegrass festival when the temperature was over 100. I stayed there all day while I had a bad headache and was almost to dehydration. I could have gone home in between sets but I wanted to stay and hear the music.

    I am guilty of giving long, drawn-out directions and explanations.
    Saving my 2 cents for a dollar.

  12. #37

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    This quote from "Cold Mountain" seems relevant, and beautiful

    "Many a night Stobrod wandered from place to place until he found a fellow working at a stringed instrument with some authority, some genius of the guitar or banjo. Then he'd take out his fiddle and play until dawn, and every time he did, he would learn something new.

    He first spent his attention to matters of tuning and fingering and phrasing. Then he began listening to the words of the songs the niggers sang, admiring how they chanted out every desire and fear in their lives as clear and as proud as could be. And he soon had a growing feeling that he was learning things about himself that had never sifted into his thinking before. One thing he discovered with a great deal of astonishment is that music held for him more than just pleasure. There was meat to it. The grouping of sounds, their forms in the air as they rang out and faded, said something to him comforting about the rule of creation. What the music said was that there was a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not be just a tangle and drift but have a shape, an aim. It was a powerful argument against the notion that things just happen. By now he knew nine hundred fiddle tunes, some hundred of them being his own compositions."

  13. #38

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    The life of the musician is as the seed.
    Out of solitude and darkness springs life.
    Or something.






  14. #39
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    Wow. #This is all a relief. #I really thought I was the only alien on this planet! #It can be a lonely place to be. #(I wonder if "Alien" and "Alone" have the same word origin. #Ha!)

    I'll probably go nowhere musically because I like to play my mandolin as long as it's fun and not work. #Music played at home is the fabric of society.

    I like Woody Guthrie's approach. #When he played his guitar with people around (it being the days when fewer people played the guitar), it became a party. #He became "the band." #No one around said to him how much they liked his playing technique, or asked him what "projects" he was working on, or suggested he take lessons.

    It's bothersome when people look at you when you say stuff, and they give you that look that they give crazy people. #Sometimes I go by the old cowboy saying: #"Never miss a good chance to shut up."

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    Quote Originally Posted by (stevem @ July 29 2006, 20:20)
    The life of the musician is as the seed.
    Out of solitude and darkness springs life.
    Ha, I thought that was really poignant.

  16. #41
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    I have suffered clinical depression on and off for most of my life.(Currently, my phsycologist said i don't need her anymore, and my G.P. is taking me off the Happy pills. So, I am deemed relatively sane. For now.)Anyway, I am a amateur naturalist, photographer, cartoonist, mandolinist, chocolate maker, etc. As far as I am concerned, my mental health issues are both assets and liabilities. I take the good with the bad. My life has its ups and downs, a little more than everyone else, but I can deal with these feelings through music. Instead of indulging in booze or the collecting of many, many, many hamsters. On a another scale, all the relationships with men I have had in my life were/are with artists/scientists/musicians/hamster collectors who are as
    equally talented as they are cracked in the head. And yes, I have read the studies by scientists in the science magazines that say the centre in the brain that develops genius is close to where all the marbles get lost. So, my point is, why are you so insecure to care what anybody thinks about your musical abilities in connection to being considered eccentric or mental unstable? As long as creative people keep actually creating thus enriching our culture, it's no crime to be "different". Better than being comatose.
    You are only young once, but you can be immature forever.

  17. #42
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    The original post asks if mando players are moody and dark. We chose the wrong instrument to express our personality if so!

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by (morgan @ Aug. 21 2006, 14:37)
    The original post asks if mando players are moody and dark. #We chose the wrong instrument to express our personality if so!
    Great Point!!!

    To the extent that one is moody and dark it's because they chose to be moody and dark. #Simple! Period! #I will never understand the desire to live on negativity. #I personally get nothing out of it.

    An attempt paint all artists and musicians as some type of Hemmingway is really pointless.

    Joe F's thread really hit home with me. #Back around December 2002/ January 2003, I just walked out of a 3 year un-healthy turbulant relationship (even after being engaged to this..... # # #....woman). #

    Immediately afterward it was like I was instantantly free again. #Free to do the things that I wanted to do that I couldn't do before like go hiking, target shooting, small day trips to anywhere and no-where and most of all persue music as a hobby. #This..... # ....young lady ehem begged to make it work again but I was free to do as I pleased. #After a taste of finding out what I was made of, I wasn't going to make that mistake again.

