Education.com
Try
Brainzy
Try
Plus

Music Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 (page 2)

By
Updated on Sep 27, 2011

Passage 1

There is little information available about the legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson, and the information that is available is as much rumor as fact. What is undisputable, however, is Johnson's impact on the world of rock and roll. Some consider Johnson the father of modern rock; his influence extends to artists from Muddy Waters to Led Zeppelin, from the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers Band. Eric Clapton, arguably the greatest living rock guitarist, has said that "Robert Johnson to me is the most important blues musician who ever lived. [ . . . ] I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson." While the impact of Johnson's music is evident, the genesis of his remarkable talent remains shrouded in mystery.

For Johnson, born in 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, music was a means of escape from working in the cotton fields. As a boy he worked on the farm that belonged to Noel Johnson—the man rumored to be his father. He married young, at age 17, and lost his wife a year later in childbirth. That's when Johnson began traveling and playing the blues.

Initially Johnson played the harmonica. Later, he began playing the guitar, but apparently he was not very good. He wanted to learn, however, so he spent his time in blues bars watching the local blues legends Son House and Willie Brown. During their breaks, Johnson would go up on stage and play. House reportedly thought Johnson was so bad that he repeatedly told Johnson to get lost. Finally, one day, he did. For six months, Johnson mysteriously disappeared. No one knew what happened to him.

When Johnson returned half a year later, he was suddenly a first-rate guitarist. He began drawing crowds everywhere he played. Johnson never revealed where he had been and what he had done in those six months that he was gone. People had difficulty understanding how he had become so good in such a short time. Was it genius? Magic? Soon, rumors began circulating that he had made a deal with the devil. Legend has it that Johnson met the devil at midnight at a crossroads and sold his soul to the devil so he could play guitar.

Johnson recorded only 29 songs before his death in 1938, purportedly at the hands of a jealous husband. He was only 27 years old, yet he left an indelible mark on the music world. There are countless versions of "Walkin' Blues," and his song "Cross Road Blues" (later retitled "Crossroads") has been recorded by dozens of artists, with Cream's 1969 version of "Crossroads" being perhaps the best-known Johnson remake. Again and again, contemporary artists return to Johnson, whose songs capture the very essence of the blues, transforming our pain and suffering with the healing magic of his guitar.

Passage 2

There are more than fifty types of blues music, from the famous Chicago and Memphis Blues to the less familiar Juke Joint and Acoustic Country Blues. This rich variety comes as no surprise to those who recognize the blues as a fundamental American art form. Indeed, in its resolution to name 2003 the Year of the Blues, the 107th Congress has declared that the blues is "the most influential form of American roots music." In fact, the two most popular American musical forms—rock and roll and jazz—owe their genesis in large part (some would argue entirely) to the blues.

The blues— neologism attributed to the American writer Washington Irving (author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") in 1807— evolved from black American folk music. Its beginnings can be traced to songs sung in the fields and around slave quarters on southern plantations, songs of pain and suffering, of injustice, of longing for a better life. A fundamental principle of the blues, however, is that the music be cathartic. Listening to the blues will drive the blues away; it is music that has the power to overcome sadness. Thus "the blues" is something of a misnomer, for the music is moving but not melancholy; it is, in fact, music born of hope, not despair.

The blues began to take shape as a musical movement in the years after emancipation, around the turn of the century when blacks were technically free but still suffered from social and economic discrimination. Its poetic and musical forms were popularized by W. C. Handy just after the turn of the century. Handy, a classical guitarist who reportedly heard the blues for the first time in a Mississippi train station, was the first to officially compose and distribute "blues" music throughout the United States, although its popularity was chiefly among blacks in the South. The movement coalesced in the late 1920s and indeed became a national craze with records by blues singers such as Bessie Smith selling in the millions.

The 1930s and 1940s saw a continued growth in the popularity of the blues as many blacks migrated north and the blues and jazz forms continued to develop, diversify, and influence each other. It was at this time that Son House, Willie Brown, and Robert Johnson played, while the next decade saw the emergence of the blues greats Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Johnny Lee Hooker.

After rock and roll exploded on the music scene in the 1950s, many rock artists began covering blues songs, thus bringing the blues to a young white audience and giving it true national and international exposure. In the early 1960s, the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Cream, and others remade blues songs such as Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" and Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go" to wide popularity. People all across America—black and white, young and old, listened to songs with lyrics that were intensely honest and personal, songs that told about any number of things that give us the blues: loneliness, betrayal, unrequited love, a run of bad luck, being out of work or away from home or broke or broken hearted. It was a music perfectly suited for a nation on the brink of the Civil Rights movement—a kind of music that had the power to cross boundaries, to heal wounds, and to offer hope to a new generation of Americans.

