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Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? #1912781
06/13/12 10:43 AM
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I've always been an avid Joplin/Ragtime fan, and I'm fascinated by not only his music, but his life. It's a known fact that Joplin was constantly trying to revolutionize Ragtime and wanted to be taken seriously as a Classical Composer. He demonstrates outstanding originality in 'Bethena - A Concert Waltz', and of course his Opera, 'Treemonisha'. It's also known that at one point he was going to "revolutionize the symphonic form" and was composing a Ragtime Symphony. It's also believed he was working on a Piano Concerto. Unfortunately, both of these works are now lost.

Do you feel Joplin and the Ragtime Era deserves more respect as a form, and as a part of Classical art? Joplin's works demonstrate absolute genius and that's why I feel he's often brushed off as just a Ragtime composer, when really, he was so much more than that.

What are your thoughts?


Currently working on...
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op.66
Mozart - Piano Sonata in E flat K.282
Liszt - Romance in E minor "O pourquoi donc" S.196
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Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1912802
06/13/12 11:34 AM
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Well, one thing I know is it takes a lot of skill to perform Scott Joplin well. I always say that if you can play ragtime and the classics you pretty much have the bases covered. I don't know his opera but I am a fan.

rada

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1912854
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Originally Posted by Samuel1993
Joplin's works demonstrate absolute genius and that's why I feel he's often brushed off as just a Ragtime composer, when really, he was so much more than that.



any examples to listen to? Just askig because besides a few nice rags I don't know amything about his "other" music.

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: offnote] #1913002
06/13/12 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by offnote
Originally Posted by Samuel1993
Joplin's works demonstrate absolute genius and that's why I feel he's often brushed off as just a Ragtime composer, when really, he was so much more than that.



any examples to listen to? Just askig because besides a few nice rags I don't know amything about his "other" music.


Here are some of my favorites that I feel represent his genius the most:- smile
'Bethena - A Concert Waltz'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QMo3FNugbg

'Bink's Waltz'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfjxRIiF5Fw

'Great Crush Collision March'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp_k5Li3C-Y

'Treemonisha - Overture'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__lLq3zoCDs

'Solace - A Mexican Serenade'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3cJRiwf0Xo

'Fig Leaf - A High Class Rag' - considered by many as one of the finest Ragtime pieces ever written
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akfySZPU9yI

Last edited by Samuel1993; 06/14/12 03:09 AM.

Currently working on...
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op.66
Mozart - Piano Sonata in E flat K.282
Liszt - Romance in E minor "O pourquoi donc" S.196
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1913086
06/13/12 08:05 PM
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I think Joplin is actually overrated. I think the music of Jelly Roll Morton, and stride pianists like Johnson and Fats Waller is far more interesting.

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: pianoloverus] #1913259
06/14/12 03:06 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think Joplin is actually overrated. I think the music of Jelly Roll Morton, and stride pianists like Johnson and Fats Waller is far more interesting.


It's incredible the differences in opinions regarding composers. Why do you feel he's overrated? His Rags are pure genius, much finer than any of the ones written during his time. And his non-syncopated works are heavily underrated, and underplayed for that matter, sadly.

I wish more of his works had survived. He was really onto something in regards to revolutionizing ragtime. A Ragtime Symphony would have been a groundbreaking point in the history of American Music.


Currently working on...
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op.66
Mozart - Piano Sonata in E flat K.282
Liszt - Romance in E minor "O pourquoi donc" S.196
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1913328
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Originally Posted by Samuel1993
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think Joplin is actually overrated. I think the music of Jelly Roll Morton, and stride pianists like Johnson and Fats Waller is far more interesting.


It's incredible the differences in opinions regarding composers. Why do you feel he's overrated?
I find Joplin's compositions quite boring harmonically and rhythmically(they all use basically the same chord progression and rhythm patterns)and too simple in terms of their use of pianistic devices. Here are a few pieces by Morton, Waller, Johnson, and a modern rag by Bolcom that I find far more appealing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSv-EqtHtEE&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSFGyipsNsg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWkw9XcSYII
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jftAt4mXFk

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1913452
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I am a huge fan of Joplin's works... they are wonderful. Whilst I agree that the same chord progression is used in many of his rags, that can sometimes be a sigh of relief when learning a new one. His rags are quite intricate with the harmonies, and offer so much room for shaping. If nothing else, there can be a huge sense of accomplishment when you learn one of his pieces!

