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From Kaplan's GRE Premier book, 2014, p. 105:

Word Painting is a musical technique in which the progression of the notes ______ the meaning of the lyrics; a famous example of this can be found in Handel's Messiah in which the notes rise with the mention of "mountains" and fall with the mention of "low."

A. sustains

B. mimics

C. contrasts

D. reflects

E. opposes

F. reinforces

I thought the answer would be B and F. The answer in the text is B and D. My girlfriend, who graduated with an English minor, thought D and F.

Who is correct, and why? [In particular, why wouldn't F be included?]

  • To reinforce something (in this example) is used when the "meaning" of the lyrics was already established. It's similar to strengthen, repeat, make clearer. BUT, it's not wrong. It makes perfect sense. Remember, many of these so called tests do not test English but "aptitude" "appropriacy". The only ones that are clearly mistakes are C and E. – Mari-Lou A Nov 2 '14 at 7:24
  • I have every intention of deleting the above comment, so that the OP can have an articulated answer. (I could also be wrong in my analysis!) – Mari-Lou A Nov 2 '14 at 7:54
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I think in this case, while it certainly would be acceptable (and meaningful!) to use "reinforces" in this situation in general, the book is instead specifically looking for an appropriate term for the definition:

in which the notes rise with the mention of "mountains" and fall with the mention of "low."

In this case, "mimics" and "reflects" are indeed appropriate, as they both indicate an apparently duplicated state between the music and the lyrics, but "reinforce" indicates instead a relationship which a) may not necessarily duplicate state, and b) adds meaning or significance to; augments.

So, as such, since no specific causal relation exists (hence the use of the term "with" in the text ("...the notes rise with the mention...") instead of a more directed active relationship such as "to underscore" or "to amplify"), we can deduce that the relationship in question is in fact merely one of a mirroring of state (B & D), rather than something more engaged (F).

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