Archive for Wednesday, September 11, 2013

100 years ago: Band leader scoffs at ragtime fad

September 11, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Sept. 11, 1913:

  • "Ragtime music is rapidly passing away. J. C. McCanless, formerly leader of the First Regimental Band and director of the Kansas University Band, is authority for this statement. 'I would never play a program of this sort of music,' said Mr. McCanless yesterday, 'because I did not think the people wanted it. Now I know they do not. Out at the park this summer we played some ragtime, but I was glad to notice that the people did not seem to care for it. When we played a standard number we were always given a "hand" but on the rag-time stuff they did not seem to care at all. The public appreciates standard and classical music, people have learned to understand that it is something solid and they are rapidly discarding the flimsy, noisy, unharmonious and meaningless rag.'"
  • "The drouth of 1913 is over, it passed into the realms of the has-beens shortly after the heat wave had made its demise. Nearly two inches of rain, 1.86 inches to be exact, last night routed the dryness which has prevailed here almost unbroken since the middle of July. The rain began to fall yesterday evening about six o'clock, not a wild flurry and a dash and a splash, but a gentle quiet rain that soothed the scorched earth and seemed to put new 'pep' into everything. All night long the moisture fell and soaked into the parched ground, it was a slow and steady fall and not a drop was wasted. This morning when Lawrence awoke after a night of real sleep it was still drizzling and the clouds did not disappear today.... Persons moved quickly this morning, there was not the usual drag and delay that the summer's heat brought about. It was really good to be alive this morning and breathe the moisture laden air. The temperature has dropped back to normal again and indications now are for reasonable weather for a spell.... With the characteristic Jayhawker optimism the state is looking ahead."


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 5 months ago

Ragtime fell out of favor for a long time, and no sheet music of it was printed for many decades. A lot of ragtime compositions were preserved only in piles of old piano sheet music that had escaped being discarded with the trash. The greatest ragtime composer of all was Scott Joplin, who died in obscurity in 1917. At the time of his death, there was very little interest in his work.

But later, in the early 1970s, an album of his ragtime music became a million seller. And, the very popular movie 'The Sting' used Scott Joplin's ragtime composition 'The Entertainer' for its theme song.

Then ragtime quickly became very popular again, and in 1976, Scott Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize. It's very unfortunate that he couldn't have also been awarded just a little bit of money to live on when he was still alive, and living in desperate poverty towards the end of his life.

Ragtime can be very difficult to play on the piano, due to its syncopated rhythm that is shared by no other style of music. That distinctive characteristic originated in Africa, and was brought to the United States with the slave trade.

Where the syncopated rhythm came from was the drums that were used for distant communication in the jungles of Africa. One drummer would beat the drum with a steady beat that never varied, and another drummer would beat another drum, but the time interval of his beat varied after each individual beat of the other drum. It constantly varied, and was a language of sorts that could be heard for many miles across the jungle.

Without the syncopated drum method of communication, passing even a simple message between villages in Africa would have taken at least days. But the syncopated drums passed messages and news across the jungle almost instantly.

kritikosman 4 years, 5 months ago

This was just one case of disrespecting Black based musics, and relegating it to being less than ligit! It happens, even today....

Stephanie Hull 4 years, 5 months ago

At my first piano recital, an older girl played The Entertainer. I still remember how excited I was a few years later to be able to play it myself. Even now, if I happen to hear it somewhere, it makes me smile.

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