Friday, September 21, 2007


I spent the summer battling MAS: Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome. It's no joke--these things are addictive! They're also expensive enough that you can't buy every one you want, because for each one you purchase, you have to plan on going without--playing, yes, but not buying--for a span of months, at least.

I headed into the summer with three: my trusty Mid-Missouri M-4, "Whiskey Girl" (seen here after a quickly hushed-up PUI incident)

My Highland bowlback, rescued from the shop window of a music store in Wisconsin (no picture available, probably because she's an inexpensive import, but my daughter calls her "Baby Oud"); and my Fullerton Gloucester "Two-Shafts," whom you saw in a video a while back.

Over the summer, I lusted after a Hodson Djangolin, seen here in the hands of a lucky youngster on someone's blog--not one of mine:

I came mighty close to buying that one, but backed out at the last minute, in favor of waiting for something in a lower register: an octave mandolin, a cittern, a bouzouki, or a mandola. I've wanted one of those for longer, but just between us, I regret the decision. Much as I love what I got (more on that in a moment), these are rare, and less likely to come round again. Next time, I'll bite.

By the end of the summer I'd saved some funds, finished some projects, and wanted to give myself a treat. And, as it happens, a seller out in Arizona decided right at the same time to split up a pair of mandolas he'd been trying to sell as a pair for several months. I saw, I bought, and now I own the one in the foreground, to the left, in this picture from his ad:

A Gypsy mandola, spruce over walnut, whose luthier actually emailed me--this when I'd bought it used, mind you, for at most 2/3rds of the new price--to ask if the instrument had arrived safely, if I had any questions, if there was anything he could do.

I don't have a nickname yet for my 'dola, so if you have any suggestions, let me know. I'm tuning him (her?) CGDG at the moment, in manner of the mandola player in the Irish band Dervish--getting a bit of a 'zouki groove out of the instrument, playing around with some different chord shapes, etc. Spent about 2 hours last night playing in the new tuning: scales, runs, capoing up to DAEA to see how that sounds. Gorgeous sustain, ringing harmonics, still small enough to feel cuddly, like a mandolin, rather than a stretch to the arm or wrist. Even my wife likes it, sight and sound, and that's worth a lot in this biz.

So why, friends, why can't I stop looking at the Mid-Mo octave mandolin on Ebay now--or, just as bad, this grand Freshwater cittern, from Scotland?

I could do it, that's the maddening thing. I could afford either one. But if I buy one, I can't buy the other, and if I buy either one, I'll be too poor to snag a Djangolin, if one were to show up to be bought. Besides, if I wait, I might never get the chance to pick up an affordable cittern or Mid-Mo OM. But then again, I hear rumors that J. Bovier will come out with a mid-priced line of OMs and 'zouks in the next few months, and their mandolins have gotten rave reviews....

The expense of spirit, friends, in a waste of shame, is mando-lust, in action or otherwise.

(On a literary note, this from Peter Ackroyd's biography: evidently Eliot spent his time on Margate sands "practicing scales on the mandolin which Vivien had bought him." Oh, city city...)

1 comment:

Mark Scroggins said...

Ooooh, now that's a fetishism -- among a select few others -- with which I can sympathize! Expect photoillustrated reciprocal blog post in the near future...

& grand to see you back at last from DC; hard to get "Idiot Wind" out of yr mind in that neighborhood.