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I'd classify Joplin as "Parlor Music" and not classical!

Just my take!


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In which case, so is much of Chopin and just about all of Grieg. :-)



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The fact that Peters now have an edition of Joplin would seem to indicate 'classic status'. It's a really nifty edition too- easy to read, stays open on the rack- and all within the covers of that well respected, trusted logo.

I love playing Joplin. It has a very satisfying feel under the hands, the music is infectious, and all my mates love hearing it. Folks turning their noses up at it are really missing the fun.


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Originally Posted by SeilerFan
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His music is, unduly so, considered to be insipid by some who do not know better...Let's not forget that his music was also played in ragtime competitions where the rule of the day was: the faster the better. Even though that was a very wrong thing to do in Joplin's perception...


What do you think of the tempo in this performance?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RISjp-d38-0

While I certainly wouldn't call Joplin "insipid", I think compared to the Harlem Stride piano style he is rather boring. The bass for one thing is too predictable and he stays within the middle range of the keybaord. Of course, if one plays the Maple Leaf Rag with all kinds of additions and swung eighths(as in the video above) then I think it is far more interesting.

Here is an interesting discussion of some of the differences betwen ragtime and stride:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=934MWKYYQNc

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/16/09 02:13 PM.
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Originally Posted by Wise Idiot
What facet of Joplin's piano works would be considered unclassical?


At the opening of the Youtube Concert, Tilson Thomas read out a 'dictionary definition' of classical music. Then he shook his head sadly, looked up, and held his arms out wide.
'It's something so big it cannot be defined,' he said (or words to that effect).

I enjoyed playing Joplin's rags, Brubeck's 'Take Five' even more.
Who cares how one categorizes them?


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Some sets of lil' heads (composer busts) now include Joplin.

That tends to mean one has "arrived."

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I quite like some of Joplins oeuvre for its simplistic charm and occasional depressing quality and contrary to one posters assertion I have never regarded it as garbage.

The issue in this thread is can his music be regarded as classical in the accepted meaning of the term?

I am of the opinion that it cannot be so regarded.


It is simply not plausible that a minor composer such as Joplin can suddenly be elevated to the status of either a great or lesser known classical composer from the last 3 centuries.

If this is elitest then so it is.

An excessive obsession with equality reduces all musical standards
to zero.

Unfortunately some contributors are unwilling to distinguish between jazz and classical music . For those who understand, the distinction is quite clear, for those who do not ,no explanation is possible.

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I am so reminded of the Futurama episode where Leela told Fry that he couldn't "just sit around in your underwear listening to classical music all day", as Sir Mix-a-lot sang "I like...big...BUTTS..."

I just had to throw that out there, although the whole premise of this thread causes me but one big YAWN. And now I shall retire...


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Originally Posted by Mocheol
The OPs question was why isnt Joplin considered classical.

Classical means

1] Universal appeal
2] Enduring popularity
3] Academic esteem

Joplins music simply does not qualify

I accept that Joplins music has its moments but they are soon forgotten as is the way with most popular music.

You cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
If this isn't argumentum ad populum I don't know what is.

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Originally Posted by Mocheol
I quite like some of Joplins oeuvre for its simplistic charm and occasional depressing quality and contrary to one posters assertion I have never regarded it as garbage.

The issue in this thread is can his music be regarded as classical in the accepted meaning of the term?

I am of the opinion that it cannot be so regarded.


It is simply not plausible that a minor composer such as Joplin can suddenly be elevated to the status of either a great or lesser known classical composer from the last 3 centuries.

If this is elitest then so it is.

An excessive obsession with equality reduces all musical standards
to zero.

Unfortunately some contributors are unwilling to distinguish between jazz and classical music . For those who understand, the distinction is quite clear, for those who do not ,no explanation is possible.


You did say it was "childish jinglings attractive to a depressed audience"

Sounds like garbage to me!


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Originally Posted by Mocheol
It is simply not plausible that a minor composer such as Joplin can suddenly be elevated to the status of either a great or lesser known classical composer from the last 3 centuries.


Mocheol, read through again what you wrote and consider its internal logic. You write that Joplin is a 'minor' composer but yet cannot be elevated to the status of a 'lesser known' composer. I think most people would consider 'minor' and 'lesser known' to be, in this context, synonymous.


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Originally Posted by Wye Mun
Oh dear. I thought the 'classical canon' of music was just like the 'classical canon' of English literature... an academic notion that some enjoy for argument's sake (which is fun in its own way).

Shakespeare was originally NOT in the literary canon because he was considered well, vulgar and perhaps even childish. He was certainly very popular in his day - much in the same way that say, Steven Spielberg is now. And maybe how Mozart was in his time and place.

So, given time, Joplin (and hey, maybe Spielberg!) will probably be included in the canon of classics in their respective art forms.


Whose "literary canon"? Who considered Shakespeare vulgar and childish?

In any case to speak of Joplin and Spielberg in the same breath as Shakespeare and Mozart is stretching credibility just a little too far, don't you think?

