Captain Frank’s Mandolin (Muzak is my Life)

(670 words)

Hoorah, it’s a vague literary reference! Though obviously my example involves killing far fewer Italians.
Here’s another opportunity to educate yourself.

This week I bought a new mandolin, and I am totally in love with it. Click for zoom!

Glorious.

Glorious.

Look at them curves.

Look at them curves!

Dat ass

Dat ass.

Artisanal as you like.

Artisanal as you like.

This was a bit of a birthday treat in the end, as some family decided to chip in (which was greatly appreciated!). I thought I’d buy into the local Italian traditions and one thing that Italians have always done well, aside from corruption and unnecessarily diverse pasta varieties, is music and musical instruments. The mandolin family is closely related to the violin family and enjoyed a great deal of popularity back in the day, though these days it’s mainly associated with Bluegrass (as well as REM) and not widely played.
I’d had my eye on this little beauty since I landed in October and I’m happy to say it is finally mine.

Frank, you are incredibly interesting and talented.

Oh stop.

The act of buying a string instrument is in itself nothing new for me. I did violin lessons for 8 years, I’ve owned guitars electric and acoustic, I’ve had a great deal of fun with ukuleles and this is my second bowl-back mandolin. In short, I have a long history of collecting string instruments which I can only tentatively claim to play.
Also, I own a cello. I always forget about that.

Music is immensely therapeutic. Moreover, it’s something that brings me a great deal of pleasure. Years ago I discovered a bit of a knack for composition (check me out on SoundCloud) which seems to have left me, replaced by a tendency to overthink things. But in that brief period before I started putting expectations on myself in terms of writing and performance, I enjoyed it. Music is like language, it is at once an intellectual pursuit and a means of expression and communication. It can be background noise or it can completely occupy your consciousness. For someone who has trouble coping with emotions or struggles to express it, music is completely invaluable. Humorously, all of that passion, energy and excitement has lately seemed a million miles away in my lowest moments, when it would probably be the most useful.

Throwing money at the problem

Basically.
Since coming out to Italy I’ve bought a guitar, a high-quality ukulele (never had one before!) and this mandolin. Each time I get a new instrument, I play it emphatically for a couple of weeks and unless I find some new music to grab my attention, I lose interest. Which sucks. But this fuels my constant desire for new instruments which, although fun, is a) expensive and b) not addressing the problem.

You’re rambling again.

Yeah, maybe. But as I have to keep reminding myself, I’m not writing for an audience, I’m writing purely for my own amusement, so… meh.

I guess the idea here is that I miss music in my life. Success with my music – by which I mean my enjoyment of it – seems largely unattainable, in part because of the unrealistic perfectionism that seems to be creeping into everything I do, and partly because my regular low moods seem to sap from my body all the will and energy to create, or indeed just to find guitar tabs for 3-chord songs, which is more usual for me. And I’m working on all of this, I promise. Of course I am. But it’s very difficult sometimes to ignore your harshest critic, especially when he seems to be nesting just inside your ear.

What about you? Are you a musician who sometimes finds it hard to get back on the horse?
Perhaps you write long winded blog posts to try and implicitly paint yourself as the ‘tortured genius’ character in your own tedious narrative?
How do you get yourself around that!? I’m genuinely interested in the strategies of others, especially since I seem as yet unable to formulate my own.

More to come.

–Frank

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