Ragtime by Katelyn Howell

The Sounds of Ragtime

Ragtime is a musical style that emerged through the country from 1896 to around 1920. This music became popular due to its syncopated beats and early jazz and classical music influences. This music genre was typically played in bars, brothels and saloons in predominately African American communities. As years passed, Ragtime expanded to musical theaters, vaudevilles and bordellos. Instruments included in Ragtime compositions typically were pianos and they usually had three or four contrasting sections in the music.


Additionally, during the popular time of Ragtime, there were performances called “Cakewalks” and “Coon songs.” Cakewalks can be described as a get-together on a slave plantation, when the slave owners and their neighbors would watch slaves basically dance around and imitate their owners. Furthermore, a coon song was a performance performed at minstrel shows, where white people would put on black face and imitate stereotypes of African Americans in front of large audiences. This was seen as a source of entertainment for many white people in the early 1900’s.

            Some famous Ragtime artists include Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, Blind Blake and James Scott. One of the most famous Ragtime songs is Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin. This song was the first to sell a million copies. This song was performed all over America and even in minstrel shows used by whites to imitate blacks.


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