Ragtime

Ragtime (alternatively spelled rag-time) 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 African American communities in St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published as popular sheet music for piano. Ernest Hogan was an innovator and key pioneer who helped develop the musical genre. Hogan is also credited for coining the term Ragtime. Ragtime was also a modification of the march made popular by John Philip Sousa, with additional polyrhythms coming from African music. The ragtime composer Scott Joplin became famous through the publication in 1899 of the "Maple Leaf Rag" 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 lines, harmonic progressions or metric patterns.

Ragtime fell out of favor as jazz 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 brought out a compilation of Scott Joplin's work which was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 1973 The New England Ragtime Ensemble (then a student group called The New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble), recorded "The Red Back Book", a compilation of some of Scott Joplin's rags in period orchestrations edited by conservatory president Gunther Schuller. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance of the year and was named Billboard's Top Classical Album of 1974. Subsequently the motion picture The Sting brought ragtime to a wide audience with its soundtrack of Joplin tunes. The film's rendering of Joplin's 1902 rag "The Entertainer" was a Top 5 hit in 1974.

Ragtime (with Joplin's work at the forefront) has been cited as an American equivalent of minuets by Mozart, mazurkas by Chopin, or waltzes by Brahms. Ragtime influenced classical composers including Erik Satie, Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky.

Read more about Ragtime:  Historical Context, Musical Form, Styles of Ragtime, Influence On The Old Continent, Ragtime Revivals, Ragtime Composers

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