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Ragtime

Ragtime

Overview
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated
Syncopation
In music, syncopation includes a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected in that they deviate from the strict succession of regularly spaced strong and weak but also powerful beats in a meter . These include a stress on a normally unstressed beat or a rest where one would normally be...

, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light district
Red-light district
A red-light district is a part of an urban area where there is a concentration of prostitution and sex-oriented businesses, such as sex shops, strip clubs, adult theaters, etc...

s of American cities such as St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 and New Orleans years before being published as popular sheet music for piano. It was a modification of the march
March (music)
A march, as a musical genre, is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm which in origin was expressly written for marching to and most frequently performed by a military band. In mood, marches range from the moving death march in Wagner's Götterdämmerung to the brisk military marches of John...

 made popular by John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

, with additional polyrhythm
Polyrhythm
Polyrhythm is the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms.Polyrhythm in general is a nonspecific term for the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conflicting rhythms, of which cross-rhythm is a specific and definable subset.—Novotney Polyrhythms can be distinguished from...

s coming from African music.
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Quotations

"And although the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, Goldman knew it was only 1906" "...and there were 94 years to go!" "Wheee..."

"But what of the people who stay where they're put, Planted like flowers with roots underfoot? I know some of those people have hearts that would rather Go journeying on the sea."

Mother

"There was a time Our happiness seemed never-ending I was so sure That where we were heading was right Life was a road So certain and straight and unbending Our little road With never a cross road in sight Back in the days When we spoke in civilized voices Women in white And sturdy young men at the oar Back in the days When I let you make all my choices... We can never go back to before "

"Two men finding, for a moment, in the darkness, They're the same."

Father and Tateh

"You and your music, singing deep within me, making nice to me, saying something so new. Play that melody, your sweet melody, calling my heart to you."

Sarah

"He wanted to say, I am sick of the injustices. He wanted to say, give me something to believe! In my sould I am your brother, we are bound to one another, angered by the darkness in light, and the lies we perceive."

Emma

"And her words rang out like arrows and they pierced him. He felt flushed and overheated as a boy as she filled and overwhelmed him with a fierce and sudden joy!"

Mother's Younger Brother

"This is not the America he came here for. None of us did. None of us!"

"In the gutters of the city I have tried to find some meaning In the arms of fallen women In the thought of suicide Like a firework, unexploded, Wanting life but never knowing how..."

"And say to those who blame us for the way we chose to fightThat sometimes there are battles that are more than black or whiteAnd Icould not put down my sword when justice was my right."

Encyclopedia
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated
Syncopation
In music, syncopation includes a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected in that they deviate from the strict succession of regularly spaced strong and weak but also powerful beats in a meter . These include a stress on a normally unstressed beat or a rest where one would normally be...

, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light district
Red-light district
A red-light district is a part of an urban area where there is a concentration of prostitution and sex-oriented businesses, such as sex shops, strip clubs, adult theaters, etc...

s of American cities such as St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 and New Orleans years before being published as popular sheet music for piano. It was a modification of the march
March (music)
A march, as a musical genre, is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm which in origin was expressly written for marching to and most frequently performed by a military band. In mood, marches range from the moving death march in Wagner's Götterdämmerung to the brisk military marches of John...

 made popular by John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

, with additional polyrhythm
Polyrhythm
Polyrhythm is the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms.Polyrhythm in general is a nonspecific term for the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conflicting rhythms, of which cross-rhythm is a specific and definable subset.—Novotney Polyrhythms can be distinguished from...

s coming from African music. The ragtime composer 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...

 became famous through the publication in 1899 of the "Maple Leaf Rag
Maple Leaf Rag
The "Maple Leaf Rag" is an early ragtime musical composition for piano composed by Scott Joplin. It was one of Joplin's early works, and is one of the most famous of all ragtime pieces, and became the model for ragtime compositions by subsequent composers. As a result Joplin was called the "King...

