Music, Social Media and Mental Bandwidth

Writing music requires a lot of brain space. I’ve spent hours of my life carefully crafting single musical phrases, only to throw them out, start over, spend hours crafting new ones, only to throw those out and end up back where I started.

The same can be said for performing and teaching. Music is equal parts creative and tedious work, and it can be mentally exhausting. There’s also the self-doubt musicians go through, the ups and downs that come with baring our souls for the world to see. It’s more than exhausting. It can be absolutely draining.

In 2018, this is all compounded by the expectation to literally bare our lives for the world to see on social media. To spend hours writing, practicing and teaching a piece of music is no longer enough. Creating audio and video representations of our work is not enough either. 2018 wants more from us, and honestly, I can’t keep up.

I write this as someone who has benefited greatly from social media, but also as someone who creates music as my craft and my work. I worry that the work is being replaced by something that has less to do with music and more to do with something else.

Back in 2013, I enjoyed sharing my music on social media. It required much less time and brain space than it does today. I could video record a performance, put it online, let people know about it, and move on. Today, my singular Facebook post about a new project has turned into a ten part Instagram mini-series leading up to the announcement of said project, which leads to another series of posts leading up to the release of said project, followed by post-project posts and subsequent TBT’s of said project. I need to create daily stories to document all of the stuff between my posts, from practice sessions to meals, and pick just the right filters to curate my moments. I need to analyze which posts are getting likes and which ones aren’t and adjust accordingly. I need to interact with influencers who can help promote my project, find old photos to post when I feel anxious about not generating enough content, and generally, be connected on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

On top of all of that, I have to do the actual work of working on my craft. And more importantly, there’s the time and energy it takes to be a good husband, a good father, and a good human.

There are people who can juggle all of this stuff and do it really well, but I personally don’t have the mental bandwidth to balance it all, and I’m ok with that. I’m ok with writing music and keeping to myself for a while. I’m ok with family time with just the family. I’m ok with a little less social media if it means more brain space for the things that matter most to me.

If you’re a musician struggling to keep up with 2018, there is an alternative. Put down your phone and get good. Get really good. Get so good at your creative work that people are posting about you on their social media. Get so good that hours of practice, creativity and the occasional video will be enough. That’s the alternative, and depending on your own mental bandwidth, that might be the better option for you, your art and your happiness.

I realize this blog post may come across as old-fashioned and the “adapt or die” crowd is already writing a rebuttal. I get it. I’m in touch. I know self-promotion is part of the job. I’m just choosing to lose touch, at least a little bit.

Will I still use social media? Of course. I like making videos. I like sharing my music. It’s fun to create little moments for me and my art. And, I really enjoy connecting with people and friends and seeing what other musicians are up to. That’s the best part.

Aside from all of that, I love making music, and that’s what I want a majority of my work-time spent on. If that means keeping my social media stuck in 2013, then so be it. I’ll be happier for it, and lately, I have been happier for it.

Empathy for vibraphone & piano duo

Over the last year, I’ve been happily and quietly composing new music. I’m excited to finally share these new pieces with you all, and I’m especially excited about “Empathy”, a new duo for vibraphone & piano. The piece was commissioned by a consortium led by Back Pocket Duo (Colin McCall and Annie Jeng), who on Sept. 3, will release a beautifully shot music video with filmmaker, Toko Shiiki. If you’d like to perform Empathy, sheet music is now available.

Much love and more soon,

Ivan

Immigrant Song – Fundraiser

July 30 UPDATE: The Immigrant Song fundraiser has ended and I’m overwhelmed with the amount of support shown by friends, colleagues and strangers alike. From July 27-29, we raised an incredible $1,925 to support families separated at the U.S. Mexico border. These funds were raised through the sheet music sales of “Immigrant Song” and donated to RAICES, an organization providing crucial services for these families. I was touched to see so much support for these families and would like to thank everyone who contributed to this important cause. I encourage everyone to continue to support social causes through volunteerism and activism. It’s easy to passively normalize the negativity in our world through our inactions. Let’s keep fighting the good fight.

With love,

Ivan

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July 27: The family separation crisis at the U.S. Mexico border has hit home for me, both as a new parent and as the son of a Mexican immigrant. Despite court deadlines, hundreds of children, mothers and fathers remain affected. From July 27 – 29, I’m donating 100% of profits from my marimba solo “Immigrant Song” to RAICES, a charitable organization that provides representation, counseling and other crucial services to these families. If you play marimba and want to help the cause, pick up a copy of “Immigrant Song” at this link and spread the word if you can. If you don’t play marimba but still want to help the cause, purchase the piece at the link above and I’ll gift your sheet music to a public school in Texas while donating your funds to RAICES ($25). Thank you so much for considering.

With sincere gratitude,

Ivan