Listen to part of a conversation between a student and his music history professor.
So, I-I was wondering what I could do to improve my paper before the final draft is due.
Well, Michael, I-I have no problem with your writing style; it's graceful and clear... um, and it's interesting that you're writing about your grandmother's piano concert.
[gently enthusiastic]Yeah, when you said we had to attend a concert and write about it, I immediately thought of her.
I've been to lots of her concerts, so I'm really familiar with her music.
[not critical]That's not necessarily an advantage; familiarity sometimes makes it hard to see things objectively.
So I shouldn't write about my grandmother?
No, no-no, I'm just talking in general.
But, as I mentioned in my comments, I'd like you to place your grandmother's concert in-in-in a broader context.
Yeah, I-I saw that, but I wasn't sure what you meant; I mean, I mentioned my grandmother's childhood, how much her parents loved music, how she played piano at all our family gatherings...
OK, I see what happened now. By "broader context," I mean how the concert relates to some period in music history.
I see. [light bulb goes on]OK, Um, I have an idea...
[looking for confirmation]Well, as you read in my paper, my grandmother performs classical music.
That's her true love.
But for most of her career, she performed jazz; she originally studied to be a classical pianist, but jazz was in its heyday back then, and when she got out of the conservatory, she was invited to join a jazz orchestra, and the opportunity was just too good to turn down.
Really? Well that's fascinating, because she probably had to reinvent her whole musical style.
She did. But jazz was where the money was at that time. At least for her.
But she eventually went back to classical.
Right-but only recently.
So if I can show how her choices relate to what was happening in the world of music at the time...
[pleased] I think that might work very nicely.
[thinking out loud]And if I do that, I guess I'll have to like, interview her...
And I guess that'd mean... [I’ll have to rewrite most of my paper]
... you'll have to rewrite most of your paper.
[sympathetic]Yeah... Would an extra week ease the pain?
OK. [shifting gears]So, are there other musicians in your family?
Yeah, my mother plays piano, too. Not as well as my grandmother, but...
I-I don't play any instruments, but I sing in the university choir. In fact, we're performing next week, and I have a solo...
That's great! Could I tell the class about your concert?
Um, sure. But about my paper-uh, what questions should I be asking my grandmother?
You know what? I have a meeting now. Why don't you come to class a few minutes early tomorrow?