The Ragtime Nightmare by Tom Turpin (St. Louis, MO: Robt. DeYoung & Co., 1900). Performing Arts analysis Room, Library that Congress.

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Ragtime, a unique American, syncopated music phenomenon, has been a strong presence in music composition, entertainment, and scholarship for over a century. It emerged in its published kind during the mid-1890s and quickly spread throughout the continent via released compositions. By the early on 1900s ragtime flooded the music publishing industry. The popularity and also demand because that ragtime additionally boosted revenue of pianos and greatly swelled the ranks of the recording industry. Ragtime seemed to emanate primarily from the southern and midwestern says with the majority of activity occurring in Missouri -- return the East and West coasts additionally had their share the composers and also performers. Ragtime"s popular promptly spread to Europe and also there, as in America, soon ended up being a fad.

It is not straightforward to define ragtime. Prefer jazz, one more distinctly American musical art form, ragtime"s composers, practitioners, and also admirers each view its borders differently. However, these teams are distinguished by subgroups that purists who normally agree on, and stand by, a specific definition:

Ragtime -- A genre of musical composition because that the piano, usually in duple meter and containing a highly syncopated treble lead end a rhythmically stable bass. A ragtime ingredient is normally composed 3 or 4 contrasting sections or strains, each one being 16 or 32 measures in length.

This meaning describes much of the music of the itinerant pianists that traversed the South and also Midwest and also eventually congregated in Missouri to produce an oeuvre of core ragtime compositions. This roving composers encompass Scott Joplin, Charles Hunter, thomas Turpin, luigi Chauvin, Charles L. Johnson, and many others.

Some ragtime scholars suggest out that ragtime is created chiefly because that an audience -- a pianistic work not supposed for dancing. It is a genre unique from other species of syncopated musical compositions from about the same period -- because that example, "coon songs" and cakewalks -- the latter especially composed for dancing.

But our definition cannot be cut-and-dried, because that "ragtime" once described the peppy, syncopated treatment of nearly any type of music -- that is how it was well-known to the general public at large. Ragtime ended up being a an extremely real fad that covered a wide range of styles and even flourished to explain things non-musical. Much like absent "n" roll, heavy metal, jazz, and other renowned genres the music, ragtime invite "the curiosity and also even devotion the the young at the very same time it disquiets the staid and also established ... Ragtime created an attitude and defined one era that reached past the music." (Real Ragtime booklet, 4)

Ragtime, the word, probably began life together a description of music meter and certainly preceded the advent of the music of Joplin, Scott, and also others. The was part of the late 19th century-lexicon to usage "-time" as a suffix to describe a sort of music through the characteristics of that is rhythm. For instance, waltzes were described as being "in waltz-time." "March-time" and also "jig-time" additionally described the meter, an easy rhythm, and function of style. Practically certainly, however, the ax is a contraction for "ragged time," denoting a format of play piano or banjo where the melody is "broken up" into short, syncopated rhythms if a steady in its entirety beat is either play (piano) or implied (banjo). Acquisition a simple, conventional, and also unsyncopated melody and also breaking increase the rate was known as "ragging," therefore, the result music was claimed to be in "ragged time."

Americans were very first exposed come ragtime, en masse, in ~ the Chicago World"s fair in 1893. The is report that part 27 million civilization passed through the fair gates in between May and also October of that year. In 1896 "rag" and also "rag time" were used to explain some freshly published "coon songs," finish with outrageous parodies of black society and speech. Amongst them was "All Coons look Alike to Me," created by black color entertainer, Ernest Hogan. The second chorus offered a syncopated accompaniment, composed by Max Hoffman, in addition to the caption "Choice Chorus with Negro "Rag" Accompaniment." also during 1896, the covering of Ben Harney"s tune "You"ve to be a great Old Wagon yet You Done broke Down" featured a banner proclaiming "Original Introducer to the stage of the new popular "Rag Time."" The complying with year witnessed the first published piano rags beginning with W. H. Krell"s "Mississippi Rag."

