June 1999 Edition

Ragtime, one of the most exciting and captivating musical styles to come out of America during the period from 1897 - 1920. Though it was a "fad", like many musical styles have been, Ragtime was and is a genuine African-American musical style that has enjoyed a revival over the last few decades. Based on African rhythms and developed to its pinnacle by Scott Joplin and the "Missouri" school composers, rags are a joy to listen to.

Our collection has several great rags by both well known and obscure composers. This month we want to share with you some of the rich and beautiful cover art and music that was a part of the ragtime scene in the early years of our century.

If you want to know more about the musical origins and definition of rags, visit our special ragtime page. If you do, be sure to come back to listen to all of this month's great music!

By the way, you will notice a new feature on a couple of our featured covers; the availability of a full score image in PDF format. Try it out and let us know if you like the idea and want us to expand it by making full scores available for all our published music. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view it. If you don't have it, get it here (5.2mb download from Adobe.com).

Sheet Music Cover The Russian Rag
Music by: George L. Cobb
Lyrics by: (none, piano solo)
Cover artist: unknown

This piece is perhaps one of the most unusual rags I have seen. The cover states: "Interpolating the world famous Prelude by Rachmaninoff" "Originally introduced on the American Stage by Mlle. Rhea". This work is actually a ragtime arrangement of one of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Preludes, the Prelude in C# minor, Opus 3, No. 2. If you listen to the original Rachmaninov work in midi format, then listen to our ragtime version, you will hear a quite startling difference in sound, rhythm and tempo.The prelude midi was sequenced by Gary D. Lloyd and can be found at the midiworld.com website, this is a great site if you are a classical music fan. The ragtime craze started to fizzle out around 1920 so this work is one that came near the end of the fad.

Enjoy this fantastic rag.
Click the image to download a PDF file of the entire score of "Russian Rag". Let us know if you would like us to expand this feature! Sign our guestbook or send us an e-mail.

You'll need Adobe Acrobat to view the file

Sheet Music Cover The Dynamite Rag
Music by: J. Russel Robinson
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover Artist: "Aikai"

The subtitle to this work is "A Negro Drag". The rag style was a mixture of popular music and African rhythms so the music was primarily associated with African-American people and culture. The ragtime fad really took off with the publication of some of Scott Joplin's early works and then many white composers started writing rags, some good some not so good. One difficulty I have had in researching this month's feature has been a sad lack of information about the composers (except for Joplin and the other major luminaries). Obviously, Robinson was a master of the rag style and his musical talent is clear in this great work. His use of dissonance and melodic skill make this rag one of the best I have heard.

Hear this great rag but be careful with matches!.

Sheet Music Cover Tatters
Music by: Charles Cohen
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: Unknown

Here is another fine rag by another obscure composer I am unable to find information about. This work, written at the height of the ragtime craze, is a pleasant work, with a nice melody and interesting cover art. One has to wonder what the inspiration was for many of the song titles and corresponding cover art. Once again, we have a work that seems reflective of the style most associated with the "Joplin model", but there were other works titled "rags" that sounded quite different. The next few features demonstrate the differences.

Listen to this great rag.
Click the image to download a PDF file of the entire score of "Tatters".Let us know if you would like us to expand this feature! Sign our guestbook or send us an e-mail.

You'll need Adobe Acrobat to view the file

Sheet Music Cover
The Louisiana Rag
Music & Lyrics by: A. Loraine
Cover artist: unknown

"As sung by Ernest (Pete) Lambert" is an unusual inscription to find associated with a rag for rags were and are primarily a pianistic genre. So what is going on? When you listen to this work you will find that it also sounds similar to the others but different, why is that? Most of us immediately consider the Joplin style rag to define rags, yet, musically rags can sound different from the Joplin style. For an explanation, go to our ragtime page and you will see that though Joplin and his Missouri contemporaries wrote the kind of rags we most associate with "ragtime", a rag does not have to sound like that to qualify as a rag.This song has a very pleasant melody and musically is very interesting. There is a little coda at the end that restates the main melody. Even though somewhat different, I believe this work is still identifiable to most ears as being related to the stereotypical rag sound.

Listen to this "different" sort of rag.

Sheet Music Cover
The Frisco Rag
Music by: Harry Armstrong
Lyrics by: Bert Fitzgibbon & Billy Clark
Cover artist: "CP"

This song has a beautiful cover that just grabs your attention, I love covers like this. Here we have another rag that has become more of a song than a classic rag, but, the musical elements that define a rag are still in place. It is a bit shorter than the other songs featured here and that is mainly because it does not make use of as many repeats as the others and uses some shorter phrases. At only a minute and 22 seconds, it runs about one half the time as the other works featured.

Listen to the Frisco Rag.

Sheet Music Cover
The Ragtime Engineer
Music by: Clay Smith
Lyrics by: Sam M. Lewis
Cover artist: unknown

For our last featured item, we have this rag from 1910. In this case, in my opinion, we have gone about as far from the Missouri rag model as we can and still have a work that could be classified as a rag. I love the cover and find the work to be interesting musically. It makes use of many of the musical cliches that were popular during the period but also uses some clever phrases to be imitative of a train. Also a very short work at only 1:31.

Irving Berlin and other major composers of the period wrote rags too, Berlin's often sounded less like a rag than any, yet they still were. Be sure to visit our gallery this month to see some more rag covers and mid files including two by Berlin. Some of those in the gallery are even harder to distinguish as rags.

Listen to the Ragtime Engineer.

Be sure to visit this month's gallery for more great Ragtime songs, including "The International Rag" by Berlin, the famous "12th Street Rag" and others.

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