Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 6, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 6

Ragtime's rapid success and popularity were helped by the national distribution of printed sheet music, which was primarily written for piano. Black piano players traveling throughout the south and mid-west played ragtime in saloons, dance halls and bordellos. Later, due to public interest, music publishers printed special arrangements for both dance bands and marching bands. In addition, piano rolls of ragtime music were recorded for home player-pianos.

A ragtime composition takes on the same form as that of a march. It usually starts out with a four bar introduction and is followed with four themes. The trio, as in the march, is introduced with either a two or four bar modulation leading into the sub-dominant key. Like the march, ragtime is mainly written in 2/4 or 4/4 time. 2/4 time has two beats to a bar and 4/4 time has four beats to the bar. Then around the early part of the 1900s, waltz music in ragtime was written in 3/4 time.

Billy Kersands was the most popular minstrel star and the highest paid black entertainer of the era, earning as much as one hundred dollars a week---a lot of money in the 1870s and 1880s. Kersands was a comedian who enjoyed entertaining the public. But his real forte was dancing. He was credited as being the first dancer to introduce the "soft-shoe" dance, and the "buck and wing." He was also instrumental in introducing the African-American "clog-dance." Then came his development of the "cake-walk," followed by the "turkey-trot," the "bunny-hop," the "camel-walk" and the "kangaroo dip."

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