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Psyche 1001 Case Study #53

Copyright 1986 by Bruce Jaeger. All rights reserved.   Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, August 1986

(NOTE TO STUDENTS: This is another case from the notebooks of the noted Iron Range Psychiatrist, Dr. Sigurd Freudson. The patient, "Dick" (last name withheld), is a giant of a man, and in fact used to be an NFL linebacker.)

Dr. Freudson: (as Dick ducks his head and enters the Doctor's study): Good afternoon, Mr. __________.

Dick: Hello, Doctor.

Doctor: What brings you in to consult with me?

Dick: I've got a kind of musical problem, Doctor

Doctor. Oh, a musician!

Dick: Yeah, I play the . . .

Doctor: No, wait, don't tell me, let me guess. Let's see . . . About six foot five, two hundred and sixty pounds; hands the size of a pot roast and fingers like bratwursts . . . I got it! You're a mandolin player!

Dick: Say! How'd you guess?

Doctor. It just seems to work that way; the smallest person in a bluegrass band always seems to play the bass, and the big brontos like you always play the teeny little mandolin. Well all that aside, what's your problem, Dick?

Dick: Every time it comes my turn to play, I always speed the song up . . .

Doctor: (Interrupting) Now 1 KNOW you're a mandolin player!

Dick: (continuing) . . . and I can't seem to control it! All our band's songs have three tempos: The one we start with, the fast one when I play, and the ragged mess we have when my break's over and the bass player drags it down again.

Doctor. Hmmm... Do I detect a bit of hostility to the bass player?

Dick: Nah, the banjo player's a slowdown jerk, too. And the guitar player-can you believe this-instead of speeding up to catch up with me, he actually plays the original tempo to try and force me back into it?

Doctor. Dear me!

Dick: Okay, okay. Who am I to complain about someone changing the tempo?

Doctor: Well, I have to admit that the pot in this case looks just as black as the kettle. Have you tried practicing with a metronome?

Dick: Sure. And I can play along with it perfectly! It's when things on stage get exciting that I, well, I guess I just go crazy a little bit . . .

Doctor: And kind of sway with the music? Swing your head? Play real hard and fast? Drool a little bit, perhaps?

Dick: How'd you know that?

Doctor: I bought an old Lloyd Loar from a Shriner's widow back in 58.

Dick: No foolin'?

Doctor: No fooling. So you see, Mr. _________, I have a pretty good understanding of your situation...

Dick: You mean you speed up songs too, Doe?

Doctor. 1 prefer to think of it as "put the tempo up there where it's supposed to be." Your problem, Dick, is not the one you came here for.

Dick: Howzat?

Doctor: You came in here complaining of a "speed up" problem, but your REAL problem is with that slow-poke bunch of stiffs you play with!

Dick: You mean . . .

Doctor: Right. You're doing the mandolinist's job to perfection! Even the biggest bluegrass know-it-all in town--you know, the guy that carries around a prewar Gibson 5-string flathead but can't play a note--will tell you that the mandolin should "play ahead of the beat just a touch!" Well, we mandolin players are just doing our part to make bluegrass the exciting music it is!

Dick: You mean I'm right and they're wrong?

Doctor: Of course! Oh, I dare say that some chronic complainers will whine about "keeping the tempo" and rubbish of that nature, but ignore them! Push that beat up! And when your break's over, use our secret weapon...

Dick: You mean THE CHUNK?

Doctor: Yes, the loudest sound known to musical man, the Mandolin Chunk. Give 'em the full double-charged canister-and-grape mighty-wristed CHUNK. THAT’LL keep the beat up where you want it!

Dick: Yeah, and it'll cover that damned wimpy Dobro chunk . . .

Doctor: Easy! No need to be vindictive! With all the power of the mandolin comes vast responsibilities! No more abusing the fiddle player and calling him "Poindexter" because he spent his adolescence playing violin. No more calling the soundman "Mr. Feedback" just because he blew out the tweeters in the first set. No more . . .

(DOCTOR'S NOTE: With Mr. _____________'s problem solved, the conversation at this point drifted away into the more philosophical aspects of Oneness and the mandolin. Students should note, however, that the problem a patient complains of is often not the problem he suffers from.)


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