Ragged Rhythm

The height of the genre Ragtime existed between 1896 to about the 1920’s.  This genre is a mix of a lot of different aspects, not just solely african roots.  Ragtime music is categorized as fusion between classical music and jazz music, as well as containing origins from European and African American music.  The music is created through rhythms accenting between weak and strong beats and embellishing melodies, aka syncopation. This mixture of cultures makes ragtime the unique genre it is.  Key instruments in ragtime include the piano, as the music was composed for pianos, as well as the drums, the banjo, and the guitar during the revival of the genre. Another aspect of ragtime is the conversion from the oral tradition to music written and printed through sheets.  But, the transition of composition led to the genre straying away from its African American roots (performances), and more towards the European American roots (compositions). White people of course tried their hardest to try and recreate what they heard, yet they were unable to comprehend the true depth of ragtime.  Thus leading to a simpler version of the genre of ragtime created around the twentieth century. Ragtime first originated in venues where African Americans were actually allowed to perform in, these venues opened up to blacks closely around the end of the Civil War.

These performances of ragtime were energetic and busy, motivating people to dance Although african americans played in these bars and saloons, most did not actually publish their compositions because of many reasons, some including the fact that they would receive no recognition, or because they viewed themselves as a performer of ragtime as opposed to a composer of ragtime.  Blacks were able to tease European American culture through “cakewalk”, a dance performance making fun of the rich white folk. But, Europeans had their own method of retaliation to this by dressing up in black face and negative stereotypes of African americans by singing “coon songs.” Sheet music was used to display images to demonstrate the extensive extent people dressed up and got into character for these ragtime performances. In conclusion, ragtime was ultimately transformed to fit European Americans music traditions and cultures. Important performers of Ragtime music include Vess L. Ossman (highly acclaimed banjo solo artist) , Cullen and Collins (banjo duet), and of course, three of the most known composers, Joseph Lamb, James Scott, and Scott Joplin.  Examples of ragtime music is linked below:

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