Revisiting The Concept of Woodshedding

In a world of American Idols, So You Think You Can Dancers, and overnight vlogging sensations, should we, as a society, redefine the word “artist”? Or should we rethink the idea behind “spiritual work”?

Despite living in a virtual era saturated with musicians, dancers, painters, actors (the list goes on) exposing their material to the masses, I often find myself thinking about the days where musicians with studio time recorded without the production shortcuts that some of today’s current chart toppers rely on. It seems that the majority of music today has completely disregarded the concept of woodshedding—of truly practicing and honing ones skills.

When and why did this change occur? As a lifelong musician and audiophile who has been born and bred on analog and digital sounds, I cannot hold technology solely responsible.

Now, I do agree that taking part in reality show talent searches and the actual possession of talent and skill are mutually exclusive. I consider several people who have utilized these shows to gain exposure talented including some of my friends and peers.

However, my relationship with powerful art can best be described as transcendent. Bodily. This is when I can sense Blanche du Bois’ desperation while I watch a production of A Streetcar Named Desire because of the deep-seeded recklessness inside of myself. After almost 30 years of living on this planet and the countless spins I have given this album, being moved to sobs when listening to Isaac Hayes’ version of “Walk on By.” This type of work makes the hair on your arms go prickly.

When we, as artists, bypass the woodshedding to move forward faster, is our success less substantial? As constant students of a craft, are we copying answers behind the teacher’s back? Are we cheating ourselves?