Syncopation -- The "Misplaced" Beat

Ragtime to be both exciting and also threatening come America"s youth and also staid polite society, respectively. The excitement came from syncopation--the displacing the the beat native its regular and assumed course of meter. Syncopation led to an individual to feeling a propulsion, swing, and if played correctly, a musical looseness generally unknown to the public at large. The hazard came indigenous the very same displaced beat that evoked a solid connotation come the "low-class" black music uncovered in brothels and also saloons. The Midwest, an especially postbellum Missouri, was rife v saloons, brothels, and cabarets--all places where a pianist through a kind repertoire could earn a decent living.

The syncopated motif:


when count in 2/4-time returns a feel of "short - lengthy - short," (with a 4th sound included for definition), is the most typical syncope discovered in ragtime. It originates from the cakewalk, a high-stepping dance popularized on the minstrel stage and also which frequently served as the show"s finale. Syncopations in the genre the piano ragtime are varied and also intricate and simple.

This motif and more complex syncopations were typically heard in "head" music (music played totally by ear) perform in the Caribbean, the southerly states, and the Georgia Sea Islands. However, they room rarely discovered in released American music before the mid-1880s.

The complexities the non-written or "head syncopations" heard in rhythms the black servants are handle by music historian H. Wiley Hitchcock. He explains that the "...emphatic use of syncopation by American Negroes, partly obtained from african drumming, partly obtained from Afro-Caribbean dance rhythms." that then quotes from an 1835 letter to Edgar Allan Poe in which a friend describes a musical performance of some slaves in a practice recognized as "clapping Juba" ("Juba" is assumed to refer to the English dance-name "jig.") The message is a amazing testimony to the survival of syncopated facets in african drumming:

"There is no effort to keep time come all the notes, yet then it comes so beat & so distinct that the cadence is never lost. . . Such irregularities are choose rests and also grace notes. They have to be so controlled as no to hasten or retard the beat. The time of the bar should be the same, no matter how countless notes room in it." (Music in the joined States, 120)

Much of what came to be the vital ingredients the ragtime came from self-taught and largely uneducated musicians: slaves; hill people of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and also the Carolinas; and also minstrel-troupe musicians. The popularity and also portability the the banjo, guitar, mandolin, and violin made this the instruments of choice for these itinerant musicians.

Banjo and Fiddle

It is not easy to phone call when and where this lively, rhythmically propulsive music began, yet it is feasible to point to some very details roots and to see it bear fruit. Though the evidence is not negligible, couple of contemporary writings chronicle the duty that the banjo played in the advance of ragtime. In a remarkable comment made in 1881, the essayist Lafcadio Hearn wrote, "Did you ever before hear negroes beat the piano through ear?... They use the piano specifically like a banjo. The is an excellent banjo-playing yet no piano-playing." (Ragtime: that History, Composers, and Music, 54, 58) In 1899 the music doubter Rupert Hughes supplied the hatchet "banjo figurations" to describe the piano ragtime that he had actually heard.

These peculiar rhythms and melodies had actually another resource -- the fiddle music the British Isles immigrant played to folk dances such as the jig and reel. "Turkey in the Straw," additionally known as "Old Zip Coon," for example, is believed to it is in of Scottish origin. This wire music expose the beginning of a commonly used rhythmic an equipment in ragtime, known as "secondary rag" -- a simple, repeated, three-note motif that offers the listener a short-lived off-center emotion by imposing an even pulse of three over a collection of duple measures.


by the mid-1850s this ragged rhythms were finding their way into published banjo solos and also methods. Much of this earlier published material came indigenous the minstrel stage and also was provided an "Ethiopic" theme meant to evoke the plantation and also the South. No all Ethiopic themed music consisted of syncopation--quite a little bit of it consisted of sentimental songs the evoked the themes the fondness because that the South, the plantation, "Massa," and also other elements of slavery. But, syncopation rarely discovered its" method onto the printed page--a nod probably to the concept that the was an overwhelming music come play unless you had actually an natural feeling because that it.

