Popular Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Popular Music
of the Nineteenth and Early
Twentieth Centuries
The Ragtime Craze: 1896–1918
Ragtime Music
Emerged in the 1880s
 Its popularity peaked in the decade after
the turn of the century.
 Ragtime initially was a piano music but
gradually came to identify any syncopated
 The term “ragtime” was used to describe
any music that contained syncopation.
Ragtime Music
The word derives from the African American
term “to rag,” meaning to enliven a piece of
music by shifting melodic accents onto the
offbeats (a technique known as syncopation).
 It began as an obscure folk-dance music played
up and down the Mississippi valley during last
quarter of the nineteenth century.
 Ragtime energized popular music in America by
adding rhythmic vitality (syncopation) to the
The Banjo
A stringed instrument developed by slave
musicians from African prototypes during
the early colonial period.
 The basic patterns of ragtime music were
transferred from the banjo.
Also influenced by Latin American rhythms
such as the Cuban habanera
 Marching band music contributed the
regular “oom-pah” bass common in
ragtime pieces.
Ragtime Songs
Coon song
– Popular among white audiences from the
1890s until World War I
– Usually accompanied by a simplified version
of the syncopated rhythms of ragtime piano
“All Coons Look Alike to Me”
The first piece of sheet music to bear the
term “rag”
 Composed by the African American
songwriter Ernest Hogan
 Published (complete with racist caricatures
on the cover) in 1896
March Songs
Ragtime-influenced songs that were less
derogatory in content than coon songs
Owed less to the style developed by
Joplin and other black pianists
George M. Cohan (1878–1942), author
of “You’re a Grand Old Flag” (1907)
Ragtime Songs
The growing market for ragtime songs at
the turn of the century suggests a
continuation of the white fascination with
African American music first evinced in
 Most popular ragtime songs were vigorous
march-style songs with a few “irregular”
rhythms added for effect.
Scott Joplin (1868–1917)
The most famous ragtime composer of the era
Best known for his piano rags
Born in Texas
Began to play piano around the town of
Texarkana during his teens and received
instruction in classical music theory from a
German teacher
His first regular job as a pianist was in a cafe in
St. Louis.
Scott Joplin (1868–1917)
Developed a “ragging” piano style,
improvising around the themes of popular
songs and marches in a syncopated style
 Between 1895 and 1915, Joplin composed
many of the classics of the ragtime
 Helped popularize the style through his
piano arrangements, published as sheet
Scott Joplin (1868–1917)
Joplin’s rags were also widely heard on
player pianos.
 Player pianos were elaborate mechanical
devices activated by piano rolls—spools of
paper with punched holes that controlled
the movement of the piano’s keys.
“Maple Leaf Rag” (1898)
Scott Joplin’s first successful piece
 Named after the Maple Leaf social club in
Sedalia, where he often played
 The piece was published in 1899 and
became a huge hit, spreading Joplin’s
fame to Europe and beyond.
 “Maple Leaf” started a nationwide craze
for syncopated music.
Listening: “Maple Leaf Rag”
The form and style are typical of “classic” ragtime.
“Maple Leaf” consists of a succession of four distinct
– This type of form is common in marches.
Right hand (melody) plays syncopated (“offbeat” or
“staggered”) rhythms and riff-based melodies, usually
built on three-note patterns.
Left hand (accompaniment) plays regular bass part;
march-like, two-beat patterns.
The rhythmic interest comes from the interplay of the
two hands.
Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton
New Orleans jazz pianist
 Took Joplin’s composition and treated it as
the basis for extended, rhythmically
complex improvisations
 Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton’s version of
“Maple Leaf Rag” can be heard in The
Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz
The Rise of the Phonograph
Invented in 1877 by Thomas Alva Edison
and, at around the same time, by a French
inventor named Charles Cros
 The energy from sound waves was
transferred to a foil or wax cylinder, which
could then be used to reproduce the
original sounds.
Phonograph Discs
Two companies dominated the American
market in phonograph discs at the turn of
the century:
– Columbia Records (formed in 1887)
– Victor Talking Machine Company (1901)
Phonograph Discs
1890s: The first nickelodeons—machines
that played music hits for a nickel—were
set up in public places.
 1902: Enrico Caruso recorded a series of
Opera arias in London. Victor sold over
two million dollars’ worth of discs after his
death in 1921.
 1902: Twelve-inch shellac discs were
1920: The first three commercial radio
stations in the U.S. were established
(KDKA in Pittsburgh, WWJ in Detroit, and
WJZ in Newark).
 1926: The first nationwide commercial
radio network was established (National
Broadcasting Company [NBC]).
 1927: There were over 1,000 radio
stations in the United States.