Ragtime - What I learned today

On my way to Vespaio (the top-rated restaurant in Austin, according to Austin Chronicle) to celebrate Eric's 29th birthday with my basketball guys (Steven, Larry and Eric), I was listening to some Scott Joplin in my car (courtesy of my new iPod-compactible CD deck, which is, well, deck. As I listened, I tried to relate Joplin's music to blues and jazz, two genres I am a little more familiar with. To my admittedly untrained ear, I could not hear any resemblance between the jaunty ragtime music and my beloved blues and jazz, but I felt their had to be some connection. At times like this, I do what any somewhat perplexed young man with nothing to do but sit in traffic would do - call someone who knows something and get an answer.

In this case, the person was my mom, who not only majored in Organ at UT, but played Joplin's music (especially "The Entertainer" and "Synchopations") on the piano often enough that I still whistle the tunes when in a certain mood. My question to her - What is the connection between Joplin's Ragtime Music and the Blues and Jazz forms. Her answer:

1) Ragtime music developed in the early 1900's out of the Negro Spiritual/Minstrel tradition in New Orleans, and was a progenitor of Blues and Jazz.

2) In its time, Scott Joplin's music was not especially popular and did have a long heyday, due to its association with African-American culture and "Bordellos". It grew more popular when rediscovered in the 1960's.

3) Perhaps due to spending too much time indulging in the wares of the Bordellos that he played in, Joplin contracted syphillis, contributing to his premature creative and physical death.

Our Ragtime conversation ended with this exchange::

Me: So the moral of the story is "Don't get Syphillis."
Mom: Yeah... so if you thing you might have syphillis, you ought to get tested, because...
Me: (feeling uncomfortable).

So there you go. Ragtime...


At 12:41 PM, Blogger Jody said...

I hear Janis Joplin, no relation, also contracted syphilis before her early demise. Interesting. Tough conversation with the mom though.


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