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Scott Joplin:
Ragtime Music

Ragtime music is truly African-American music. It combines rhythms that were brought to this country by slaves, with musical forms brought over to the United States from Europe. Ragtime uses syncopated rhythms -- that is, the accents in the melody are shifted away from the strong beats in the bass line underneath.

Music heard in this episode:
Joplin: Peachrine Rag
Tom Turpin: Harlem Rag
James Europe: Castle House Rag
Eubie Blake: Charleston Rag
James Scott: Great Scott Rag
Joseph Lamb: Reindeer
Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag

Other shows about Scott Joplin:
About Scott Joplin
Classical Music and the Movies
Black Composers of Classical Music

Download this month's activity sheet

About Scott Joplin
1/1/1867 - 4/1/1917
Born in America

Today, birthdays are very carefully recorded, but no one knows for sure exactly when Scott Joplin was born. According to the United States census taken in July of 1870, Scott Joplin was two years old. And no one is sure where Joplin was born, either -- it was probably in northeast Texas.

Scott Joplin's father was born into slavery in North Carolina; his mother was a freeborn woman from Kentucky. Both his parents were musical. When his parents separated, Scott's mother supported the family by cleaning houses, and he was allowed to use the piano in one of those houses. He taught himself to play.

As a teenager, Joplin started traveling. In Missouri, he played piano in saloons; for the 1893 World's Fair, he headed to Chicago, and played cornet in a band. After spending some time in college, Joplin moved on to St. Louis, the hotbed of ragtime music. Eventually, he wound up in New York City.

Scott Joplin wrote some songs and stage works, but he's best known as one of the greatest composers of piano rags. In 1976 -- almost 60 years after Scott Joplin died -- his opera Treemonisha was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

See other composers born in America


This Week's Quiz:

1. Piano rags follow the same form as which type of music?






2.How many composers are known as fathers of ragtime music?






3. How did Ragtime get its name?

From a movie

From a piano player

From the name of the first ragtime song

From its syncopated rhythms


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