From Rags to Ragtime by Sefanit Abbi

Ragtime music was birthed with influences from jig and march music yet its influence in the music world led to the cultivation of jazz music. Without ragtime, music such as jazz would not be the same as we know it today. 

The music that was classified as “ragtime” first became popular during the mid-1890’s. However, it did not take long for its rhythm to win the hearts of many. Its popularity spread quickly due to published compositions called rags. Rags made it possible for music in this specific genre to be mass marketed at a low cost. This allowed for composers such as Scott Joplin, James Scott, and Joseph Lamb to gain popularity. While the term Ragtime has stuck for decades, it was not favored by composers who actually composed the music. People like Scott Joplin found the term to be “troubling” due to it being an appropriation by white people. This was a prevalent issue in America, however, Europeans seemed to accept Ragtime, its composers, and the blackness that came with the music.

Ragtime is usually multi themed. An example of this is the compositions of Scott Joplin. His pieces are perceived to follow patterns such as AABACCDD. The piece begins with an A-flat major, followed by the C, introducing the trio, and finally the D-flat allows the piece to circle back to the A-flat major. This rhythm is a common syncopated rhythm in Joplin’s work. Ragtime as a whole lacked complex rhythm, rather it stuck to simple syncopations and catchy rhythms. However, syncopations were always played by the right hand. Recapitulations were not only a pattern, but mandatory when playing ragtime music. During the twenty years (1900-1920) that ragtime was popular, it cultivated the world of music, changing it for the better. Although new genres started to come along during the 1920’s, ragtime continued to be performed and recorded. It also influenced the genre of jazz which led to the revival of ragtime in the 1940’s. Classic ragtime music such as Joplin’s “The Entertainer”, continued to influence composers for decades. Ragtime has now become a classical genre that remains popular with both composers and audiences.

What's your password?

Login to your account

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.