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The Ragtime Dance

Scott Joplin wrote “The Entertainer” in 1902 (Berlin, 1998). But the piece rose to its popularity when it was used as theme music for the 1973 caper flick “The Sting” (Schmidt-Jones, 2006). It is a piano rag. It was written at a time when rag music was all the rage. Along with this piece, Joplin also wrote “The Ragtime Dance”, “ A Breeze from Alabama” and “The Strenuous Life”, all in 1902 (1998). Rag music became popular in the 1880s following the American Civil War (2006).

The music is said to be the precursor of what has been dubbed as America’s music- jazz (2006). During the slavery era, slaves turned to music for comfort. Black musicians often played in red-light district bars or brothels (Schmidt-Jones, 2006). One piano player from Missouri stood out- Scott Joplin (2006). His piano rags were deemed ‘high quality’ that they became part of popular piano repertoire (2006). “The Entertainer” is a classic rag. A classic rag has a upbeat tempo and a syncopated or ‘ragged’ melody (Schmidt-Jones, 2006).

“Ragging” a music is playing with its rhythm. “The Entertainer” is a rag time two step. A rag time two step is a dance common in the early 1900s. While the piece is written in the key of C, there is one section where it is in F. Furthermore, the piece boasts of a syncopated melody. A syncopated melody has rhythm of weak beats rather than strong ones. It is homophonic, meaning there is a single obvious melody throughout the piece. “The Entertainer” also has a parallel harmony, in which the melody is followed.

If the melody goes up, the harmony also goes up and vice versa. While rag music takes its roots from African-American music, the form hints of European-American roots. For “The Entertainer”, it has a short introduction followed by longer and repeated parts.

References: Berlin, E. (1998). A Biography of Scott Joplin. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from http://scottjoplin. org Schmidt-Jones, C. (Oct. 26, 2006). Ragtime. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from http://cnx. org

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