  1. In Passage 1, the author's main goal is to
    1. solve the mystery of the genesis of Johnson's talent.
    2. provide a detailed description of Johnson's music and style.
    3. provide a brief overview of Johnson's life and influence.
    4. prove that Johnson should be recognized as the greatest blues musician who ever lived.
    5. explain how Johnson's music impacted the world of rock and roll.
  2. The information provided in the passage suggests that Johnson
    1. really did make a deal with the devil.
    2. was determined to become a great guitarist, whatever the cost.
    3. wasn't as talented as we have been led to believe.
    4. disappeared because he had a breakdown.
    5. owes his success to Son House and Willie Brown.
  3. The word neologism in Passage 2, line 10 means
    1. a new word or use of a word.
    2. a grassroots musical form.
    3. a fictional character or fictitious setting.
    4. the origin or source of something.
    5. the evolution of a person, place, or thing.
  4. In Passage 2, the sentence People all across America—black and white, young and old, listened to songs with lyrics that were intensely honest and personal, songs that told about any number of things that give us the blues: loneliness, betrayal, unrequited love, a run of bad luck, being out of work or away from home or broke or broken hearted (lines 43–47), the author is
    1. defining blues music.
    2. identifying the origin of the blues.
    3. describing the lyrics of a famous blues song.
    4. explaining why blues remakes were so popular.
    5. making a connection between the blues and the Civil Rights movement.
  5. In the last paragraph of Passage 2 (lines 37–50), the author suggests that
    1. the blues should be recognized as more important and complex musical form than rock and roll.
    2. the golden age of rock and roll owes much to the popularity of blues cover songs.
    3. music has always been a means for people to deal with intense emotions and difficulties.
    4. a shared interest in the blues may have helped blacks and whites better understand each other and ease racial tensions.
    5. the rock and roll versions of blues songs were better than the originals.
  6. Both authors would agree on all of the following points EXCEPT
    1. listening to the blues is cathartic.
    2. Robert Johnson is the best blues guitarist from the 1930s and 1940s.
    3. the blues are an important part of American history.
    4. "Crossroads" is one of the most well-known blues songs.
    5. blues music is deeply emotional.
  7. The passages differ in tone and style in that
    1. Passage 1 is intended for a general audience while Passage 2 is intended for readers with a musical background.
    2. Passage 1 is far more argumentative than Passage 2.
    3. Passage 1 is often speculative while Passage 2 is factual and assertive.
    4. Passage 1 is more formal than Passage 2, which is quite casual.
    5. Passage 1 is straight-forward while Passage 2 often digresses from the main point.
  8. Which of the following best describes the relationship between these two passages?
    1. specific : general
    2. argument : support
    3. fiction : nonfiction
    4. first : second
    5. cause : effect
  9. Which of the following sentences from Passage 2 could most effectively be added to Passage 1?
    1. In fact, the two most popular American musical forms—rock and roll and jazz—owe their genesis in large part (some would argue entirely) to the blues. (lines 7–9)
    2. A fundamental principle of the blues, however, is that the music be cathartic. (line 15–16)
    3. Thus "the blues" is something of a misnomer, for the music is moving but not melancholy; it is, in fact, music born of hope, not despair. (lines 17–19)
    4. It was at this time that Son House, Willie Brown, and Robert Johnson played, while the next decade saw the emergence of the blues greats Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Johnny Lee Hooker. (lines 33–36)
    5. After rock and roll exploded on the music scene in the 1950s, many rock artists began covering blues songs, thus bringing the blues to a young white audience and giving it true national and international exposure. (lines 37–40)

Questions 17–26 are based on the following passage.

This passage describes the formative experiences of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's remarkable musical talent was apparent even before most children can sing a simple nursery rhyme. Wolfgang's older sister Maria Anna, who the family called Nannerl, was learning the clavier, an early keyboard instrument, when her three-year-old brother took an interest in playing. As Nannerl later recalled, Wolfgang "often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was always striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good." Their father Leopold, an assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg Court, recognized his children's unique gifts and soon devoted himself to their musical education.

Born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756, Wolfgang was five when he learned his first musical composition—in less than half an hour. He quickly learned other pieces, and by age five composed his first original work. Leopold settled on a plan to take Nannerl and Wolfgang on tour to play before the European courts. Their first venture was to nearby Munich where the children played for Maximillian III Joseph, elector of Bavaria. Leopold soon set his sights on the capital of the Hapsburg Empire, Vienna. On their way to Vienna, the family stopped in Linz, where Wolfgang gave his first public concert. By this time, Wolfgang was not only a virtuoso harpsichord player but he had also mastered the violin. The audience at Linz was stunned by the six-year-old, and word of his genius soon traveled to Vienna. In a much-anticipated concert, the children appeared at the Schönbrunn Palace on October 13, 1762. They utterly charmed the emperor and empress.