" and a string of ragtime hits that followed, although he was later forgotten by all but a small, dedicated community of ragtime aficionados until the major ragtime revival in the early 1970s. For at least 12 years after its publication, the "Maple Leaf Rag" heavily influenced subsequent ragtime composers with its melody
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 lines, harmonic progressions
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 or metric patterns
Meter (music)
Meter or metre is a term that music has inherited from the rhythmic element of poetry where it means the number of lines in a verse, the number of syllables in each line and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented...

.

Ragtime fell out of favor as 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...

 claimed the public's imagination after 1917, but there have been numerous revivals since the music has been re-discovered. First in the early 1940s many jazz bands began to include ragtime in their repertoire and put out ragtime recordings on 78 rpm records. A more significant revival occurred in the 1950s as a wider variety of ragtime styles of the past were made available on records, and new rags were composed, published, and recorded. In 1971 Joshua Rifkin
Joshua Rifkin
Joshua Rifkin is an American conductor, keyboard player, and musicologist. He is best known by the general public for having played a central role in the ragtime revival in the 1970s with the three albums he recorded of Scott Joplin's works for Nonesuch Records, and to classical musicians for his...

 brought out a compilation of Scott Joplin's work which was nominated for a Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

, and in 1973, the motion picture The Sting
The Sting
The Sting is a 1973 American caper film set in September 1936 that involves a complicated plot by two professional grifters to con a mob boss . The film was directed by George Roy Hill, who previously directed Newman and Redford in the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Created by...

brought ragtime to a wide audience with its soundtrack of Joplin tunes. Subsequently, the film's rendering of Joplin's 1902 rag "The Entertainer
The Entertainer (rag)
"The Entertainer" is sub-titled "A rag time two step", which was a form of dance popular until about 1911, and a style which was common among rags written at the time.Its structure is: Intro AA BB A CC Intro2 DD....

" was a Top 5 hit in 1974.

Ragtime (with Joplin's work at the forefront) has been cited as an American equivalent of minuet
Minuet
A minuet, also spelled menuet, is a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in 3/4 time. The word was adapted from Italian minuetto and French menuet, and may have been from French menu meaning slender, small, referring to the very small steps, or from the early 17th-century popular...

s by Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, mazurka
Mazurka
The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with accent on the third or second beat.-History:The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow machine...

s by Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

, or waltz
Waltz
The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in time, performed primarily in closed position.- History :There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim...

es by Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

. Ragtime influenced classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 composers including Erik Satie
Erik Satie
Éric Alfred Leslie Satie was a French composer and pianist. Satie was a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde...

, Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

 and Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

.

Historical context


Ragtime originated in African American music in the late 19th century, descending from the jigs and march music played by black bands. By the start of the 20th century it became widely popular throughout North America and was listened and danced to, performed, and written by people of many different subcultures. A distinctly American musical style, ragtime may be considered a synthesis of African syncopation and European classical music, especially the marches made popular by John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

.

Some early piano rags are entitled marches, and "jig" and "rag" were used interchangeably in the mid-1890s. Ragtime was also preceded by its close relative 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"...

. In 1895, black entertainer Ernest Hogan
Ernest Hogan
Ernest Hogan was the first African American entertainer to produce and star in a Broadway show and helped create the musical genre of ragtime....

 published two of the earliest sheet music
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

 rags, one of which ("All Coons Look Alike to Me") eventually sold a million copies. As fellow black musician Tom Fletcher said, Hogan was the "first to put on paper the kind of rhythm that was being played by non-reading musicians." While the song's success helped introduce the country to ragtime rhythms, its use of racial slurs created a number of derogatory imitation tunes, known as "coon songs" because of their use of extremely racist and stereotypical
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

 images of blacks. In Hogan's later years he admitted shame and a sense of "race betrayal" for the song while also expressing pride in helping bring ragtime to a larger audience.

The emergence of mature ragtime is usually dated to 1897, the year in which several important early rags were published. In 1899, 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...

's "Maple Leaf Rag
Maple Leaf Rag
The "Maple Leaf Rag" is an early ragtime musical composition for piano composed by Scott Joplin. It was one of Joplin's early works, and is one of the most famous of all ragtime pieces, and became the model for ragtime compositions by subsequent composers. As a result Joplin was called the "King...

" was published, which became a great hit and demonstrated more depth and sophistication than earlier ragtime. Ragtime was one of the main influences on the early development of jazz (along with the blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

). Some artists, like Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe , known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer....

