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Joseph Lamb

Joseph Lamb

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Joseph Francis Lamb was a noted American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 of ragtime
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

 music. Lamb, of Irish
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 descent, was the only non-African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 of the "Big Three" composers of classical ragtime, the other two being Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed "The King of Ragtime". During his brief career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas...

 and James Scott
James Scott (musician)
James Sylvester Scott was an African-American ragtime composer, regarded as one of the three most important composers of classic ragtime, along with Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb....

.

Life and Career


Lamb was born in Montclair, New Jersey
Montclair, New Jersey
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 38,977 people, 15,020 households, and 9,687 families residing in the township. The population density was 6,183.6 people per square mile . There were 15,531 housing units at an average density of 2,464.0 per square mile...

. The youngest of four children, he taught himself to play the piano, and was very taken with the early ragtime publications of Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed "The King of Ragtime". During his brief career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas...

. He dropped out of St. Jerome's College in 1904 to work for a dry goods company. In 1907 Lamb was purchasing the latest Joplin and James Scott
James Scott (musician)
James Sylvester Scott was an African-American ragtime composer, regarded as one of the three most important composers of classic ragtime, along with Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb....

 sheet music in the New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 offices of John Stark & Son
John Stillwell Stark
John Stillwell Stark was a United States publisher of ragtime music. He is best known for publishing and promoting the music of Scott Joplin....

 when he met his idol Joplin. Joplin was favorably impressed with Lamb's compositions, and recommended him to classical ragtime publisher John Stark
John Stillwell Stark
John Stillwell Stark was a United States publisher of ragtime music. He is best known for publishing and promoting the music of Scott Joplin....

. Stark published Lamb's music for the next decade, starting with "Sensation".

Lamb’s twelve rags published by Stark from 1908 to 1919 can be divided into two groups. A) The “heavy” rags which are incorporated with Scott Joplin’s melody –dominated style and James Scott’s expansive use of the keyboard registers. This style of rags includes
  • "Ethiopia Rag" (1909)
  • "Excelsior Rag" (1909)
  • "American Beauty Rag" (1913)
  • "Ragtime Nightingale" (1915)
  • "The Top Liner Rag" (1916)


B) The “light” rags which have the cakewalk
Cakewalk
The Cakewalk dance was developed from a "Prize Walk" done in the days of slavery, generally at get-togethers on plantations in the Southern United States. Alternative names for the original form of the dance were "chalkline-walk", and the "walk-around"...

 tradition show the narrow-range melodies inspired by Joplin. This style of rags includes
  • "Champagne Rag" (1910)
  • "Cleopatra Rag" (1915)
  • "Reindeer : Ragtime Two Step" (1915)
  • "Bohemia Rag" (1919)
  • "Contentment Rag" (1915) and "Patricia Rag" (1916) have both characteristics of “heavy” rags and “light” rags.


Lamb’s works show individual stylistic traits. First, he uses sequence for development purposes. Second, he emphasizes on the harmonic sonority of the diminished seventh with upper-neighbor appoggiatura.
His contributions to the ragtime literature also show his unique traits. He used a great diversity of texture for all of his rags. In addition, Lamb surpassed ragtime’s usual four-measure phrase structure.

In 1911, Lamb married Henrietta Schultz and moved to Brooklyn, New York. He worked as an arranger for the J. Fred Helf
J. Fred Helf
J. Fred Helf was an American composer and sheet music publisher during the early 20th century.Helf was born in Maysville, Kentucky. He went to seek his fortune in New York City at the age of 31. There he composed over 100 songs, some in collaboration with Will A. Heelan.In October 1910 his music...

 Music Publishing Company and later, starting in April 1914, as an accountant for L. F. Dommerich & Company.

Henrietta died of influenza
Influenza
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae , that affects birds and mammals...

 in 1920, about the same time that popular music interest shifted from ragtime to jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

. Lamb stopped publishing his music, playing and composing only as a hobby. "Bohemia Rag" was the last Lamb rag published before his death in 1960. That same year, his album, Joseph Lamb: A Study in Classic Ragtime, was released by Folkways Records
Folkways Records
Folkways Records was a record label founded by Moses Asch that documented folk, world, and children's music. It was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, and is now part of Smithsonian Folkways.-History:...

.

With the revival of interest in ragtime in the 1950s, Lamb shared his memories of Joplin and other early ragtime figures with music historians. (Many were surprised to find that not only was he still living, but that he was white.) He also composed some new rags, brought out some of his old compositions that had never been published, and made some recordings.

Lamb died in Brooklyn of a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

at age 72.

Unpublished Rags During His Lifetime


Rags that remained unpublished at the time of his death included:
  • "Alabama Rag"
  • "Alaskan Rag"
  • "Arctic Sunset"
  • "Bee Hive"
  • "Bird-Brain Rag"
  • "Blue Grass Rag"
  • "Chasin' the Chippies"
  • "Cottontail Rag"
  • "Firefly Rag"
  • "Good and Plenty Rag"
  • "Greased Lightning"
  • "Hot Cinders"
  • "Jersey Rag"
  • "Joe Lamb's Old Rag"
  • "The Old Home Rag"
  • "Ragged Rapids Rag"
  • "Ragtime Bobolink"
  • "Ragtime Special"
  • "Rapid Transit Rag"
  • "Thoroughbred Rag"
  • "Toad Stool Rag"
  • "Walper House Rag"

External links