Reproduction, Ideology, and the Work of Musical Virtuosity
Keywords:virtuosity, jazz, labor, ideology, capitalism, social reproduction
In the jazz imaginary, taking one’s “axe” to the fictive “woodshed” has long described a solitary and disciplined process of cultivating virtuosic skill in preparation for the competitive arenas of public performance. Despite an abundance of jazz research, the woodshed and its complex social, aesthetic, and political entailments have gone almost entirely unaddressed in the literature. This paper traces the emergence of this peculiar object through a diverse archive of journalistic, critical, and historical sources—in and beyond jazz—to delineate the contours of virtuosity’s everyday reproduction. I argue that the woodshed and woodshedding mark a constitutive ideological moment in the dynamic between private practice and public performance, a moment that uniquely expresses the gendered logic of social reproduction under capitalism. Attention to the woodshed illuminates largely unexplored relations between musical practice, reproductive labor, and aesthetic exemplarity that together constitute a dominant ideology of music-making in the United States.
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