Ragtime defines a performance style and practices like composing and dance. Ben Harvey claimed to be its inventor. It is a duality between oral and written music, between early jazz and classical music, and between African American and European American music. The words “ragtime” and “jazz” were used synonymously. Rag, or ragging, consisted of syncopated tunes and decorated melodies.
Ragtime declined after the beginning of the 20th century. Its revival began in the early 1940s and has lasted to current day. Ragtime clubs emerged in the 1960s.
The cakewalk is a dance that parodies white upper-class behavior. It was originally performed by African American slaves; the best performer was awarded a gift, usually a cake.
In contrast, the “coon song” was a popular song style in the late 19th century and early 20th century performed by white people in blackface, presenting a stereotypical view of African Americans. African Americans were seen as violent, promiscuous, lazy, dishonest, greedy, among many other things.
The transition of orally transmitted ragtime to written sheet music caused a reduction of authentic ragtime. These simplified versions were published by white musicians because they were unfamiliar with ragtime while notating what they heard.
Classic ragtime was written compositions for piano; it is highly associated with Scott Joplin.
Tom Turpin was the first major African American ragtime composeer.