The love of Ragtime

Missouri, situated in the center of America, was the heartland that ragtime. As provided by famous music chroniclers David Jasen and Gene Jones, "There were more rags--and more an excellent rags--from Missouri than almost everywhere else." (That American Rag, 1) probably it was the durable pioneer soul that thrived in Missouri that developed the environment for music favor ragtime to flourish.

"...Missouri was destined by its place to it is in an area that commercial, social, and cultural change. Because the early on nineteenth century, St. Louis has served together midpoint and stopover for north-south web traffic on our largest river, and when walk west was a national imperative, the city to be the "Gateway to the West."" (TAR, 1)

During the 1880s, black entrepreneurs succeeded in the sporting ar of St. Louis, well-known as Chestnut Valley. John L. Turpin, a black businessman from Savannah, Georgia, make St. Luigi his home in 1887 and opened a saloon called the silver Dollar.

Turpin"s teenage son, Tom, followed very closely in his father"s footsteps and by 1897 had actually opened his an initial saloon. That exact same year, young Turpin, additionally a self-taught pianist, had actually his composition "Harlem Rag" published by a neighborhood lawyer. "Harlem Rag" was a defining piece the piano ragtime and also a design for that composers.

By 1900 Tom Turpin had obtained sufficient resources to open up a brand-new saloon and also brothel, the Rosebud. His 2 young protégés, Joe Jordan and Louis Chauvin, frequented the establishment. V the continuous rollicking, buoyant sound of ragtime, Turpin, Jordan, Chauvin, and also many other enthusiastic advocates of the brand-new music, do the Rosebud and St. Luigi the capital of ragtime.

The constant flow that traffic v St. Louis and also the rest of the state created a demand for accommodations and amenities for travelers. "As Missouri gentrified it came to be a state whereby a piano player might make a an excellent living." (TAR, 2) as their salaries usually were nominal, the nomadic pianists do their finest money from tips detailed by the patrons the the countless saloons and also brothels that employed them.

It must be detailed that once their music was ultimately published, however, your royalties, although welcomed, were insignificant. About a dozen brave publishers risked placing some of this engaging, new music on revenue to the public.

The many influential and memorable publisher was john Stark, a Civil battle veteran and also peripatetic ice cream cream salesman that loved music. He settled in Sedalia in 1886, opened a music store, and also eventually turned to publishing. Distinct met Scott Joplin in 1899 when the latter came into Stark"s keep to demonstrate his quiet unpublished "Maple sheet Rag." back Stark was impressed through the musicality that the piece, the technical an obstacle of the item led the to question its salability.

After part encouragement from his son, john Stark agreed come publish "Maple leaf Rag" thus beginning a lucrative business connection for himself and also Joplin and also insuring immortality for ragtime. Through 1914 "Maple leaf Rag" had sold 1 million copies and Stark had amassed over 50 rags in his catalog.

In addition to Joplin, Stark"s secure of ragtime composers consisted of James Scott, Joseph Lamb, Artie Mathews, J. Russell Robinson, and also others. Stark"s initial assessment and also question about ragtime came to be a reality--it to be delightful come the ear and heart although an overwhelming to perform. He pertained to refer come the rag selections in his directory as "classic rags." composed by musician of very high standards, they forced a sleek pianistic capability to carry out them correctly. As a result, many of the "classic rags" were no bestsellers.

Missouri was also home to composer Arthur Pryor, who was born in St. Joseph in or roughly 1870. Pryor prospered up play in his father"s band. Finest known together a trombonist, Pryor wrote several of the most successful ragtime selections the the era. Some of his better-known rag titles are: "A Coon band Contest," "Razzazza Mazzazza," "That paris Rag," and "Frozen Bill." Although this compositions were released as piano solos, they achieved greater fame as band selections.