BTW, I performed 'Maple Leaf Rag' for the first time in public a couple of weeks ago... that is definitely a piece that will get you compliments after a performance! laugh

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: MrsLois] #1913868
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I play 'Maple Leaf Rag' and 'The Entertainer'. What other rags are that good and popular that would be worthy to learn? because
so far I cannot find any.

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1913904
06/15/12 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Samuel1993
I've always been an avid Joplin/Ragtime fan, and I'm fascinated by not only his music, but his life. It's a known fact that Joplin was constantly trying to revolutionize Ragtime and wanted to be taken seriously as a Classical Composer. He demonstrates outstanding originality in 'Bethena - A Concert Waltz', and of course his Opera, 'Treemonisha'. It's also known that at one point he was going to "revolutionize the symphonic form" and was composing a Ragtime Symphony. It's also believed he was working on a Piano Concerto. Unfortunately, both of these works are now lost.

Do you feel Joplin and the Ragtime Era deserves more respect as a form, and as a part of Classical art? Joplin's works demonstrate absolute genius and that's why I feel he's often brushed off as just a Ragtime composer, when really, he was so much more than that.

What are your thoughts?


40 years ago, maybe. But since "The Sting" (goodness - was it really way back in 1973 :-) and the Joplin revival it sparked off, I'd say he's OVER-rated if anything. Is 'Bethena' THAT original? A string of pleasant but themes connected by rather contrived modulations. And whistle me something from 'Treemonisha'?

Many composers used elements of ragtime. It could be argued that Joplin got stuck in it.

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: offnote] #1913972
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Originally Posted by offnote
I play 'Maple Leaf Rag' and 'The Entertainer'. What other rags are that good and popular that would be worthy to learn? because
so far I cannot find any.


Probably the most popular rag from the era is the 12th Street Rag. Rialto Ripples has a fair amount of popularity due to the fame of Gershwin, but it is quite late for the ragtime era. St. Louis Tickle is another famous rag.

The rags of Charles Lamb, James Scott, and Tom Turpin are probably more typical of ragtime music than Scott Joplin's.

There are some pieces with "Rag" in the title which are not really rags. Alexander's Ragtime Band and Tiger Rag are examples.


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Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: BDB] #1913988
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Originally Posted by BDBProbably the most popular rag from the era is the [i
12th Street Rag.


this one? smile

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1914309
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I really like Scott Joplin's music. I find that everything that he composed is well crafted and is a pleasure to listen to. I don't really care too much about whether academics take his music seriously, his music speaks for itself and has withstood the test of time. As for whether you he is underrated that really depends on who is doing the rating - I rate Scott Joplin highly in terms of music I like to listen to. Sure there are plenty of composers whose compositions are more complex or sophisticated but for me that's not the point.

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: offnote] #1914394
06/16/12 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by offnote
I play 'Maple Leaf Rag' and 'The Entertainer'. What other rags are that good and popular that would be worthy to learn? because
so far I cannot find any.


One of his best is `The Cascades` although it`s really quite difficult in places.

`Peacherine Rag` is another good one and much easier.

Another unusual one which I like is `Cleopha`.


Will
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1914540
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Bethena, Magentic Rag...

rada

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1914908
06/17/12 12:40 PM
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"...His Rags are pure genius, much finer than any of the ones written during his time..."

I'm very partial to Joplin, and would be the last to decry his special gifts, though I'm not sure I would grant such a blanket imprimatur to every one of his works. However, let's not forget Joseph Lamb, or even Joplin's contemporaries from other countries, such as Ernesto Nazareth.

If you're not familiar with Lamb's work, you have a nice treat in store, as a Joplin fan. I think that there are many blazing talents who have been swept away so completely by time and circumstances of fortune that we will never have any way of finding out about them. Louis Chauvin comes to mind. Even Joplin's own surviving works are likely just a fraction of what he might have brought forth in a less adverse circumstance. And, as you said, sometimes the less talented have been thrust in our face--- that's still happening to this very day.

The story of his life is as affecting as his compositions. You may still be able to find King of Ragtime, Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin, published by Oxford University Press. I thought it was better-researched and better-written than some of the other biographies I've seen.


