Ragtime Piano Scott Joplin

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Scott Joplin Ragtime Classics for Piano Duet (one piano, four hands) Scott Joplin. 4.7 out of 5 stars 15. A First Book of Beethoven: 24. 5.0 out of 5 starsScott Joplin best of Ragtime Reviewed in the United States on June 18, 2000 This is an excellent collection of Scott's waltz's, marches and most of his rag's. For more selections of his rag's I suggest the book Scott Joplin's Complete Piano Rags.


100 Years of the Maple Leaf Rag
May, 1999

Go to the Ragtime Timeline

Scott Joplin's piano roll of Maple Leaf Rag (1916)

Solace, by Joshua Rifkin (1972)

Harriet Island, by Brian Keenan (1998)

THE EXPLOSIVE POPULARITY of the Maple Leaf Rag, like so many other seminal events in American history, was founded on fortuitous circumstance. The club that inspired the song functioned for only a year and a half. Scott Joplin, the composer, spent only a few years of his life in Sedalia before he moved on to St. Louis and New York. The music publisher met Joplin only by chance; one story has it that he liked the music he heard one day when he stopped off for a beer.

It was in all ways an unlikely combination. And yet it happened - with the result that later this month, Sedalia, Missouri, will be throwing a party to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its most famous export: Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag.

Joplin wasn't the only composer of ragtime in the 1890s, or even the first one. The new music, which blended march tempos, minstrel-show songs, and the 'ragged' or syncopated rhythms, was percolating throughout the Midwest wherever African-American musicians gathered. St. Louis and Chicago, with its World's Fair, were magnets for musicians experimenting with new styles.

But Joplin was the decisive ragtime composer, the one whose musical imagination gave ragtime its finest expression. And in the Maple Leaf Rag (named for a short-lived Sedalia social club), he gave the genre its iconic masterpiece. It was also ragtime's biggest hit. The phenomenal success of the Maple Leaf Rag sparked a nationwide ragtime craze. Hundreds and hundreds of rags were published. One entrepreneur even opened a chain of ragtime instruction schools, including a branch in Honolulu. Just as with jazz, rock 'n' roll, and rap, there were those who fulminated against the new trend ('The counters of the music stores are loaded with this virulent poison'). But the tide turned quickly. By 1905 even the President's daughter could be a ragtime fan:

Miss Roosevelt came up [at a White House reception] and said, 'Oh, Mr. Santelmann, do play the Maple Leaf Rag for me. . . . ' The Maple Leaf Rag?' he gasped in astonishment. 'Indeed, Miss Roosevelt, I've never heard of such a composition, and I'm sure it is not in our library.' 'Now, now, Mr. Santelmann,' laughed Alice, 'Don't tell me that. The band boys have played it for me time and again when Mr. Smith or Mr. Vanpoucke was conducting, and I'll wager they all know it without the music.'
- Recalled by a member of the Marine Band

And ragtime could have been like other fads in popular culture: famous for 15 minutes. But instead, Joplin's goal of creating works that would be both popular and 'art' music seems to echo through American music: in the careers of Gershwin, Ellington, Bernstein, Mingus, Sondheim, and many others. And 100 years later, as some of the following suggests, ragtime continues to revive and reappear, not only in the musical world, but in literature, film, and theater.

The Ragtime Timeline

1868 Scott Joplin is born in North Texas, the son of a former slave.

Scott Joplin
(photographer unknown)
As a young man, he takes up piano and several other instruments and plays for dances and shows. His formal musical education seems to have been brief; all the same, he forms the goal of creating popular music that would have the prestige and cultivating force of 'art' music. In the 1890s, he settles in Sedalia and meets John Stark, a music-store owner who will become his publisher. In one version, Stark is in a club having a beer when he first hears Joplin's music. (As with much of Joplin's biography, the real facts are hard to ascertain.)

1899 Publication of the Maple Leaf Rag. Sales are slow at first, but then it becomes a nationwide best-seller. Music publishers churn out hundreds of rags to capitalize on the trend. A typical one will feature crude stereotypes of African-Americans on the cover and forgettable formulaic music on the inside.

In the midst of all this, Joplin will insist on the excellence and restraint of what will become known as 'classic ragtime' - as Stark's advertisements put it, 'as high-class as Chopin.'

1903 The first recording of Maple Leaf Rag is made, in Minneapolis. No copies are known to survive.

1907 Joplin moves to New York. He composes pieces such as Solace, Pineapple Rag, and Wall Street Rag, and his most ambitious work, the opera Treemonisha.

1907 In Paris, Claude Debussy writes his rag-inflected Golliwog's Cakewalk. (The cakewalk was one of the ancestors of the rag.) Other modernists who will help themselves to ragged rhythms are Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Paul Hindemith.