As assistant conductor and also solo trombonist for the famous band of man Philip Sousa, Arthur Pryor aided spread the ragtime heat to Europe when the Sousa tape toured over there in 1900. Not only did that compose many of the band"s ragtime material, however he also taught the Sousa musicians just how to pat the syncopations in a relaxed, unhurried way--the way that he heard it back in Missouri.

The Sound of Ragtime

by the early on 1890s americans had come to be infatuated through the multi-strained "March and also two-step," i m sorry was usually the very same as a march. Constantly in 2/4 or 6/8 meter, there to be something stirring and also optimistic about these pieces. Both meters productivity a "two feel," but 6/8 has actually its intrinsic triple feel that creates a significant swing. In fact, 6/8 two-steps were often referred to together "swings" as were the measures danced to them.

The ragtime compositions by Joplin and his circle were solely in duple meter and had a different sort the swing come them. A 6/8 two-step urged a more aerobic format of dance because of its vast swing. Ragtime"s syncopations in ~ the measure (and regularly over the measure), however, caused smaller and more gyrating run steps, causing a series of popular "animal" dances such as the grizzly bear, bunny hug, turkey trot, and others.

Syncopation in ragtime was varied and also more complex than the simple cakewalk. The syncopated rhythms discovered in the best rags were meant to evoke a looseness, organic flow, and drive recreated by reading and also performing the music precisely as written. If perform correctly, the effect of the syncopation against the secure duple meter bass produced an air of excitement and also spontaneity not inherently found in many published music of the time.

The Fad

Ragtime was almost everywhere by the early 1900s--in sheet music, piano rolls, phonograph records, and ragtime piano play contests, and in music boxes, vaudeville theaters, and also bordellos. Publishing houses churned out piano rags and ragtime song at a furious pace. Ragtime additionally appeared in arrangements because that orchestras and also wind bands. The bulk of this music was the popular sort the ragtime that was cranked out mainly by tin Pan Alley hacks. Similar to all types of music, there is always a bigger industry for a less subtle, an ext digestible version of the original, more complicated, form.

The push overreacted around ragtime eroding mores. In January 1900 the music monthly The Etude, in a item entitled "Musical Impurity" noted: "The counters the the music stores room loaded v this virulent toxicity which in the kind of a malarious epidemic, is detect its way into the homes and brains the the youth to such an extent regarding arouse one"s suspicions of their sanity." it went top top to describe the melodic rate of ragtime together "double-jointed jumping jack airs that relatively twist the ears of an education musician from your anchorage."

The Fad Fades

"Ragtime" together a catchall surname for syncopated popular music remained popular through the 1910s. Ragtime"s popular faded approximately 1917 through the rise of an additional catchall term--"jazz"--used to define peppy, noisy, popular music. Keep in mind that musicians energetic in brand-new Orleans during the beforehand 1900s that were later known as "jazz musicians" frequently, if not always, referred to the hot music castle played together "ragtime."

It deserve to be declared categorically, however, the the ragtime music the Joplin, Joseph Lamb, James Scott, and others had actually become almost forgotten by 1920. Joseph Lamb"s very own daughter walk not uncover out that her father to be a popular composer that ragtime till the dawn that his comeback during the 1950s. Ragtime did no disappear, nor was it "replaced" by jazz. However, it appears to have been supplanted through the new piano format that to be ironically based upon many that the traits found in ragtime--traits the had come to be anachronistic through 1920.

Novelty and also Stride Piano

The technical needs of play the works of Joplin, et al., are not inconsiderable. Your music demanded an approach as a method to expression. What stayed in the public"s ear through 1920 to be the virtuosic, technical aspects of piano ragtime. The genre was known as "novelty piano" -- often referred to this day as "novelty ragtime."

Ragtime scholar Ed Berlin points out that "novelty piano" is a latter-day term that was never ever used through its composers. (Ragtime: A musical and social History, 162) Nonetheless, that sprang out of a parody top top the sound the ragtime played perhaps too fast--replete with wrong notes, feeling harmonic effects, the currently clichéd second rag, and also even the sound that a player piano slightly the end of adjustment.