Clef

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1915698
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I don't know how to quote multiple people, so I'll just have to do it like this. blush

Exalted Wombat: In terms of Bethena, I have to disagree with what you said. The real genius of this work is Joplin's use of one tiny motif from the start, and turning it into "An enchantingly beautiful piece of music". Everything about the piece is genius in my opinion, the unusual modulations and he became a lot more daring with his harmonies in this piece. Also, if one is aware of the historical side of this piece (it was his first copyrighted piece since the sudden death of his new wife, Freddie), one is able to fully understand the piece. It's his most beautiful piece.

Also, since you asked, here is Act I of Treemonisha.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaJ6jQFb1kg

Jeff Clef: I am also a pretty avid Lamb fan, just not as much as Joplin/ In fact, Top Liner Rag is one of the most beautiful Rags ever written in my opinion. At times, Lamb's Rags are perhaps more sophisticated! I will agree with that, but there's just something about Joplin's which is still more special. Maybe it's Joplin's melodies? I don't know, but people may see Joplin as a lesser composer, but I don't think he is. His later works became more daring and less formulaic than his early works.

Of course, everybody's opinion is valid smile. I just saw this thread as a way of discussing Joplin as a composer, not the Ragtime novice he is too often seen as.


Currently working on...
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op.66
Mozart - Piano Sonata in E flat K.282
Liszt - Romance in E minor "O pourquoi donc" S.196
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1915737
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Samuel1993 -- I don't know what the situation in the UK is, but here in the US, there are pianists and composers pretty much devoted to the "rag". There are numerous regional festivals, and a big annual event, held (I believe) in Joplin, MO. The two American Classical composers of note are William Bolcom and the late William Albright, both of whom wrote extensive ragtime works in the '60's through the '80's. John Musto is still writing in this genre, and a host of "lesser lights". So I don't believe the idiom is in any way disrespected.

I really don't relate to Joplin as being underrated, either. It was really HIS rags that entered the musical consciousness in the early '70's, in response to "The Sting" -- not Lamb's or Turpin's -- and IMO it's because Joplin's rags have more memorable "hooks" and beguiling modulations. "Bethena" and "Treemonisha" do indeed signal more ambition on his part, but unfortunately he simply died too early afterwards, and so the speculation remains IMO in the "what-might-have-been" realm.


Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1916742
06/21/12 01:16 PM
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Well maybe Joplin didn't fit into the "white" boys club is because he's "BLACK"! Am I sorry I said it? . . . NO!

I think the piano is made up of white & black keys, and they should all be appreciated! So we should give CREDIT where credit is due!

I am so grateful for "black" music. I will always be grateful!
I enjoy Joplin, and I'm not going to apologize for it!

Last edited by Diane...; 06/21/12 01:28 PM.

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Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Diane...] #1916856
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Originally Posted by Diane...
Well maybe Joplin didn't fit into the "white" boys club is because he's "BLACK"! Am I sorry I said it? . . . NO!

I think the piano is made up of white & black keys, and they should all be appreciated! So we should give CREDIT where credit is due!

I am so grateful for "black" music. I will always be grateful!
I enjoy Joplin, and I'm not going to apologize for it!


Er...you don't have to apologise for not being racist, Diane!

(You did know Joplin wasn't just black, but Muslim too? ANd don't get me started on the Al-Jolson family :-)

Last edited by Exalted Wombat; 06/21/12 05:34 PM.
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Diane...] #1916869
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Credit IS given, in this thread and worldwide. No-one here indicated you should apologise for liking Joplin?

This reminds me of the bit in `City Slickers` where the young black dentist says: `Yes, we`re black AND we`re dentists, don`t make an issue out of it` and his father says: `they`re not making in an issue out of it, YOU`RE making an issue`


Will
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Diane...] #1917326
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Originally Posted by Diane...
Well maybe Joplin didn't fit into the "white" boys club is because he's "BLACK"!


Joplin was white, the TV back then was black and white hense the illusion.

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1918147
06/24/12 04:32 PM
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Well, my point really was that Classical players don't want us "black music" people included. Otherwise we won't have to have two separate groups;
Pianist Corner and the other group versus
Pianist Corner (Non-Classical)!

My point is that it's still segregated now isn't it!

Think Joplin knew that all to well back then!




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Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Diane...] #1918205
06/24/12 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Diane...
Well, my point really was that Classical players don't want us "black music" people included. Otherwise we won't have to have two separate groups;
Pianist Corner and the other group versus
Pianist Corner (Non-Classical)!

