The author suggests which of the following about most classical

Music critics have consistently defined James P. Johnson as a great early jazz pianist, originator of the 1920s Harlem “stride” style, and an important blues and jazz composer. In addition, however, Johnson was an innovator in classical music, composing symphonic music that incorporated American, and especially African American, traditions.

Such a blend of musical elements was not entirely new: by 1924 both Milhaud and Gershwin had composed classical works that incorporated elements of jazz Johnson, a serious musician more experienced than most classical composers with jazz, blues, spirituals, and popular music, was particularly suited to expand Milhaud’s and Gershwin’s experiments. In 1927 he completed his first large-scale work, the blues- and jazz-inspired Yamekraw, which included borrowings from spirituals and Johnson’s own popular songs. Yamekraw, premiered successfully in Carnegie Hall, was a major achievement for Johnson, becoming his most frequently performed extended work. It demonstrated vividly the possibility of assimilating contemporary popular music into the symphonic tradition.

The author suggests which of the following about most classical composers of the early 1920s?

  1. They were strongly influenced by the musical experiments of Milhaud and Gershwin.
  2. They had little working familiarity with such forms of American music as jazz, blues, and popular songs.
  3. They made few attempts to introduce innovations into the classical symphonic tradition.

An important thing to keep in mind about the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE as we use PowerPrep online to study is that it is just that—reading comprehension. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it can be pretty tricky, the test makers will always give us all the information we need in the passage to answer the question. Even questions that ask about what the “author suggests,” like question 8 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1, must be undeniably true based on information in the passage.

This question specifically asks about “most classical composers of the early 1920s,” but our passage is largely about Johnson and only compares him to his contemporaries at the beginning of the second paragraph. Therefore, we’ll want to refine our search to this area of the passage as other information in the passage won’t suggest anything about these composers. Also, this is a select all that apply question, so we’ll need to examine each answer individually in order to determine whether or not it is something suggested by the passage. Let’s start by finding what information we can about these composers.

“Such a blend of musical elements was not entirely new: by 1924 both Milhaud and Gershwin had composed classical works that incorporated elements of jazz Johnson, a serious musician more experienced than most classical composers with jazz, blues, spirituals, and popular music, was particularly suited to expand Milhaud’s and Gershwin’s experiments.”

Again, while it can sometimes be hard to define a specific area of the passage for GRE reading comp questions, everything outside of this sentence of the passage is specifically about Johnson, so this is where we’ll want to focus our search (of course, if we come across an answer we aren’t sure about we should always feel free to revisit other parts of the passage as well, but we’ll need to read carefully to discern if they really tell us anything about “most composers” of this era).

Everything we can infer about “most composers” actually comes from a comparison between Johnson and these composers: we’re told that Johnson is “a serious musician more experienced than most classical composers with jazz, blues, spirituals, and popular music.” This implies that other classical composers of the era were not experienced with these other styles of music—at least not to the same degree as Johnson was. We’re also told that this experience made Johnson particularly well suited to follow in Gershwin and Milhaud’s experiments, which, though its a bit more of a stretch, seems to imply that these other composers would not be as well suited to carrying on the same experiments since they did not have the same experience.

That’s it. That’s all we really can say for sure about contemporaries of Johnson who composed classical music. Let’s see which of our answers reflect similar ideas.

  • They were strongly influenced by the musical experiments of Milhaud and Gershwin.

While the experiments of Gershwin and Milhaud are mentioned in the same sentence, we’re not told that they had any particular effect on other classical composers of the era. We cannot assume that just because Johnson was “particularly suited” to carrying on these experiments that that means other composers attempted to or were at all interested in them. We should not select A.

  • They had little working familiarity with such forms of American music as jazz, blues, and popular songs.

Aha! This answer is similar to what we had encountered in the passage. By saying that Johnson was more familiar with these styles than most and therefore particularly suited to carrying on these experiments, the passage suggests that other classical musicians wouldn’t have the necessary background or “working familiarity” with these other musical styles in order to do so. B is suggested by the passage, so we should select this answer.

  • They made few attempts to introduce innovations into the classical symphonic tradition.

Watch out! While the passage does suggest that other classical composers of the era would not have been as familiar with the same styles as Johnson and therefore might not be as well suited to making the same type of innovations, we cannot assume that the author meant to say they did not innovate the style at all. The author doesn’t suggest that other innovations were not made during this period or that other composers were uninterested in making innovations, so we have no idea whether they may have made attempts to innovate symphonic tradition in general. C is not suggested by the passage and therefore should not be selected.

By carefully refining our search and making sure we understood exactly what was implied about these other composers, we were able to avoid answers that did not have evidence in the passage. B is the only answer truly suggested by the passage and therefore should be the only one we select.

 

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