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Ragtime is a term which originated from the black culture. During the days of ministrelsy, the minstrels would sing spirituals and work songs unlike the form the music was written in. They added embellishments here and there around the melody in a fanciful and lively manner, and called it "ragging."
From this ragging style of performance, came syncopation in its early stages. From syncopation came ragtime, which eventually opened the way for jazz.
The ragtime era from 1896 to 1917, was a welcome relief from the long depression that began in 1893 and continued for four years. The mood of ragtime was cheerful and exhilarating. The popularity of the music contributed to its longevity, and it was popular because it was a happy, joyful music. It continued on for the next twenty years.
Ragtime also had its origins in slavery. It was not until Scott Joplin, introduced it in modern form in the 1890s, however, that it became popular with American audiences. Almost immediately, it was heard everywhere. Be it a band concert, a picnic, an outing, a dance, a parade, a rally or a boat cruise, brass bands were constantly playing ragtime music with its syncopated rhythms.
"What is ragtime music?" very simply put, it is a syncopated melody played against a strict rhythm accompaniment. With the combining of these two rhythmic factors, a ragtime character is created. Syncopation is defined as the placing of strong accents where normally the weak or after-beats would be.