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Exactly well put Wood-demon.

The problem is the dumbing down of music. The issue is connected with so called liberal philosophy where everybody and every culture is equal. This risibly nonsensical approach to life flourishes in the New World.

Unfortunately little can be done to correct it.

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Originally Posted by Mocheol
Exactly well put Wood-demon.

The problem is the dumbing down of music. The issue is connected with so called liberal philosophy where everybody and every culture is equal. This risibly nonsensical approach to life flourishes in the New World.

Unfortunately little can be done to correct it.


Well I'll avoid the political aspect of the matter, Mocheol, but I confess that I'm inclined to agree with you over the quality of Joplin's music.
I've just reminded myself of "Treemonisha" by playing my records of it. Maybe Joplin's concertos and symphonies are indeed lost masterpieces but the overture to his opera certainly doesn't suggest this to be the case; a mish-mash of Stephen Foster, cake-walks and "Perils of Pauline"-type moments which just, IMHO, add up to a rather quaint piece of corn.
Joplin's music is pleasant enough, but I can think of any number of more worthy and accomplished composers whose music is almost completely neglected by the majority of music-lovers.
In the lighter field of piano miniatures Billy Mayerl, Zez Confrey and "Fats" Waller all knock Joplin into the proverbial cocked-hat, as far as I'm concerned.

Last edited by Wood-demon; 04/16/09 04:02 PM.
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Originally Posted by Wood-demon
Originally Posted by Mocheol
Exactly well put Wood-demon.

The problem is the dumbing down of music. The issue is connected with so called liberal philosophy where everybody and every culture is equal. This risibly nonsensical approach to life flourishes in the New World.

Unfortunately little can be done to correct it.


Well I'll avoid the political aspect of the matter, Mocheol, but I confess that I'm inclined to agree with you over the quality of Joplin's music.
I've just reminded myself of "Treemonisha" by playing my records of it. Maybe Joplin's concertos and symphonies are indeed lost masterpieces but the overture to his opera certainly doesn't suggest this to be the case; a mish-mash of Stephen Foster, cake-walks and "Perils of Pauline"-type moments which just, IMHO, add up to a rather quaint piece of corn.
Joplin's music is pleasant enough, but I can think of any number of more worthy and accomplished composers whose music is almost completely neglected by the majority of music-lovers.
In the lighter field of piano miniatures Billy Mayerl, Zez Confrey and "Fats" Waller all knock Joplin into the proverbial cocked-hat, as far as I'm concerned.


I would submit this is an issue of style and personal preference, as subjective as the issue of whether or not this counts as classical music. I know I'm very unlikely to compose anything like "Gladiolus Rag" so I admire this composer's talent. If I was able to do what he did, then perhaps I would estimate him less.


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Originally Posted by Mocheol
Exactly well put Wood-demon.

The problem is the dumbing down of music. The issue is connected with so called liberal philosophy where everybody and every culture is equal. This risibly nonsensical approach to life flourishes in the New World.

Unfortunately little can be done to correct it.


I don't think ragtime is better or worse than other styles, just a different form and you are free to like or dislike it or rank it if you want but to say that it's dumbing down music to find artistic merit in ragtime crosses the line from saying you just don't care for it, and saying it's garbage. But you're allowed to say that. If you want.

Last edited by Hrodulf; 04/16/09 04:19 PM.

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Originally Posted by Hrodulf
Originally Posted by Wood-demon
Originally Posted by Mocheol
Exactly well put Wood-demon.

The problem is the dumbing down of music. The issue is connected with so called liberal philosophy where everybody and every culture is equal. This risibly nonsensical approach to life flourishes in the New World.

Unfortunately little can be done to correct it.


Well I'll avoid the political aspect of the matter, Mocheol, but I confess that I'm inclined to agree with you over the quality of Joplin's music.
I've just reminded myself of "Treemonisha" by playing my records of it. Maybe Joplin's concertos and symphonies are indeed lost masterpieces but the overture to his opera certainly doesn't suggest this to be the case; a mish-mash of Stephen Foster, cake-walks and "Perils of Pauline"-type moments which just, IMHO, add up to a rather quaint piece of corn.
Joplin's music is pleasant enough, but I can think of any number of more worthy and accomplished composers whose music is almost completely neglected by the majority of music-lovers.
In the lighter field of piano miniatures Billy Mayerl, Zez Confrey and "Fats" Waller all knock Joplin into the proverbial cocked-hat, as far as I'm concerned.


I would submit this is an issue of style and personal preference, as subjective as the issue of whether or not this counts as classical music. I know I'm very unlikely to compose anything like "Gladiolus Rag" so I admire this composer's talent. If I was able to do what he did, then perhaps I would estimate him less.


I disagree. I think it's an issue of ability. If the Treemonisha overture is anything to go by Joplin had little idea of putting together a piece of music on a larger scale successfully.