My point is that it's still segregated now isn't it!

Think Joplin knew that all to well back then!





I'd have to kind of agree here with Diane. Most Joplin enthusiasts (like me) know his history, and he always sought the respect of being treated as one of the great composers. Ragtime was a "novelty" of its day, and basically looked at as "black music", so Joplin died without ever getting that respect - that, despite coming up with Treemonisha (if you've never seen or heard this, I urge you to look it up on YouTube), and non-rag compositions like "Solace", which many classically trained pianists play...and "Bethena" is still one of my favorites...imagine the innovation of coming up with a rag in 3/4 time. That was pure genius, IMHO, but I guess since it's not "musically complex" like a Chopin etude, that would warrant an experienced classical pianist to criticize it.

Also to compare Joplin to stride pianists like Jelly Roll Morton is actually dis-respecting him as a composer because stride wouldn't even be around if it weren't for Joplin. The top stride pianists I've heard do respect Joplin's music and have improvised his pieces and made them "stride-like." It's really an unfair comparison and not even apples-to-apples.

Sorry to say, statements like this are typical of some of the classical music snobbery that exists in these forums.

PS-I'm no music theorist nor even a serious player anymore, but here's a good resource and scholarly explanations of all of Joplin's works, from none other than Perfesser Bill. smile

http://www.perfessorbill.com/pbmidi15.shtml



YouTube Channel
Scott Joplin Repertoire


Music washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.
- Berthold Auerbach


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Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1919080
06/26/12 07:05 PM
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Over-rated, under-rated. "You like potatoes," as they say. The discussion about the music-worthiness of numbers such as "Solace," which reminded me of this thread when I was playing it just now, also made me remember an observation which was once made of Steve Wozniack. It regarded his contributions, at its infancy, to the kind of computer which didn't take up several rooms or require its own power station. He was able to make a minimal and graceful circuit do tasks which had required far greater resources before his time. He may not have the loveliest face to look upon, but when he was described by a contemporary as "the Mozart of digital design," it fit well and showed the parallel of the creative greats.

I think Mozart would have recognized Wozniack's greatness, and I think Chopin would have recognized Joplin's... and I wonder what Bach would have said. It is a realm where color and circumstance are really beside the question. And it goes both ways, for Joplin would never have presumed to shove Chopin aside, nor probably even compare himself.

The observation about the novelty value of Joplin's work is true enough, for its time; God knows enough hacks tried to imitate him and cash in. The power of the spark it took, to assert itself across the vast gap in social position, is obvious enough when we imagine Daddy's face when he heard his daughters at home in the parlor, playing the same piano piece he had heard, just the night before, at the whorehouse.

Ah, the bittersweet tendresse of the "Solace." Sketched so spare, yet so movingly; a heart won, a love never forgotten. I think of pieces like this when I think of his gift of musicianship, and really would never bother with the overblown "Maple Leaf," or "Entertainer." But it's ok, you like potatoes and I'm watching my figure. Eat what you like.

Last edited by Jeff Clef; 06/26/12 07:08 PM.

Clef

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Jeff Clef] #1919231
06/27/12 01:12 AM
06/27/12 01:12 AM
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 3,462
Western Canada
Diane... Offline
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Diane...  Offline
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Posts: 3,462
Western Canada
Originally Posted by Jeff Clef

The power of the spark it took, to assert itself across the vast gap in social position, is obvious enough when we imagine Daddy's face when he heard his daughters at home in the parlor, playing the same piano piece he had heard, just the night before, at the whorehouse.



Yikes! I think that was uncalled for!

What exactly was your point for saying THAT!!!

Maybe your point was the "her daddy" WAS AT THE WHOREHOUSE just the night before, and that's how he HEAR IT! . . .

Last edited by Diane...; 06/27/12 01:25 AM.

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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
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Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Diane...] #1919282
06/27/12 05:57 AM
06/27/12 05:57 AM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,236
London UK
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Exalted Wombat Offline
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Posts: 1,236
London UK
Originally Posted by Diane...
Originally Posted by Jeff Clef

The power of the spark it took, to assert itself across the vast gap in social position, is obvious enough when we imagine Daddy's face when he heard his daughters at home in the parlor, playing the same piano piece he had heard, just the night before, at the whorehouse.



Yikes! I think that was uncalled for!