Following this success, Leopold was inundated with invitations for the children to play, for a fee. Leopold seized the opportunity and booked as many concerts as possible at courts throughout Europe. After the children performed at the major court in a region, other nobles competed to have the "miracle children of Salzburg" play a private concert in their homes. A concert could last three hours, and the children played at least two a day. Today, Leopold might be considered the worst kind of stage parent, but at the time it was not uncommon for prodigies to make extensive concert tours. Even so, it was an exhausting schedule for a child who was just past the age of needing an afternoon nap.

Wolfgang fell ill on tour, and when the family returned to Salzburg on January 5, 1763, Wolfgang spent his first week at home in bed with acute rheumatoid arthritis. In June, Leopold accepted an invitation for the children to play at Versailles, the lavish palace built by Loius XIV, king of France. Wolfgang did not see his home in Salzburg for another three years. When they weren't performing, the Mozart children were likely to be found bumping along the rutted roads in an unheated carriage. Wolfgang passed the long uncomfortable hours in the imaginary Kingdom of Back, of which he was king. He became so engrossed in the intricacies of his make-believe court that he persuaded a family servant to make a map showing all the cities, villages, and towns over which he reigned.

The king of Back was also busy composing. Wolfgang completed his first symphony at age nine and published his first sonatas that same year. Before the family returned to Salzburg, Wolfgang had played for, and amazed, the heads of the French and British royal families. He had also been plagued with numerous illnesses. Despite Wolfgang and Nannerl's arduous schedule and international renown, the family's finances were often strained. The pattern established in his childhood would be the template for the rest of his short life. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart toiled constantly, was lauded for his genius, suffered from illness, and struggled financially, until he died at age 35. The remarkable child prodigy who more than fulfilled his potential was buried in an unmarked grave, as was the custom at the time, in a Vienna suburb.

  1. The primary purpose of the passage is to
    1. illustrate the early career and formative experiences of a musical prodigy.
    2. describe the classical music scene in the eighteenth century.
    3. uncover the source of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's musical genius.
    4. prove the importance of starting a musical instrument at an early age.
    5. denounce Leopold Mozart for exploiting his children's talent.
  2. According to the passage, Wolfgang became interested in music because
    1. his father thought it would be profitable.
    2. he had a natural talent.
    3. he saw his sister learning to play.
    4. he came from a musical family.
    5. he wanted to go on tour.
  3. What was the consequence of Wolfgang's first public appearance?
    1. He charmed the emperor and empress of Hapsburg.
    2. Leopold set his sights on Vienna.
    3. Word of Wolfgang's genius spread to the capital.
    4. He mastered the violin.
    5. Invitations for the "miracle children" to play poured in.
  4. The author's attitude toward Leopold Mozart can best be characterized as
    1. vehement condemnation.
    2. mild disapproval.
    3. glowing admiration.
    4. incredulity.
    5. veiled disgust.
  5. In line 40, the word lavish most nearly means
    1. wasteful.
    2. clean.
    3. extravagant.
    4. beautiful.
    5. glorious.
  6. The author uses the anecdote about Mozart's Kingdom of Back to illustrate
    1. Mozart's admiration for the composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
    2. the role imagination plays in musical composition.
    3. that Mozart was mentally unstable.
    4. that Mozart was an imaginative child.
    5. that Mozart's only friends were imaginary people and family servants.
  7. The author suggests that Mozart's adult life
    1. was ruined by repeated illness.
    2. was a disappointment after his brilliant childhood.
    3. was nothing but misery.
    4. ended in poverty and anonymity.
    5. followed the pattern of his childhood.
  8. In line 57, the word lauded most nearly means
    1. derided.
    2. praised.
    3. punished.
    4. compensated.
    5. coveted.
  9. Each of the following statements about Wolfgang Mozart is directly supported by the passage EXCEPT
    1. Mozart's father, Leopold, was instrumental in shaping his career.
    2. Wolfgang had a vivid imagination.
    3. Wolfgang's childhood was devoted to his musical career.
    4. Wolfgang's illnesses were the result of exhaustion.
    5. Maria Anna was a talented musician in her own right.
  10. Based on information found in the passage, Mozart can best be described as
    1. a workaholic.
    2. a child prodigy.
    3. a sickly child.
    4. a victim of his father's ambition.
    5. the greatest composer of the eighteenth century.
View Full Article
Add your own comment

Ask a Question

Have questions about this article or topic? Ask
Ask
150 Characters allowed