, were present and performed both ragtime and jazz styles during the period the two genres overlapped. Jazz largely surpassed ragtime in mainstream popularity in the early 1920s, although ragtime compositions continue to be written up to the present, and periodic revivals of popular interest in ragtime occurred in the 1950s and the 1970s.

The heyday of ragtime predated the widespread availability of sound recording. Like classical music, and unlike jazz, classical ragtime was and is primarily a written tradition, being distributed in sheet music
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

 rather than through recordings or by imitation of live performances. Ragtime music was also distributed via piano rolls for player pianos. A folk ragtime
Folk ragtime
Folk ragtime is a subgenre of ragtime, a distinctly American music. It is thought to have originated with illiterate itinerant African American piano players, who learned the syncopated music not formally, but through their peers. Folk Ragtime as a form stayed active until the early 1920s, when...

 tradition also existed before and during the period of classical ragtime (a designation largely created by Scott Joplin's publisher John Stillwell 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....

), manifesting itself mostly through string bands, banjo and mandolin clubs (which experienced a burst of popularity during the early 20th Century), and the like.

A form known as novelty piano
Novelty piano
Novelty Piano is a genre of piano music that was popular during the 1920s.A successor to ragtime and an outgrowth of the piano roll music of the teens, novelty piano can be considered a pianistic cousin of jazz, which appeared around the same time....

 (or novelty ragtime) emerged as the traditional rag was fading in popularity. Where traditional ragtime depended on amateur pianists and sheet music sales, the novelty rag took advantage of new advances in piano-roll technology and the phonograph record to permit a more complex, pyrotechnic, performance-oriented style of rag to be heard. Chief among the novelty rag composers is Zez Confrey
Zez Confrey
Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey was an American composer and performer of piano music. His most noted works were "Kitten on the Keys," and "Dizzy Fingers."-Life and career:...

, whose "Kitten on the Keys" popularized the style in 1921.

Ragtime also served as the roots for stride piano
Stride piano
Harlem Stride Piano, Stride Piano, or just Stride, is a jazz piano style that was developed in the large cities of the East Coast, mainly in the New York, during 1920s and 1930s. The left hand may play a four-beat pulse with a single bass note, octave, seventh or tenth interval on the first and...

, a more improvisational piano style popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Elements of ragtime found their way into much of the American popular music of the early 20th century. It also played a central role in the development of the musical style later referred to as Piedmont blues
Piedmont blues
Piedmont blues refers primarily to a guitar style, the Piedmont fingerstyle, which is characterized by a fingerpicking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger,...

; indeed, much of the music played by such artists of the genre as Reverend Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, was an American blues and gospel singer and guitarist, who was also proficient on the banjo and harmonica...

, Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller was an American blues guitarist and vocalist. He was one of the most popular of the recorded Piedmont blues artists with rural Black Americans, a group that also included Blind Blake, Josh White, and Buddy Moss.-Life and career:Fulton Allen was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina,...

, Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten was an American blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter.A self-taught left-handed guitarist, Cotten developed her own original style. Her approach involved using a right-handed guitar , not re-strung for left-handed playing, essentially, holding a right-handed...

, and Etta Baker
Etta Baker
Etta Baker was an American Piedmont blues guitarist and singer from North Carolina, United States.-Biography:...

, could be referred to as "ragtime guitar."

Although most ragtime was composed for piano, transcriptions for other instruments and ensembles are common, notably including Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller is an American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian, and jazz musician.- Biography and works :...

's arrangements of Joplin's rags. Ragtime guitar continued to be popular into the 1930s, usually in the form of songs accompanied by skilled guitar work. Numerous records emanated from several labels, performed by Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, Lemon Jefferson, and others. Occasionally ragtime was scored for ensembles, (particularly dance bands and brass band
Brass band
A brass band is a musical ensemble generally consisting entirely of brass instruments, most often with a percussion section. Ensembles that include brass and woodwind instruments can in certain traditions also be termed brass bands , but are usually more correctly termed military bands, concert...

s) similar to those of James Reese Europe
James Reese Europe
James Reese Europe was an American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer. He was the leading figure on the African American music scene of New York City in the 1910s.-Biography:...

