Defining better

The exigence for my project stems from every hour spent in a practice room, agonizing over the minutest quarter tone, wishing I could have anyone else’s voice. All the while, questions repeat like a bad refrain in my head: How do I compare? How do I sound to them? Will I ever get to the point where I can sound like (insert name here)? Will I ever get better? Will I ever be good? Will I ever be best?

My topic for the repurposing project has to do with the concept of “better” in regards to the performing arts, particularly music. I believe the concept of ‘better’ and what makes an artist ‘good’ is subjective and flexible. There are a myriad of artists in the world, all with their own ‘better’ or ‘good’ way, and they exist simultaneously. Young artists can and should look up to established professionals in their field, but keep in mind that the path they are making for themselves in one that is their own version of good.

I am trying to structure my project like an Atlantic article. Naturally, when looking for sources, I headed to the Atlantic website first. I ended up searching for articles that had to do with the nature of talent, because that seemed a little more concrete than “the nature of good”.

The article is called What is Talent? by David Shenk. Shenk’s article is centered around the rebuttal of an article with an opposing viewpoint. Shenk argues that talent and genius are more complex than “you’ve got it or you don’t”, contrary to the WSJ Article. As a result, Shenk’s audience comes off as more audience addressed rather than invoked. This seems to limit the number of people who would read Shenk’s article, which I am not aiming for in my project.

The genre reads more like an op-ed piece than most Atlantic articles. The context is a little difficult to establish here for some reason. It almost seems to connect with exigence a bit. The tension between these two writers sparked the article (exigence) and informs the tone and what is address in Shenk’s article (context) (or maybe vice versa?). The rhetorical situation Shenk established with audience is his biggest constraint as well, seeing as the Atlantic already has a specific niche of readers. Narrowing down that niche even more could be viewed as unhelpful.

As someone who is still grappling with the concept of rhetorical situation, I find mapping very helpful. Each component acts as a part of the “rhetorical situation” as a whole, making the entire idea of it a bit easier to digest and understand as opposed to attempting to encompassing the meaning of “RHETORICAL SITUATION” into one definition.

Emily Cotten

Emily Cotten is a sophomore Vocal Performance major at the University of Michigan. She hails from North Carolina and enjoys reading, writing, and blasting opera hits in her car while driving down the highway.

2 thoughts to “Defining better”

  1. Emily, it sounds like you have a very good idea of what you want to convey in your repurposed Atlantic article. While I am not a singer, I felt many of these same emotions you described above while playing sports in high school. It is natural, I think, to question yourself and your abilities when you are surrounded by talented people in a competitive environment. Almost everyone has felt self-doubt in some way or another, and your delve into defining good, better and best will likely connect to each reader in a unique way. It is for that reason I foresee your Atlantic article resonating with an audience not limited to only singers and artists. I look forward to reading your piece in a few weeks!

  2. Emily,
    After reading you proposal, I definitely think that you have a great start on what you want to accomplish in your repurposing project. I think the medium of an article will be perfect in what point you are trying to convey. I enjoyed the topic of the Shenk article and see how it can relate to your topic and especially tie in to what some of your psych research. I totally understand where you are coming from in your purpose for writing the article and your original. Like Jeremy mentioned, my emotions are tied more to sport at the collegiate level and trying to compete with others and in turn doubting your own abilities. Although, specifically to vocalists, I really do think that your article can take a broad stance and reach many different kinds of people. I cannot wait to see the final product and how you choose to attack you presentation of your info!

Leave a Reply