I'm very unlikely to compose anything like "The Phantom of the Opera" but it doesn't make me admire THAT particular composer's talent, especially when an infinitely superior work like Mascagni's "Le Maschere" is hardly ever performed.

If you think everything comes down to personal taste you might just as well rate Ethelbert Nevin alongside Bach as I'm sure there were many people who preferred (and perhaps still do prefer) Narcissus to the WTC.

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Originally Posted by Wood-demon
Originally Posted by Hrodulf
Originally Posted by Wood-demon
Originally Posted by Mocheol
Exactly well put Wood-demon.

The problem is the dumbing down of music. The issue is connected with so called liberal philosophy where everybody and every culture is equal. This risibly nonsensical approach to life flourishes in the New World.

Unfortunately little can be done to correct it.


Well I'll avoid the political aspect of the matter, Mocheol, but I confess that I'm inclined to agree with you over the quality of Joplin's music.
I've just reminded myself of "Treemonisha" by playing my records of it. Maybe Joplin's concertos and symphonies are indeed lost masterpieces but the overture to his opera certainly doesn't suggest this to be the case; a mish-mash of Stephen Foster, cake-walks and "Perils of Pauline"-type moments which just, IMHO, add up to a rather quaint piece of corn.
Joplin's music is pleasant enough, but I can think of any number of more worthy and accomplished composers whose music is almost completely neglected by the majority of music-lovers.
In the lighter field of piano miniatures Billy Mayerl, Zez Confrey and "Fats" Waller all knock Joplin into the proverbial cocked-hat, as far as I'm concerned.


I would submit this is an issue of style and personal preference, as subjective as the issue of whether or not this counts as classical music. I know I'm very unlikely to compose anything like "Gladiolus Rag" so I admire this composer's talent. If I was able to do what he did, then perhaps I would estimate him less.


I disagree. I think it's an issue of ability. If the Treemonisha overture is anything to go by Joplin had little idea of putting together a piece of music on a larger scale successfully.

I'm very unlikely to compose anything like "The Phantom of the Opera" but it doesn't make me admire THAT particular composer's talent, especially when an infinitely superior work like Mascagni's "Le Maschere" is hardly ever performed.

If you think everything comes down to personal taste you might just as well rate Ethelbert Nevin alongside Bach as I'm sure there were many people who preferred (and perhaps still do prefer) Narcissus to the WTC.


I have no instruction in long form composition so I myself don't know how to put together a longer piece of music. As for your criticism of Joplin, based on that overture, you may be right. What I was however trying to say was that even if he was not a master of longer forms, that doesn't mean that it is not a matter of personal preference to consider him unimportant, which is what I think we're really talking about, even though the thread got derailed a time or two I think.

So basically I think we're all in agreement ragtime isn't classical music. And it may be garbage depending on where you're sitting. Or it may be brilliant at times, depending on the same seating arrangement.

And apparently the overture to Treemonisha is garbage also, while we're dumping things in the garbage. Pickup day is Tuesday so don't be tardy.

Also could you wait until next week to dump phantom of the opera in the garbage? It's almost full from all the stuff I wrote last week and all the stage materials and assorted knick knacks, not to mention Michael Crawford and all those other people will take up a lot of room and it taxes the compactor. The last time we threw out a broadway musical we had to spend weeks cleaning all the cat hair out of the machinery.

Last edited by Hrodulf; 04/16/09 04:45 PM.

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"Also could you wait until next week to dump phantom of the opera in the garbage? It's almost full from all the stuff I wrote last week and all the stage materials and assorted knick knacks, not to mention Michael Crawford and all those other people will take up a lot of room and it taxes the compactor. The last time we threw out a broadway musical we had to spend weeks cleaning all the cat hair out of the machinery."

I'm afraid I put that out years ago, and it wasn't in the recycling bag; I felt that Lord Lloyd-Webber has done quite enough re-cycling of other people's material over the years.


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Scott Joplin wrote some terrific piano pieces. When one compares Joplin to other American composers in any genre who died before World War I ended, one would have to conclude that he has stood the test of time as well or better than just about anyone. How many other composers from the US have written multiple well known pieces that are at least 100 years old?

It is also more remarkable when one considers the circumstances under which he lived. He was born in the South less than 3 years after the 13th amendment to the US Constitution ended slavery. There was tremendous prejudice against African Americans around his time and he did not have access to the finest musical training or ideal performance venues that many others had.

His music speaks for itself regardless of whether it is classified as classical, jazz, ragtime, or something else. Regarding some of the criticisms that have been leveled at him in this thread, one has to take them with a grain of salt. It is a feature of this forum that there is a contingent of people who will criticize almost any pianist or composer. Liszt has been criticized several times as being superficial (by people who may only have heard a small fraction of his entire output). Mozart’s music has been criticized as being too easy and simple (by people who almost certainly could not give a rendition of a Mozart piano sonata which would sound like that given by a concert pianist). When Murray Perahia recently gave an outstanding performance of works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms, he was criticized for not venturing enough outside the works of the great masters. All in all, this puts Joplin in some pretty good company.

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