What is ragtime music

ragtime

by ROLF MARTIN

The ragtime can be seen as a forerunner of the actual jazz. Ragtime, literally: torn beat, is composed piano music that emerged in the American Midwest around 1870. So it lacks a basic element of jazz: improvisation. As far as the melody, the harmony and the formal structure are concerned, the ragtime is a typical "white" music, which is in the tradition of European polkas and marches, but was made to swing with the temperament and rhythmic intensity of the blacks. Ragtime music is characterized by strong syncopation of the melody in contrast to the regular beat in the bass.

The ragtimes were mostly struck by their composers in the reels of mechanical pianos and, distributed in thousands of copies, were widely distributed around 1900 in all music establishments and in the camps of the workers who built the railroad lines all over the country. From such piano rollers, some of which were discovered in antique shops, records were later pressed.

The most important black ragtime composer was undoubtedly Scott Joplin of Sedalia, Missouri. He wrote more than 600 rags, some of which are still played today, such as the Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer, which became world-famous as the score in the film The Clou. Other black composers were James Scott, a theater organist in Kansas City, Tom Turpin, a bar owner in St. Louis, Charles L. Johnson, Louis Chauvin ... There were also some white composers among them and it is noticeable that not even professionals were able to do this were to discover a difference between white and black ragtime pianists.

One of the first musicians to break away from the compositional tradition of the rags was Jelly Roll Morton from New Orleans, who transformed ragtime into what was later called jazz. Jelly Roll Morton brought ragtime to Chicago and other pianists like Willie "The Lion" Smith, James P. Johnson and the early Fats Waller kept the ragtime tradition alive in New York in the 1920s.