1911 Irving Berlin writes 'Alexander's Ragtime Band.' Did he steal the melody from Joplin? According to one tradition, yes; but ragtime scholars are unable to verify it.

1917 Joplin's last years are not happy ones. He continues to grow as a composer, but is dogged by the symptoms of the syphilis that will kill him, and frustrated by his inability to secure a production of Treemonisha. A year before his death. Joplin makes a piano roll of Maple Leaf Rag. A unique document, but his health is failing and the playing is full of mistakes. Joplin dies in 1917, at 49.

Listen - Joplin's piano roll of Maple Leaf Rag
(RealAudio 3.0: For audio help, see How to Listen.)

1918 Young pianists like James P. Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton are studying and performing Joplin's works, but introduce elements of rhythmic drive, showmanship, and improvisation. New styles are being created: stride piano, and jazz, which will eclipse ragtime as a popular trend.

1950 Authors Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis interview surviving veterans of the golden age of ragtime, including Joplin's widow Lottie, and write an important book, They All Played Ragtime.

1970s In the '50s and '60s, ragtime leads a fringe existence. It spawns the occasional novelty hit. It can be heard in Gay '90s-style saloons, and for some reason, Shakey's pizza parlors. But quietly, here and there, change is stirring. In small numbers, musicians - many of them classical composers and academics by day - are beginning to look at ragtime in fresh ways. Composers like William Bolcom and William Albright write new rags. Joshua Rifkin, a musicologist and expert on baroque music, makes a recording of Joplin rags for the Nonesuch label. In contrast to the 'honky-tonk' style that most people associate with ragtime, Rifkin's performances are elegant, wistful, slow. The record becomes a best-seller. Gunther Schuller rediscovers the arrangements used by bandsmen in Joplin's day (the 'Red Back Book'): it too is a best-seller. Joplin becomes the dominant composer on the classical charts. The great ragtime revival of the 1970s is underway. Soon, ragtime shows up everywhere, from recitals to TV commercials.

Listen - Solace, by Joshua Rifkin
1973 Film director George Roy Hill overhears the record his teenage son is playing in his room. It's Schuller's 'Red Back Book.' Hill decides to use the music in his movie, The Sting. Even though Schuller, and Joplin, are mentioned in the film's credits, thousands of movie-goers have the impression that Joplin's Entertainer is actually a piece called 'Theme from 'The Sting',' by Marvin Hamlisch.

1975 E. L. Doctorow publishes his novel, 'Ragtime,' which investigates themes of race, class, and injustice. It melds historical characters like Houdini and Stanford White with fictional ones, including a Joplin-like musician named Coalhouse Walker. In the same year, Treemonisha is produced on Broadway.

1976 Joplin, now more widely recognized than he ever was in his life, is awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in music.

1981 The movie version of Doctorow's Ragtime appears, with a score by Randy Newman and a cameo appearance by James Cagney.

1983 The posthumous awards continue for Joplin when the United States Postal Service issues a stamp of the composer as part of its Black Heritage commemorative series.

1998 Ragtime: The Musical, based on Doctorow, opens on Broadway. It wins four Tony awards.

1999 Ragtime continues to suggest possibilities to composers.The newest offshoot, the Terra Verde style, uses abundant Latin rhythm (as did Joplin's Solace). Some composers: Brian Keenan, Hal Isbitz, David Thomas Roberts.

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The Entertainer
by Scott Joplin
PublisherJohn Stark & Son
DurationTypically 3:53

'The Entertainer' is a 1902 classic piano rag written by Scott Joplin.[1] It was sold first as sheet music, and in the 1910s as piano rolls that would play on player pianos.[1] The first recording was by blues and ragtime musicians the Blue Boys in 1928, played on mandolin and guitar.[1]

As one of the classics of ragtime, it returned to international prominence as part of the ragtime revival in the 1970s, when it was used as the theme music for the 1973 Oscar-winning film The Sting. Composer and pianist Marvin Hamlisch's adaptation reached #3 on the Billboardpop chart and spent a week at #1 on the easy listening chart in 1974.[2]The Sting was set in the 1930s, a full generation after the end of ragtime's mainstream popularity, thus giving the inaccurate impression that ragtime music was popular at that time.

The Recording Industry Association of America ranked it #10 on its 'Songs of the Century' list.[1]


Scott joplin songs
A live performance of 'The Entertainer' in 2007.

'The Entertainer' is sub-titled 'A Rag Time Two Step', which was a form of dance popular until about 1911, and a style which was common among rags written at the time.

Its structure is: Intro–AA–BB–A–CC–Intro2–DD.[jargon][3]

It is primarily set in the key of C major; however, for the C section (commonly referred to as the 'Trio'), it modulates to the subdominant, F major, then through a transitional passage modulates back to C major for the D section.[jargon] The B section contains an indication that the melody is to be played an octave higher on the repeat.