    I re-discovered the mandolin, I play in my church choir and now besides, I am here with y'all. #The mandolin is the happiest instrument that I have ever played. #...and when it's not raining, I like to take it out in my backyard and play a tune or two.

    3 years later I am now married to an absolutely drop dead gorgious seorita who has made my life complete. #My wife and I are expecting a little miniture 8_String in the not so distant future.

    Has my life changed? Yes! #Will it continue to change? #Yes! #...but my wife and I are not going to lose those things that are important to us and to our child (i.e. love of music and enjoyment of life).

    You ask if I am moody or dark...
    ...I hope my smile says it all #



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  19. #44
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    There was a nice quote from a Midwest fiddler, whose name I can't remember, on the Buckhannon Brothers' old website. The quote was about old-time music, but I think it could apply to playing the mandolin as well:

    "If you can be sad while playing this music, the devil has got your soul."

  20. #45
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    Does anyone else remember Steve Martin's comedy routine about how you can't play a sad song on a banjo??

    (not true, of course, but it was a funny routine)
    Karen Escovitz
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  21. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by
    To the extent that one is moody and dark it's because they chose to be moody and dark. Simple! Period! I will never understand the desire to live on negativity. I personally get nothing out of it.
    With respect, Keith...
    While I do believe that most people can do a lot to improve their outlook in life (including playing mandolin) I don't think it is always as simple as you suggest.

    There are people whose clinical depression or other psychiatric disability makes it extraordinarily difficult to "choose" to be happy. There are people who are trapped (economically or otherwise) in unhealthy and/or abusive relationships, and don't have the resources or skills to simply leave them and experience freedom. There are people who have experienced unimaginable trauma, the ghosts of which never leave them. And there are people so thoroughly conditioned to negativity that it takes extraordinary effort to learn a different way of understanding and living in the world.

    I have worked with abused children, and with people with psychiatric disabilities for most of my career. Throw in a smattering of people with devastating addictions and some people with advanced HIV disease. In the face of witnessing some of the most monumental struggles people experience, the "choose to be happy" approach effectively blames people for their own unhappiness.

    I'm glad that you have found your way out of a negative situation and into freedom and happiness. I myself am a chronically optimistic person... which is part of why I can do the work I do. I believe everyone can be helped to a better place in their lives. But I think it is important to recognize the need for (and too often scarcity of) good help.

    KE
    Karen Escovitz
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  22. #47
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    Most people are right or left brain dominant. The right side controls the artistic or abstract side of things, while the left side controls the logical or linear. (I may have that backwards, but it doesn't matter.) As musicians we consider ourselves artists but we rarely admit that science has much to do with music. Scales, fingering, BPM, time signatures, etc. are always something that are in our thoughts.

    As musicians we use both sides of our brain, probably more than other people. So we've pitted the left half against the right half. That's probably why we seem different from the norm.

    Of course, in my case it could be because I'm a gemini and am in two minds anyway. Ask my evil twin, he's the one with the goattee. Wait, that's me.
    Robbie McMaster

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  23. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by (otterly2k @ Aug. 21 2006, 16:24)
    With respect, Keith...
    While I do believe that most people can do a lot to improve their outlook in life (including playing mandolin) I don't think it is always as simple as you suggest.
    Karen,

    My only complaint to you is that...

    ...well there are not enough Karen's in the world. #You are truly a gift to humanity with your work.

    However I do suggest that it is simple as that. #We are all handed circumstances in life and we deal with them the best we can. #However there are those that are chronic complainers and would much rather live in a negative manner and gripe about it. #When they make bad choices, they would much rather complain about them and blame them on other rather than do anything to change it.

    I've made both good decisions and bad decisions in my life. #I've thought about each decision before I made it (yes even the bad ones).

    I didn't mean to take this thread in this direction but in short, it is the individual that puts up the obstacles or fails to remove them. I choose to practive the mandolin and every single day I seem to knock a barrier or two down.

    Signed, Chronic Positive Texan Despite the Rain #



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  24. #49
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    A favorite quote concerning blame and responsibility:

    "I believe in cause and effect. I just can't always tell them apart."

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    Keith. I used to believe like you " To the extent that one is moody and dark it's because they chose to be moody and dark. Simple! Period!" until I was injured. now I am one of the people that otterly2k wrote about....sort of,I live in Chronic pain 24/7...oh yes I can take pain pills (and do) but that brings ups and downs and the days that I try not to take them end up being days I get nothing done but watching the TV. It's hard to smell the roses when you can't bend down and pick one.

    But back to the topic...I was a little bubble off square before I was injured
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