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Columbia College Chicago


Definition of Style

Pioneered by Scott Joplin (1868-1917) and his contemporaries, ragtime was established in popular culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, becoming wildly popular in the United States through distribution on piano rolls for playback on the player pianos that were then a fixture in many American parlors. Ragtime shares certain melodic, rhythmic, and thematic characteristics with early jazz, but its melodies and structures are far more syncopated and complex. The major ragtime composers challenged themselves, their fellow musicians, and their listeners, and they took their art very seriously. Joplin was among the first individuals to publicly recognize the intellectual depth and cultural significance of black American music.

Musical Example

"Frog Legs Rag" (James Sylvester Scott, 1906), Black Music Repertory Ensemble. The Black Music Repertory Ensemble: In Concert (CBMR002-C1)

Introductory Bibliography

Berlin, Edward A. Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. Good basic history.

Hasse, John, ed. Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1985. Articles by specialists.|

Selected Discography

Johnson, James P. Harlem Stride Piano (Hot 'n' Sweet 151032)

Joplin, Scott. Piano Rags by Scott Joplin (Nonesuch 71248)

Paragon Ragtine Orchestra. On the Boardwalk (Newport Classics 60039)

Robinson, Reginald R. Sounds in Silhouette (Delmark DE-670)

Rose, Wally. Ragtime Classics (Good Time Jazz GTJCD-10034-2)