, or as songs like those written by Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin was an American composer and lyricist of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history.His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", became world famous...

. Joplin had long-standing ambitions for the synthesizing for the worlds of ragtime and opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, to which end the opera Treemonisha
Treemonisha
Treemonisha is an opera composed by the famed African-American ragtime composer Scott Joplin. Though it encompasses a wide range of musical styles other than ragtime, and Joplin did not refer to it as such, it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "ragtime opera"...

was written. However its first performance, poorly staged with Joplin accompanying on the piano, was "disastrous" and it was never to be fully performed again in Joplin's lifetime. In fact the score was lost for decades, then rediscovered in 1970, with a fully orchestrated and staged performance in 1972. An earlier opera by Joplin, A Guest of Honor, has been lost.

Musical form


The rag was a modification of the march
March (music)
A march, as a musical genre, is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm which in origin was expressly written for marching to and most frequently performed by a military band. In mood, marches range from the moving death march in Wagner's Götterdämmerung to the brisk military marches of John...

 made popular by John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

, with additional polyrhythm
Polyrhythm
Polyrhythm is the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms.Polyrhythm in general is a nonspecific term for the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conflicting rhythms, of which cross-rhythm is a specific and definable subset.—Novotney Polyrhythms can be distinguished from...

s coming from African music. It was usually written in 2/4 or 4/4 time
Metre (music)
Meter or metre is a term that music has inherited from the rhythmic element of poetry where it means the number of lines in a verse, the number of syllables in each line and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented...

 with a predominant left hand pattern of bass notes on odd-numbered beats and chords on even-numbered beats accompanying a syncopated melody in the right hand. According to some sources the name "ragtime" may come from the "ragged or syncopated rhythm" of the right hand. A rag written in 3/4 time is a "ragtime waltz."

Ragtime is not a "time" (meter) in the same sense that march time is 2/4 meter and waltz time is 3/4 meter; it is rather a musical genre that uses an effect that can be applied to any meter. The defining characteristic of ragtime music is a specific type of syncopation in which melodic accents occur between metrical beats. This results in a melody that seems to be avoiding some metrical beats of the accompaniment by emphasizing notes that either anticipate or follow the beat ("a rhythmic base of metric affirmation, and a melody of metric denial"). The ultimate (and intended) effect on the listener is actually to accentuate the beat, thereby inducing the listener to move to the music. Scott Joplin, the composer/pianist known as the "King of Ragtime", called the effect "weird and intoxicating." He also used the term "swing" in describing how to play ragtime music: "Play slowly until you catch the swing...". The name swing
Swing (genre)
Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States...

 later came to be applied to an early genre of jazz that developed from ragtime. Converting a non-ragtime piece of music into ragtime by changing the time values of melody notes is known as "ragging" the piece. Original ragtime pieces usually contain several distinct themes, four being the most common number. These themes were typically 16 bars, each theme divided into periods of four four-bar phrases and arranged in patterns of repeats and reprises. Typical patterns were AABBACCC′, AABBACCDD and AABBCCA, with the first two strains in the tonic key and the following strains in the subdominant. Sometimes rags would include introductions of four bars or bridges, between themes, of anywhere between four and 24 bars.

Styles of ragtime


Ragtime pieces came in a number of different styles during the years of its popularity and appeared under a number of different descriptive names. It is related to several earlier styles of music, has close ties with later styles of music, and was associated with a few musical "fad
FAD
In biochemistry, flavin adenine dinucleotide is a redox cofactor involved in several important reactions in metabolism. FAD can exist in two different redox states, which it converts between by accepting or donating electrons. The molecule consists of a riboflavin moiety bound to the phosphate...

s" of the period such as the foxtrot
Foxtrot (Dance)
The foxtrot is a smooth progressive dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor. It is danced to big band music, and the feeling is one of elegance and sophistication...