Novelty piano is not a disrespectful or nonmusical art. Top top the contrary, that incorporates both method as a method to itself and also the harmonic devices found in older classical piano music. The an initial hit that this genre, "Kitten top top the Keys," appeared in July 1921. Created by Elzear "Zez" Confrey (1895-1971), the piece was filled v tricky syncopations, unusual harmonic tools (such together strings of augmented chords, entirety tone runs, parallel fourths) that somehow provided the listener the impression of humorously played wrong notes, and sudden move of key. In spite of being daunting to play, "Kitten on the Keys" sold 1 million copies during its an initial year the publication. (Rags and Ragtime: A music History, 215)

Similarly, stride piano, which arisen in and also around Harlem, new York, during the 1910s by mainly black pianists, was never referred to as ragtime. Nonetheless, that is composers and performers--such together James P. Johnson, cutting board "Fats" Waller, C. Luckyeth "Lucky" Roberts, and also others were definitely well acquainted through ragtime and also used its components as a suggest of departure.

The solid kinship amongst stride, novelty, and also ragtime was the reality that all 3 were usually composed together multi-strained pieces. jajalger2018.orgk were also pianistically conceived and also were not meant for dancing. Both novelty and stride piano are typically performed at ragtime festivals today.

Ragtime Returns

back ragtime was not a huge attraction throughout the 1930s and 1940s, it to be still played, and also not just by pianists. Oftentimes a run band videotaped an up-to-date swing version of "Maple leaf Rag." But an ext often than not, ragtime, when offered, would be played together quaint nostalgia through its features parodied.

But ragtime additionally had advocates--its composers, practitioners, and also admirers. The latter, Rudi Blesh was considerably responsible because that re-popularizing ragtime. Blesh, a student of art, architecture, and also early jazz, come to brand-new York from Berkeley, California, in 1945, while composing a book about the history of jazz. He and also his colleague and companion, Harriet Janis, started Circle documents shortly thereafter.

Circle was the first record label to problem recordings indigenous Jelly roll Morton"s 1938 recordings made at the Library that Congress. These recordings prompted much enthusiasm around early jazz styles and also ragtime. One Records likewise issued a 3-disc album by jazz clarinetist Tony Parenti and his "Ragtimers," one ad-hoc jazz band playing ragtime based loose on old stock arrangements. The album had Joplin"s "Swipesy Cake Walk" and James Scott"s "Grace and Beauty." The mix of this jazzmen"s sensibilities combined with the formality that the old written arrangements yielded exceptional results.

Blesh and Janis set about researching ragtime in earnest. Their monumental book They every Played Ragtime was released in 1950.

During the 1950s ragtime was the template of many record albums, yet usually to be treated as a caricature. Ragtime was generally played on pianos particularly rigged come sound the end of track or probably with thumbtacks in the hammers come evoke the sound of old-time saloon pianos. Despite such comical treatments, ragtime began to it is in heard with much more frequency and respect than it had been in three decades. In 1959 and also 1960 Max Morath, a talented pianist and also entertainer who had actually some endure directing in television, created a successful 12-part regimen entitled "The Ragtime Years" for national Educational Television. Due to the fact that then, Max Morath and ragtime have come to be inextricably linked in the public"s mind.

The 1968 Columbia documents release the "The Eighty-Six year of Eubie Blake" was another milestone in the comeback of ragtime. Blake, a experienced composer and pianist was additionally one of the creators that the 1921 show "Shuffle Along" an important and ground break all-black music revue. As a boy Blake learned piano officially at home in Baltimore. But he provided to sneak the end at night come hear the pianists in the low-down saloons nearby.

Blake"s wide range of music endeavors (including one ever-growing classic technique) led him to become familiar, even expert in ragtime. He eventually composed a variety of fine rags himself. As his 1968 record shows, he was a vastly entertaining, an essential performer--dexterous of hand and also quick-witted.