In the June 7, 1903, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, contemporary composer Monroe H. Rosenfeld described 'The Entertainer' as 'the best and most euphonious' of Joplin's compositions to that point. 'It is a jingling work of a very original character, embracing various strains of a retentive character which set the foot in spontaneous action and leave an indelible imprint on the tympanum'.[3]

Suggested by the rag's dedication to 'James Brown and his Mandolin Club', author Rudi Blesh wrote that 'some of the melodies recall the pluckings and the fast tremolos of the little steel-stringed plectrum instruments'.[4] Stark issued an arrangement of the piece for two mandolins and a guitar.[3]



Scott Joplin Songs

The copyright on 'The Entertainer' was registered December 29, 1902, along with two other Joplin rags, 'A Breeze from Alabama' and 'Elite Syncopations', all three of which were published by John Stark & Son of St. Louis, Missouri.[3] The centerpiece of the original cover art featured a minstrel show caricature of a black man in formal attire on a theater stage.

Scott joplin songs

Popularity and legacy[edit]


Ragtime Piano : Scott Joplin . The Entertainer (1902)

In November 1970, Joshua Rifkin released a recording called Scott Joplin: Piano Rags[5] on the classical label Nonesuch, which featured as its second track 'The Entertainer'. It sold 100,000 copies in its first year and eventually became Nonesuch's first million-selling record.[6] The Billboard 'Best-Selling Classical LPs' chart for September 28, 1974, has the record at #5, with the follow-up Volume 2 at #4, and a combined set of both volumes at #3. Separately both volumes had been on the chart for sixty-four weeks.[7] The album was nominated in 1971 for two Grammy Award categories, Best Album Notes and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra), but at the ceremony on March 14, 1972, Rifkin did not win in any category.[8] In 1979 Alan Rich in the New York Magazine wrote that by giving artists like Rifkin the opportunity to put Joplin's music on disk, Nonesuch Records 'created, almost alone, the Scott Joplin revival'.[9]

Marvin Hamlisch lightly adapted and orchestrated Joplin's music for the 1973 film The Sting, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and Adaptation on April 2, 1974.[8] His version of 'The Entertainer' reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 18, 1974,[10][11] prompting The New York Times to write, 'the whole nation has begun to take notice'.[12] Thanks to the film and its score, Joplin's work became appreciated in both the popular and classical music worlds, becoming (in the words of music magazine Record World), the 'classical phenomenon of the decade'.[13] In the United States, 'The Entertainer' is one of many songs commonly played by ice cream trucks to attract attention.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcdSullivan, Steve (May 12, 2017). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. 3. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 32–33. ISBN9781442254497.
  2. ^Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 110. ISBN0-89820-149-7.
  3. ^ abcdJasen, David A.; Trebor Jay Tichenor (1978). Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History. New York: Dover. pp. 89–90. ISBN0-486-25922-6.
  4. ^Rudi Blesh, p. xxiv, 'Scott Joplin: Black-American Classicist', Introduction to Scott Joplin Collected Piano Works, New York Public Library, 1981
  5. ^'Scott Joplin Piano Rags Nonesuch Records CD (w/bonus tracks)'. Nonesuch.com. Retrieved March 19, 2009.
  6. ^'Nonesuch Records'. Nonesuch.com. Retrieved March 19, 2009.
  7. ^Billboard 1974a, p. 61.
  8. ^ abLA Times n.d.
  9. ^Rich 1979.
  10. ^'Charis Music Group, compilation of cue sheets from the American Top 40 radio Show'(PDF). Retrieved September 5, 2009.
  11. ^Billboard 1974b, p. 64.
  12. ^Kronenberger, John (August 11, 1974). 'The Ragtime Revival—A Belated Ode to Composer Scott'. The New York Times.
  13. ^Record World Magazine. July 1974, quoted in: Berlin, Edward A. (1996). King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era, p. 251.
  14. ^Neely, Daniel Tannehill (Spring 2005). 'Soft Serve: Charting the aural promise of ice cream truck music'(PDF). Esopus. New York City (4). Archived from the original(PDF) on February 5, 2009.


  • 'Entertainment Awards Database'. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved March 17, 2009.
  • 'Best Selling Classical LPs'. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (September 28, 1974). 1974a. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  • 'Hot 100'. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media (May 18, 1974). 1974b. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  • Rich, Alan (1979). 'Music'. New York (December 24, 1979): 81. Retrieved August 5, 2011.

External links[edit]

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
  • Media related to Scott Joplin The Entertainer at Wikimedia Commons
  • Musical score and MIDI file at the Mutopia Project
  • Sheet music and mp3 at mfiles.co.uk (interactive version requires Sibelius Scorch)
  • Free typeset sheet music from Cantorion.org
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