. Many of the terms associated with ragtime have inexact definitions, and are defined differently by different experts; the definitions are muddled further by the fact that publishers often labelled pieces for the fad of the moment rather than the true style of the composition. There is even disagreement about the term "ragtime" itself; experts such as David Jasen and Trebor Tichenor
Trebor Jay Tichenor
Trebor Jay Tichenor is a recognized authority on Scott Joplin and the ragtime era. He has collected and published others' ragtime piano compositions and composed his own. He has authored books about ragtime, and both on his own and as a member of The St. Louis Ragtimers, has become a widely known...

 choose to exclude ragtime songs from the definition but include novelty piano and stride piano (a modern perspective), while Edward A. Berlin includes ragtime songs and excludes the later styles (which is closer to how ragtime was viewed originally). The terms below should not be considered exact, but merely an attempt to pin down the general meaning of the concept.
  • 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"...

    - A pre-ragtime dance form popular until about 1904. The music is intended to be representative of an African-American dance contest in which the prize is a cake. Many early rags are cakewalks.
  • Characteristic march - A march incorporating idiomatic touches (such as syncopation) supposedly characteristic of the race of their subject, which is usually African-Americans. Many early rags are characteristic marches.
  • Two-step
    Two-step (dance move)
    The two-step is a step found in many folk dances, and in various other dances. It seems to take its name from the 19th century dance related to the Polka....

    - A pre-ragtime dance form popular until about 1911. A large number of rags are two-steps.
  • Slow drag
    Slow drag (dance)
    The Slow drag is an American social dance originally performed to ragtime music, and has been resurrected as part of blues dancing.-History:Ragtime composers, including Scott Joplin, wrote a number of slow-tempo tunes appropriate for the dance...

    - Another dance form associated with early ragtime. A modest number of rags are slow drags.
  • Coon song
    Coon song
    Coon songs were a genre of music popular in the United States and around the English-speaking world from 1880 to 1920, that presented a racist and stereotyped image of blacks.-Rise and fall from popularity:...

    - A pre-ragtime vocal form popular until about 1901. A song with crude, racist lyrics often sung by white performers in blackface. Gradually died out in favor of the ragtime song. Strongly associated with ragtime in its day, it is one of the things that gave ragtime a bad name.
  • Ragtime song - The vocal form of ragtime, more generic in theme than the coon song. Though this was the form of music most commonly considered "ragtime" in its day, many people today prefer to put it in the "popular music" category. Irving Berlin
    Irving Berlin
    Irving Berlin was an American composer and lyricist of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history.His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", became world famous...

     was the most commercially successful composer of ragtime songs, and his "Alexander's Ragtime Band
    Alexander's Ragtime Band
    "Alexander's Ragtime Band" is the name of a song by Irving Berlin. It was his first major hit, in 1911. There is some evidence, although inconclusive, that Berlin borrowed the melody from a draft of "A Real Slow Drag" submitted by Scott Joplin that had been submitted to a...

    " (1911) was the single most widely performed and recorded piece of this sort, even though it contains virtually no ragtime syncopation. Gene Greene
    Gene Greene
    Eugene Delbert Greene , better known as Gene Greene was an American entertainer, singer and composer, nicknamed The Ragtime King. He was a vaudeville star and made some of the earliest sound recordings of scat singing in 1911 for Columbia Records and Victor Records and was a popular Ragtime performer...

     was a famous singer in this style.
  • Folk ragtime
    Folk ragtime
    Folk ragtime is a subgenre of ragtime, a distinctly American music. It is thought to have originated with illiterate itinerant African American piano players, who learned the syncopated music not formally, but through their peers. Folk Ragtime as a form stayed active until the early 1920s, when...

    - A name often used to describe ragtime that originated from small towns or assembled from folk strains, or at least sounded as if they did. Folk rags often have unusual chromatic features typical of composers with non-standard training.
  • Classic rag
    Classic Rag
    Classic Rag is a term used to describe the style of ragtime composition pioneered by Scott Joplin and the Missouri school of ragtime composers...

    - A name used to describe the Missouri-style ragtime popularized by Scott Joplin, James Scott, and others.
  • Fox-trot
    Foxtrot (Dance)
    The foxtrot is a smooth progressive dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor. It is danced to big band music, and the feeling is one of elegance and sophistication...