Blake swiftly found a new career--traveling the world and also appearing top top the concert stage. He also was a constant guest ~ above late-night tv talk shows, whereby he was constantly introduced to the millions viewers as a ragtime pianist.

In 1970 ragtime competent a large renaissance. Nonesuch documents was the very first classical brand to worry an album the ragtime; "Piano Rags by Scott Joplin," carry out by composer, conductor, and also musicologist Joshua Rifkin, created a sensation and quickly ended up being a bestseller. Rifkin"s strategy was the of a classical pianist. In ~ the very same time he was respectful that the low-down element as well without resorting to any kind of caricature. His play of Joplin showed an understanding of the innate swing and looseness the these pieces were meant to evoke. The very first album was a impressive success and also was conveniently followed through two an ext volumes.

The 1974 motion picture "The Sting" presented the widest audience however to the music that Scott Joplin. Back the selection of Joplin"s music because that a story set in the 1930s to be historically inaccurate, the music underscored and also supported the action on the display perfectly. As a result, Joplin"s "The Entertainer" went to the height of the pop record charts.

In 1972, Scott Joplin"s ragtime-infused opera, Treemonisha, to be revived. Joplin spent the critical years of his life struggling to uncover a producer for his opera. He regulated only to have actually it double performed, once staged, and once done as a read-through. Joplin died in 1917, broken by the struggle. However, Treemonisha was later accorded its due--in 1976, that earned a one-of-a-kind Pulitzer Prize and in 1983, a postage stamp was issued bearing Joplin"s likeness.

Since the 1970s and the renaissance the ragtime there has been a great deal of activity in the jajalger2018.orgations of live performance, festivals, and scholarship in the field. Public radio has featured numerous series dedicated to ragtime together as terry Waldo"s "This is Ragtime" and also Galen Wilke"s "It"s Rag Time!" Talented composers such as Trebor Tichenor, David thomas Roberts, Scott Kirby, and also many others have actually made lasting contributions to the ragtime repertoire. There room ragtime establishments throughout the nation such as The classic Ragtime culture of Indiana, The north Virginia Ragtime Society, The Sacramento Ragtime Society, and also many others. There is also a ragtime-influenced fusion style referred to as "terre verde" because that which some modern ragtimers are actively composing and performing.

There have likewise been an excellent advances in ragtime scholarship. Numerous fine books around ragtime have actually been published and there have been plenty of theses and also dissertations created on the subject.

Ragtime, like any type of other music, must be heard and also really can not be identified by words--just together words can not be characterized by music. Yet through more than 100 years, ragtime has had no trouble making its visibility known and its composers, performers, and also admirers all look forward to its future.



Berlin, Ed. Ragtime: A musical and social History. Berkeley and Los Angeles: university of California Press, 1980.

Berlin, Ed. Reflections and Research ~ above Ragtime. New York: academy for studies in American Music, Brooklyn College, 1987.

Jasen, David, and also Gene Jones. That American Rag: The Story of Ragtime from shore to Coast. Brand-new York: Schirmer, 2000.

Jasen, David A., and Trebor Jay Tichenor. Rags and also Ragtime: A musical History. New York: The Seabury Press, 1978.

Hitchcock, H. Wiley. Music in the joined States: A historic Introduction. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969.

Hasse, john Edward, ed. Ragtime: that History, Composers, and also Music. Brand-new York: Schirmer, 1985.

Periodicals and also Newspapers:

The Brooklyn day-to-day Eagle. Might 14, 1901:1.

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The Brooklyn day-to-day Eagle. August 11, 1902:11.

"Musical Impurity." Etude 18 (January 1900): 16.

Recordings: Compact Discs:

"Real Ragtime: disc Recordings from its Heyday" (Booklet note by Richard Martin and also David Sager). Archeophone Records, Arch. 1001A.