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Chapter 3

MUSIC 0711 Chapter 3: Ragtime

5 Pages

Course Code
MUSIC 0711
Doretta Whalen

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Ragtime Profile: “Jelly Roll” Ferdinand Joseph Morton:  Born in New Orleans, Louisiana – 1885  Earlier in his career he learned to play the guitar, trombone, and later mastered the piano  It was on the piano that he made his most important contribution to jazz o We must also take into consideration his numerous compositions and, to a lesser degree, his ability as a blues singer when analyzing his contributions to jazz  Such Morton compositions as the “King Porter Stomp”, “Wild Man Blues”, and “Chicago Breakdown” became standard repertoire for professional jazz musicians  During the early years Jelly Roll worked mainly in the “sporting houses” of New Orleans o Most of his work during this period was as a solo pianist  Gave him the musical freedom to explore the rhythmical and structural content of the music  Shortly after his solo performance in New Orleans – Jelly Roll began touring with various instrumental groups  Perhaps the most productive period of his recording career was between 1926-27 when he recorded for Victor  Morton also tried his hand at a number of other careers o Boxing promoting o Running a Hotel-Club  Throughout his career Jelly Roll experimented with a variety of businesses as well as performing as a jazz artist  Settled in California around 1940, developed health problems and eventually died in 1941 Structure:  One of the most popular forms of jazz during the late 1800s was ragtime  Since ragtime was usually written down and subsequently improvised o Some earlier critics doubted that it should even be called jazz  In its early stages ragtime was basically written for piano  Some of the top rag players include; o Scott Joplin o Jelly Roll Morton o James Scott o Tom Turpin o Louis Chauvin o Tony Jackson o Eubie Blake o Joseph Lamb  Ragtime was “born” in the mining camps in the Midwest and not in New Orleans  This music consisted of a rhythmic left hand that emphasizes the first and third beats and an improvised version of the melodic line in the right hand  Ragtime was basically a composer’s music o In most cases it was up to the improviser to interject his or her melodic improvisations into the pre composed melody  This was in direct contrast to Dixieland o Which depended more on the spontaneous improvisations of the performer  Ragtime more resembled the European concept of music in that there was a definite form and structure to the music, whereas Dixieland was basically free o Had a pseudorondo pattern  Rags often consisted of five or more sections  The technique of referring to different sections of a composition is definitely European  Many ragtime composers were concerned about the “legitimacy” of their music  Basically all of these works were based on European versions of the waltz, march, opera, and so on Origins:  Ragtime dates back to the early 1800s mining camps of the Midwest where the music was originally played on the guitar  Guitarists, rather than pianists, were usually employed because the mining camps were abandoned as soon as they were completely saturated  Just why and how did ragtime start in the Midwest? o Because of its geographical location, Sedalia, Missouri, became a favorite “stopover” haven for weary, traveling salesmen o Local businessmen, realizing the economic potential of the city, “opened the city” to prostitution and gambling o Most of the activities were contained in Main Street  Many of the musicians attracted to Sedalia as well as local talent, found time to study at the local conservatory with a native German music teacher  Although ragtime had begun as a fun music, some musicians found that in order to perform the new complicated melodies, composed by the likes of Joplin, they had to study o Many of these musicians also studied composition  The French military march served as a guided for composers writing in the ragtime musicians improvised  Morton’s colorful character coupled with his enormous talent made him one of the most important figured to emerge during the Ragtime era  This musical treat, together with his ability as a blues singer and arranger, earned him the respect of early ragtime jazz men  According to legend there was a definite trend to the development of rag  The trend appears to have started in Sedalia moved on to St. joseph, and then to St. Louis, and on to New Orleans  Ragtime music in New Orleans is said to have been more rhythmic  The general form for ragtime – AA-BB-CC-DD – structure is very often found in march music  The name ragtime was first used to describe that “ragged” music commonly associated with the Midwest o The music has unusually rough qualities in its early stages o This so-called Dixieland pieces referred to on recording are in fact “rag” Ragtime and European Classical Music:  Ragtime as an art form was revered in both the United States and Europe  Its roving melodies and haunting rhythms directly influenced such prominent composers as Claude Debussy, Erik Sa
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