    - A dance fad which began in 1913. Fox-trots contain a dotted-note rhythm different from that of ragtime, but which nonetheless was incorporated into many late rags.
  • Novelty piano
    Novelty piano
    Novelty Piano is a genre of piano music that was popular during the 1920s.A successor to ragtime and an outgrowth of the piano roll music of the teens, novelty piano can be considered a pianistic cousin of jazz, which appeared around the same time....

    - A piano composition emphasizing speed and complexity which emerged after World War I. It is almost exclusively the domain of white composers.
  • Stride piano
    Stride piano
    Harlem Stride Piano, Stride Piano, or just Stride, is a jazz piano style that was developed in the large cities of the East Coast, mainly in the New York, during 1920s and 1930s. The left hand may play a four-beat pulse with a single bass note, octave, seventh or tenth interval on the first and...

    - A style of piano which emerged after World War I, developed by and dominated by black East coast pianists (James P. Johnson
    James P. Johnson
    James P. Johnson was an American pianist and composer...

    , Fats Waller
    Fats Waller
    Fats Waller , born Thomas Wright Waller, was a jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer...

     and Willie 'The Lion' Smith). Together with novelty piano, it may be considered a successor to ragtime, but is not considered by all to be "genuine" ragtime. Johnson composed the song that is arguably most associated with the Roaring Twenties, "Charleston
    Charleston (dance)
    The Charleston is a dance named for the harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called "The Charleston" by composer/pianist James P. Johnson which originated in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild and became one...

    ." A recording of Johnson playing the song appears on the compact disc, James P. Johnson: Harlem Stride Piano (Jazz Archives No. 111, EPM, Paris, 1997). Johnson's recorded version has a ragtime flavor.

Ragtime revivals


In the early 1940s many jazz bands began to include ragtime in their repertoire, and as early as 1936 78 rpm records of Joplin's compositions were produced. Old numbers written for piano were rescored for jazz instruments by jazz musicians, which gave the old style a new sound. The most famous recording of this period is Pee Wee Hunt
Pee Wee Hunt
Pee Wee Hunt , born Walter Gerhardt Hunt, was a jazz trombonist, vocalist and band leader....

's version of Euday L. Bowman
Euday L. Bowman
Euday Louis Bowman was an American pianist and composer of ragtime and blues who represented the style of Texas Ragtime...

's "Twelfth Street Rag
Twelfth Street Rag
"Twelfth Street Rag" was composed by Euday L. Bowman in 1914. It is one of the most famous and best-selling rags of the ragtime era. It has been recorded by many artists, ranging from Louis Armstrong to Lester Young. Bowman worked as a pianist in some of the bordellos of Kansas City...

."

A more significant revival occurred in the 1950s. A wider variety of ragtime styles of the past were made available on records, and new rags were composed, published, and recorded. Much of the ragtime recorded in this period is presented in a light-hearted novelty style, looked to with nostalgia as the product of a supposedly more innocent time. A number of popular recordings featured "prepared pianos," playing rags on pianos with tacks on the hammers and the instrument deliberately somewhat out of tune, supposedly to simulate the sound of a piano in an old honky tonk
Honky tonk
A honky-tonk is a type of bar that provides musical entertainment to its patrons...

.

Three events brought forward a different kind of ragtime revival in the 1970s. First, pianist Joshua Rifkin
Joshua Rifkin
Joshua Rifkin is an American conductor, keyboard player, and musicologist. He is best known by the general public for having played a central role in the ragtime revival in the 1970s with the three albums he recorded of Scott Joplin's works for Nonesuch Records, and to classical musicians for his...

 brought out a compilation of Scott Joplin's work, Scott Joplin: Piano Rags
Scott Joplin: Piano Rags
Scott Joplin: Piano Rags is a 1970 ragtime piano album, consisting of compositions by Scott Joplin played by Joshua Rifkin, on the Nonesuch Records label. The album cover states the name as Piano Rags by Scott Joplin. The record is considered to have been the first to reintroduce the music of...

, on Nonesuch Records
Nonesuch Records
Nonesuch Records is an American record label, owned by Warner Music Group and distributed by Warner Bros. Records.-Company history:Nonesuch was founded in 1964 by Jac Holzman to produce "fine records at the same price as a trade paperback", which would be half the price of a normal LP...

