Which of the following best describes the organization of the

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.

Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?

  1. A historical overview is presented, and a particular phenomenon is noted and analyzed.
  2. A popular belief is challenged, and a rival interpretation is presented and supported.
  3. A common viewpoint is presented and modified, and the modification is supported.
  4. An observation is made and rejected, and evidence for that rejection is presented.
  5. A common claim is investigated, and an alternative outlook is analyzed and criticized.

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. Questions asks us about the structure or organization of the passage, like question 7 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1, are based on the passage as a whole.

A quick note: both PowerPrep and the GRE will tell us that this is one of three questions over this passage. Since this question asks about the structure of the passage as a whole, we might skip it for now and come back when we’ve answered the other two questions and are more familiar with the entire passage. However, one way or another we’ll need to read the passage, so if we feel comfortable answering this question after a quick read, we can answer it just to get it out of the way.

We’ll also notice that this is one of those questions where the answer choices aren’t very specific—they could be answers about the structure of many passages. That means we’ll want to be extra careful to come up with an idea of how the passage functions so that we can be sure to answer this question correctly and not get confused by our answer choices.

We should note that unlike many GRE passages, this one is divided into two paragraphs, which could definitely be important when we’re answering a question about structure. The first paragraph is short; the first sentence introduces the topic, James P. Johnson, as an important early jazz musician, while the second sentence adds on that, though it is not what he is well-known for, Johnson was also an “innovative” classical composer. The second paragraph starts by giving us some context for Johnson’s work (following Gershwin and Milhaud), and continues to describe how his technique of integrating jazz traditions with classical music. It goes on to provide a specific example of one of his works that integrated said styles. Finally, the passage ends a bit more broadly by asserting that Johnson’s work highlighted the possibility of blending popular and classical music styles.

Alright, so the first paragraph is about introducing a topic: that James P. Johnson was an innovative classical composer in addition to a jazz musician. The second paragraph we can say elaborates on this general point made in the first paragraph. Let’s see if any answers resemble this description of the passage’s structure.

  • A historical overview is presented, and a particular phenomenon is noted and analyzed.

Hmm. An “overview” is an odd way to characterize our first paragraph since it didn’t have a LOT of information, but since it was broad, it’s hard to say this is definitely wrong. However, the second paragraph focused on Johnson’s achievements, and this answer makes it sound as though the passage focused on the integration of classical and jazz music outside of the context of Johnson’s work. A is a bit off, but enough that we can eliminate this choice.

  • A popular belief is challenged, and a rival interpretation is presented and supported.

We have to be careful: the second sentence of the passage did contain the word “however,” which signals contrast, BUT the second sentence doesn’t challenge the “belief” or view presented in the first sentence (that Johnson was a great early Jazz musician). The contrast is between the fact that Johnson is defined as a jazz musician when really he also made contributions to classical music. Therefore, answer B doesn’t accurately describe the structure of this passage and can be eliminated.

  • A common viewpoint is presented and modified, and the modification is supported.

Hmm. The idea that Johnson was a great jazz musician is presented as a common view, and we could say that adding on to that by saying he was also an innovative classical composer is a modification of that view. So far, so good. The second paragraph is, indeed, about further elaborating on how Johnson was an innovative classical composer, which does support the “modified view.” Ok, C seems like a good answer that is pretty similar to our prediction, so we should keep it.

  • An observation is made and rejected, and evidence for that rejection is presented.

Like B, this makes it sound as though the passage rejects the fact that Johnson should be remembered as a great jazz musician, but it does not. We can eliminate D for basically the same reason as B.

  • A common claim is investigated, and an alternative outlook is analyzed and criticized.

Hmm. There doesn’t seem to be too much “investigation” into the claim that Johnson was a great Jazz musician, it’s pretty much just presented as a fact. Also, there’s not “criticism” of the idea that he was also an innovative classical composer. E is off in a couple of ways, so we can eliminate this answer.

C best matches our description of how the passage is laid out and properly characterizes both paragraphs. Therefore, C is the best answer.

 

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