Let’s Get to Ragging

Origin & Characteristics

The genre Ragtime was during the period of 1890 through 1918. The genre of ragtime was defined as having elements of African and European elements with the combination of the piano. The term rag that created the name for ragtime came from the syncopated melodies created from the music. Ragtime was created and became popular by Africa American musicians. The musicians developed ragtime as a playing style that was performed in brothels, saloons or bars. Ragtime was highly popular in the regions of the Midwest and southern states. Ragtime was seen as a song, dance and highly syncopated instrumental music. It was typically composed in three or four contrasting sections that were each 12 or 32 measures long. Ragtime was famous for its style using syncopation or also known as the misplaced beat. Syncopation is the displacing of the beat from its regular course of meter. The syncopated motif of ragtime was the 2/4 time or short-long-short feel that it gave.

Social Implications, Commodification & Influences on Future Genres

During the ragtime era Coon song was a type of song that had racist lyrics and derogatory statements made and performed by Caucasians in blackface Coon songs would depict the negative stereotypes by whites, such as being lazy, dishonest, violent, thieves and watermelon eaters. Ragtime influenced the transition into blues and Jazz. There were various styles to ragtime, such as cakewalk, which was a parody of upper white class people. Cakewalk was a show often put on by African American were they put on shows and won a cake as a price for the person with the best walk. The walk would consist of dignified walking, bowing low, waving canes and or doffing hats. By the early 1900s ragtime was everywhere, from sheet music to records, everyone knew about the rag in ragtime. One of the first musicians to publish a ragtime composition was Ben Harney. Some published were “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon but You’ve Done Broke Down. Additionally, the publication of “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, sold over a million copies. 

Important Performers

Scott Joplin

Born in Arkansas, Joplin became a great musician and composer. One of his famous songs, Maple Leaf Rag, sold millions of copies. 

Eubie Blake

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Blake became a well known musician and composer. One of his most famous songs was the Charleston Rag.

Conclusory Opinion

The distinct characteristics of ragtime sets it apart from other genres. This highly syncopated genre is a great mood changer as it makes you want to dance. Many (mainly white people) tried to remake the different rags but the style that black people put into this genre cannot be duplicated. 

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