Onttype2. What is Ragtime?
Wikipedia on Ragtime:
- Ragtime is a musical genre that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918. Its cardinal trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm.
- The genre has its origins in African-American communities like St. Louis years before being published as popular sheet music for piano.
- Ernest Hogan (1865–1909) was a pioneer of ragtime music and was the first to compose ragtime into sheet music. The composition was called "LA Pas Ma LA" and it was released in 1895. Hogan has also been credited for coining the term ragtime. The term is actually derived from his hometown "Shake Rag" in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
- Ben Harney (1892-1938), a fellow Kentuckian with Hogan, has often been credited for introducing the music to the mainstream public. His first ragtime composition "You've Been A Good Old Wagon, But You Done Broke" helped popularize the musical genre. The composition was published in 1895 but released in 1896.
- 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 (ca. 1868–1917) became famous through the publication of the "Maple Leaf Rag" (1899) and a string of ragtime hits such as "The Entertainer" (1902), 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 twelve years after its publication, "Maple Leaf Rag" heavily influenced subsequent ragtime composers with its melody lines, harmonic progressions or metric patterns.
- Ragtime was usually written in 2/4 or 4/4 time with a predominant left-hand pattern of bass notes on strong beats (beats 1 and 3) and chords on weak beats (beats 2 and 4) 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 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.
- One of the things that made Ragtime special was its emphasis on syncopated rhythms. These rhythm emphasize the pulse or beat of the music in ways that people find interesting.
Why does syncopation generate interest?
- The answer has to do with:
- Surprise and making rhythmic patterns of repetition with variety.
- Weak beat syncopation and off beat syncopation. Why is this less boring or repetitive or interesting?
- Also, not boring for musician to produce or listener to hear.
Internet Resources on Ragtime
- What is Ragtime?
- Ragtime Stylesheet from the Herbie Hancock (formerly Thelonious Monk) Institute.
- RagPiano.com by Bill Edwards