Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rural Ragtime

The turn of the last century was the heyday of ragtime, a truly American genre that pre-dates jazz.

Ragtime is distinguished by its odd syncopation of melodic accents falling between metrical beats. Without getting technical, the style seems to “miss” the beat and add emphasis just prior to or after the metrical beat. Many folks, me included, find that this actually accentuates the beat making it nearly impossible to sit still when listening to ragtime.

Ragtime originated in the late 1880s amongst the African-American musicians of the Northern cities and became popular throughout North America. In 1899 Scott Joplin took the American musical scene by storm with the “Maple Leaf Rag”. Unfortunately, the popularity of ragtime was before the invention of modern recording. In a twist of fate, ragtime's popularity coincided with the popularity of sheet music and player pianos, both of which have preserved this uniquely American musical style for future generations. Actually, ragtime has remained popular and has enjoyed a few revivals over the years.

The end of the 19th century may have been the "Gay Nineties" that gave birth to the bouncing sounds of ragtime in Boston and New York, but while the North was celebrating a booming stock market and good times, the rural South was going through a recession, increasing industrialization, and depressed prices for farm goods. But hard times are nothing new to the folks in rural Southern communities and it didn't stop the folks from kicking up their heels for a good rag on a Friday night.

Rev. Gary Davis - Maple Leaf Rag.mp3

Roy Harvey & Jess Johnson - Guitar Rag.mp3

Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers - Hawkins Rag.mp3

Pull the cork on that bottle and roll back the rug.
Y'all have a good weekend!


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