, which was nominated for a Grammy
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

 in the "Best Classical Performance - Instrumental Soloist(s) without Orchestra" category in 1971. This recording reintroduced Joplin's music to the public in the manner the composer had intended, not as a nostalgic stereotype but as serious, respectable music. Second, the New York Public Library
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is the largest public library in North America and is one of the United States' most significant research libraries...

 released a two-volume set of "The Collected Works of Scott Joplin," which renewed interest in Joplin among musicians and prompted new stagings of Joplin's opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 Treemonisha
Treemonisha
Treemonisha is an opera composed by the famed African-American ragtime composer Scott Joplin. Though it encompasses a wide range of musical styles other than ragtime, and Joplin did not refer to it as such, it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "ragtime opera"...

. Finally, with the release of the motion picture The Sting
The Sting
The Sting is a 1973 American caper film set in September 1936 that involves a complicated plot by two professional grifters to con a mob boss . The film was directed by George Roy Hill, who previously directed Newman and Redford in the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Created by...

in 1973, which had a Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Frederick Hamlisch is an American composer. He is one of only thirteen people to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and a Tony . He is also one of only two people to EGOT and also win a Pulitzer Prize...

 soundtrack of Joplin tunes, ragtime was brought to a wide audience. Hamlisch's rendering of Joplin's 1902 rag "The Entertainer" won an Academy Award, and was an American Top 40
American Top 40
American Top 40 is an internationally syndicated, independent radio program created by Casey Kasem, Don Bustany, Tom Rounds and Ron Jacobs. Originally a production of Watermark Inc...

 hit in 1974, reaching #3 on 18 May.

In 1998, an adaption of E.L. Doctorow's historic novel, Ragtime
Ragtime (novel)
Ragtime is a 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow. This work of historical fiction is primarily set in the New York City area from about 1900 until the United States entry into World War I in 1917...

was produced on Broadway. With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the show featured several rags as well as songs in other musical genres.

In modern times, younger musicians have again begun to find ragtime, and incorporate it into their musical repertoires. Such acts include Jay Chou
Jay Chou
Jay Chou is a Taiwanese musician, singer-songwriter, music and film producer, actor and director who has won the World Music Award four times. In 1998 he was discovered in a talent contest where he displayed his piano and song-writing skills. Over the next two years, he was hired to compose for...

, The Kitchen Syncopators, Inkwell Rhythm Makers, Curtains for you
Curtains for you
Curtains for You is a five-piece indie-pop band from Seattle, Washington. The band consists of Matthew Gervais Mike Gervais Nick Holman Peter Fedofsky and Dave Lawrence They are heavily influenced by '60s pop, in particular, parallels can be drawn to the music of The Beatles and The...

, The Gallus Brothers and the not-quite as young Baby Gramps
Baby Gramps
Baby Gramps is a guitar performer, who, though born in Miami, Florida, has been based in the Northwest USA for at least the last 40 years. He is famous for his palindromes...

 or Bob Milne
Bob Milne
Bob Milne, considered one of the world's greatest living Ragtime pianists was called a "national treasure" after he was interviewed and documented for future generations by the U.S...

.

Ragtime composers



By far the most famous ragtime composer was 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...

. Joseph Lamb
Joseph Lamb
Joseph Francis Lamb was a noted American composer of ragtime music. Lamb, of Irish descent, was the only non-African American of the "Big Three" composers of classical ragtime, the other two being Scott Joplin and James Scott.-Life and Career:Lamb was born in Montclair, New Jersey...

 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....

 are, together with Joplin, acknowledged as the three most sophisticated ragtime composers. Other leading ragtime composers include Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe , known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer....

, Eubie Blake
Eubie Blake
James Hubert Blake was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. In 1921, Blake and long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote the Broadway musical Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans...

, Charles L. Johnson
Charles L. Johnson
Charles Leslie Johnson was an American composer of ragtime and popular music. He was born in Kansas City, Kansas, died in Kansas City, Missouri, and lived his entire life in those two cities...