What exactly was your point for saying THAT!!!

Maybe your point was the "her daddy" WAS AT THE WHOREHOUSE just the night before, and that's how he HEAR IT! . . .


Weren't you aware of the social context of much ragtime and early jazz piano-playing? (And, indeed, of one of the meanings of the word "jazz"?)

Or were you just knee-jerking to a "naughty" word? :-)

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Exalted Wombat] #1919361
06/27/12 09:38 AM
06/27/12 09:38 AM
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 3,462
Western Canada
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Diane...  Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 3,462
Western Canada
Originally Posted by Exalted Wombat
Originally Posted by Diane...
Originally Posted by Jeff Clef

The power of the spark it took, to assert itself across the vast gap in social position, is obvious enough when we imagine Daddy's face when he heard his daughters at home in the parlor, playing the same piano piece he had heard, just the night before, at the whorehouse.



Yikes! I think that was uncalled for!

What exactly was your point for saying THAT!!!

Maybe your point was the "her daddy" WAS AT THE WHOREHOUSE just the night before, and that's how he HEAR IT! . . .


Weren't you aware of the social context of much ragtime and early jazz piano-playing? (And, indeed, of one of the meanings of the word "jazz"?)

Or were you just knee-jerking to a "naughty" word? :-)


Well, I think the over indulgence of "alcohol" brought a lot of places to an ultimate low! But anyone who can play the piano like some of those parlor piano players has my "ultimate" admiration and respect!

I have yet to go to a dance where they are playing jazz, blues, jive, swing, rumba pasodoble, or the tango, and then hear someone pipe up and say, "Oh can you play some "classical"! grin

Never heard anyone ask that on my watch! Regardless of where great dance music comes from, it takes pure talent to play it!





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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
[Linked Image]
Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1920264
06/28/12 07:58 PM
06/28/12 07:58 PM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,796
San Jose, CA
Jeff Clef Offline
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Jeff Clef  Offline
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Posts: 4,796
San Jose, CA
I'm sorry you were offended, Diane--- if that's what you were saying. I suppose there are a lot of other words one could use for a place of assignation, but I notice that you didn't use any of them. It is a fact, the classic rag was not born on the concert stage, and from one kind of 'parlor' to the other was a long journey, socially. It took the span of a whole lifetime, on its own, to make its way to the innocence of the concert hall, the recording studio, the piano lesson, and the Collected Works.

I've enjoyed your intelligent and interesting posts in the past. If you're saying it's offensive that Joplin had no other venue available for his talent, I have to agree, and he did crave for it for much of his life. He went broke trying to make it happen, backing a threadbare and unsuccessful production of Treemonisha, out of his own pocket. His earlier work, A Guest of Honor, is lost entirely--- not a single page or note of it has come down to our time.

It was not alcohol that took Scott Joplin's life, but third-stage neurosyphllis--- an untreatable disease in 1914; it was the AIDS of its time, as unmentionable in the Gilded Age as the real AIDS was in the Reagan Administration.

I apologize for offending you, or those who didn't write, whose ears are too tender to hear such frank and unminced words about the 'houses' of the period, and going so far as to endorse or condemn those 'in the life,' then or now, is beyond my purpose in writing. If even that opportunity had been closed to Scott Joplin, we may very well have had nothing from him at all.

I'd like to think that we have tried to do better by the creative artists of our own time, but I'm not so sure of it.


Clef

Re: Scott Joplin - an underrated composer? [Re: Samuel1993] #1920306
06/28/12 10:15 PM
06/28/12 10:15 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 1,675
Auckland, New Zealand
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Ted Offline
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Auckland, New Zealand
I never seem to tire of playing or listening to Joplin, whereas I sometimes tire of James Scott and contemporary ragtime (not David Thomas Roberts though, he's very good). I have loved Treemonisha from the first time I heard it by chance on the radio over thirty years ago. One thing continues to mystify me however. Why was a fully professional, high quality movie seemingly never made of the beautiful Houston Opera production when it ran for so long ? I had to buy what is obviously an amateur video of it from an obscure seller on the internet. I have the CDs of course, which are excellent, but the absence of a DVD of what must surely be a huge event in American musical history still puzzles me. Especially when so much brilliantly remastered tripe from the past is all too readily available.

Of course I'm from New Zealand, so perhaps there is something I don't understand about the way commercial music works in the States.


"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
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