Ragtime & Scott Jopin

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Meanwhile, Gottschalk’s music gave exposure to the sounds of New Orleans throughout the world and helped to influence a style of piano music evolving in the 1890’s which incorporated the structure of Sousa’s marches with the energetic syncopation of Gottschalk’s music. It was born in the parlors of middle-class blacks and in the backrooms of the brothels in New Orleans. It was called ragtime.

Gottschalk’s piano pieces presented the rhythms of Congo Square in an organized yet syncopated manner. Ragtime took these ideas and standardized them. It has been said that ragtime is “white music played black” and in its structure and common characteristics, this may be true.

Ragtime, as we have seen, is composed (rather than improvised) piano music. It combines a steady, even left-hand chording with a syncopated (“ragged”) right hand melody. Structurally, the ragtime piano piece followed the march, with a series of “strains”, or 8 or 16 measure musical phrases presented with repetition (AABBCC…).

Unlike previous music being created by black Americans, which was spontaneous performances, ragtime was composed music put into written form and disseminated to the mass public. Composers like Scott Joplin aspired to make ragtime an Afro-American classical music.

In fact, Scott Joplin did for ragtime at the end of the 19th century what Stephen Foster had done for parlor songs in the middle of the 19th century: elevate the standard and popularize the form.

While ragtime was an important step in the path towards the development of jazz, it was not lasting in its popularity. Its downfall might lie in the fact that although it was highly energetic and artistically composed, only a few of the middle class could perform it. Most relied on their pianolas or player pianos with music rolls to hear other performers play the pieces.

1890 Caricature of the evil music being created in New Orleans’ Storyville and the response of “respectable” citizens of the city.

However, the second reason for the disappearance of ragtime might be due to its association with the brothels and bordellos of New Orleans, most of which were located in a district known as “Storyville.”

At the end of the 19th century, as bordellos were spreading throughout New Orleans, morally conservative city councilman Sidney Story proposed that all the houses of ill-repute be geographically located in a centralized district to protect the upstanding citizens of the city. Those who were forced to uproot and move their businesses to this new area gained a measure of revenge when they nicknamed it “Storyville.” The district was so widely known and so organized that it even had its own consumer guide, “The Blue Book”, which listed every working woman in the district and where they might be found.

The opportunities for employment for musicians in Storyville were numerous, particularly for piano players who could play this new, hot music called ragtime. Not only did ragtime provide an energetic, exciting entertainment for the guests in the parlor by the front door, but when played loud, it could cover up the noises that were going on upstairs. Although a few brothels added other instruments such as guitar, banjo, trumpet or clarinet, it was built around the sounds of the ragtime piano. While the nightclubs and cabarets in Storyville hired many instrumentalists, a good piano player in Storyville was never without work and never went hungry.

Joplin had never intended for his compositions to be the musical background for such sexual activity. But, as the public began to associate ragtime piano with such things, it was rejected by upstanding, respectable Americans. In a way, ragtime was the precursor of rock ‘n roll in that it was rhythmically innovative, originally connected with sex, first accepted as novel and then rejected by the morally conservative mainstream.

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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