, Tom Turpin
Tom Turpin
Thomas Million John Turpin was an African-American composer of ragtime music.Tom Turpin was born in Savannah, Georgia, a son of John L. Turpin and Lulu Waters Turpin. In his early twenties he opened a saloon in St...

, May Aufderheide
May Aufderheide
May Frances Aufderheide Kaufman was an American composer of ragtime music. She was probably the best known among female ragtime composers...

, Mike Bernard
Mike Bernard (musician)
Mike Bernard was an American musician who influenced the development of ragtime-era music.A musical child prodigy born in New York City, he studied at the Berlin Conservatory in Germany and once played before the Kaiser...

, George Botsford
George Botsford
George Botsford was an American composer of ragtime and other forms of music.Botsford was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and grew up in Iowa. His first copyrighted number was "The Katy Flyer -- Cake Walk," published in 1899. His most important rag is "Black and White Rag," published in 1908...

, Zez Confrey
Zez Confrey
Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey was an American composer and performer of piano music. His most noted works were "Kitten on the Keys," and "Dizzy Fingers."-Life and career:...

, Ben Harney
Ben Harney
Benjamin Robertson "Ben" Harney was a United States of America songwriter, entertainer, and pioneer of ragtime music. His 1895 composition "You've Been a Good Old Wagon but You Done Broke Down" is regarded as one of the first published ragtime songs...

, Luckey Roberts
Luckey Roberts
Charles Luckeyeth Roberts, better known as Luckey Roberts was an American composer and stride pianist who worked in the jazz, ragtime, and blues styles.-Biography:...

, Paul Sarebresole
Paul Sarebresole
Paul Sarebresole was an early composer of ragtime music.Sarebresole was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His French ancestors spelled the family name "Sarrebresolles"....

, and Wilbur Sweatman
Wilbur Sweatman
Wilbur C. Sweatman was an African-American ragtime and dixieland jazz composer, bandleader, and clarinetist....

.

Modern ragtime composers include William Bolcom
William Bolcom
William Elden Bolcom is an American composer and pianist. He has received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts, two Grammy Awards, the Detroit Music Award and was named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America. Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan from 1973–2008...

, Trebor Tichenor, David Thomas Roberts
David Thomas Roberts
David Thomas Roberts is an American composer and musician, known primarily as a modern ragtime composer. Roberts is also a painter in a primitivist style....

, Max Morath
Max Morath
Max Morath is an American ragtime pianist, composer, actor and author. He is best known for his piano playing, and is referred to as "Mr. Ragtime". He has been a devoted and prolific performer, writing several plays and productions, as well as being variously a recording artist, actor and radio...

 and Reginald Robinson
Reginald Robinson
Reginald R. Robinson is a noted composer and performer of ragtime music. In 2004, he received a MacArthur Genius Grant. He was raised by working class parents in Chicago, for many years living in the Henry Horner Homes, a South Side housing project...

.

In addition, classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 composers were influenced by the form with, for example, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

's solo piano work Piano-Rag-Music
Piano-Rag-Music
Piano-Rag-Music is a composition for piano solo by Igor Stravinsky, written in 1919.Stravinsky, who had, by that time, emigrated to France after his studies with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia, was confronted with American jazz combos actively influential in Europe...

 from 1919, and Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

's Golliwogg's Cakewalk (from the 1908 Piano Suite Children's Corner
Children's Corner
Children's Corner is a six-movement suite for solo piano by Claude Debussy. It was published by Durand in 1908, and was given its world première in Paris by Harold Bauer on December 18 of that year...

), and General Lavine (from his Preludes
Preludes (Debussy)
Claude Debussy's Préludes are two sets of pieces for solo piano. They are divided into two separate livres, or books, of twelve preludes each. Unlike previous collections of preludes, like those of JS Bach and Chopin, Debussy's do not follow a strict pattern of key signatures.Each book was written...

). Stravinsky also included a ragtime in his theater piece L'histoire du soldat (1918).

Samples

  • Download recording — "The Wagon" ragtime from the Library of Congress' Gordon Collection; an early ragtime song sung by Ben Harney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

    on about September 9, 1925

External links