Style Sheets

Characteristics of Ragtime

  1. Multi-theme music (usually four themes, which were grouped either ABACD or ABCD)
  2. Harmonic orthodoxy
  3. Simple syncopation; the music was rarely rhythmically complex
  4. An interest in key relationships which reflects its affinity to European Art Music; this simply means that certain traditions were established regarding how each section related to the other vis-à-vis key
  5. Recapitulation (return to the theme statement) was mandatory
  6. Usually the compositions had 16-measure segments, which were divided into four equal parts
  7. The left hand was supportive and never syncopated
  8. The harmonic movement was essentially that of tonic to dominant (I to V)
  9. Ragtime was essentially a piano music
  10. Ragtime was a music which descended from the cakewalk
  11. Ragtime music was hard, bright, cheerful and machine-like

Additional characteristics
  1. The music was white (or European) in essence, although most of its practitioners were black
  2. Ragtime was a composed music
  3. Ragtime pieces were conceived as pieces capable of standing alone; embellishments and improvisation were superfluous and not usually permitted
  4. It was desirable to play a piece the same way every time
  5. Ragtime was a printed music
  6. Its orientation was towards classical concert music
  7. Circus psychology was predominant; the tendency was toward faster tempos and sensational technical exploits
  8. The performance goal of ragtime was the successful realization of a predictable result
  9. It was characterized by an emulation of white techniques, which seems to belie the instinctual character of American Negro music
  10. It was machine like, impersonal music (dehumanized); the idea was to make the live performance sound mechanical like the piano roll, which is one reason why the piano roll was so popular during the ragtime era
  11. There was a desire for meticulous precision and technical facility
  12. Ragtime centered around the cities; it was a music that called for publishers and mechanized instruments
  13. This music was accepted by the black bourgeois in spite of its sterile and static nature
  14. Upper class blacks enjoyed the ragged semi-classics
  15. "Ragging" the classics was a popular phenomenon
  16. The time period that the music was at its height was 1900-1920

The Demise of Ragtime
  1. By 1920 ragtime had become a national fad in watered down, ricky-tick form
  2. In ragtime, content was subservient to form (in jazz, form is usually conceived of as just one of the musical resources available)
  3. Ragtime failed to develop internally
  4. The discipline of ragtime was too restrictive for jazz
  5. Ragtime forms remained completely static
  6. There was over-exploitation of the music by commercial interests as well as the high pressure promotion of pseudo-ragtime
  7. The mechanical repetition of the ragtime formula became boring
  8. Jazz music presented tremendous possibilities (as an alternative)
speakerspacer The Entertainer - John Arpin

home overview lesson plans jazz resources what's new jazz in america