Listen to part of a lecture in a music history class.
Okay. Let's carry on with some more American music history, shall we?For this lecture, I will discuss the effect that ragtime music had on the way the piano was played after, um, ragtime's inception.From a historic point of view, um, ragtime is an American musical genre enjoying its peak popularity, from, um, 1899 to 1918.Ragtime was the first truly American musical genre, preceding jazz.It originated in African American musical communities,descended from the jigs and marches played by all-black bands common in all Northern cities with black populations.Questions? Oh, no problem.Well, ragtime began as dance music years before being published as popular sheet music for piano.Scott Joplin, the composer/pianist who was known as the, ah,"King of Ragtime" called the effect "weird and intoxicating."By 1897, several important early rags were published,and in 1899 Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag was published.Now, some authorities consider ragtime to be a form of classical music.Additionally, the name swing later came to be applied to an early genre of jazz that developed from ragtime.So we can see early on that ragtime had a great influence on music in general at that time.
Okay. Now, let's get to its influence on the piano.To start, the heyday of ragtime was before the widespread availability of sound recording.Like classical music, and unlike jazz,classical ragtime was a written tradition,being distributed in sheet music rather than through recordings or by imitation of live performances.Ragtime music was also distributed via piano rolls for player pianos.
Let's talk about this piano roll.By definition, um, a piano roll is the medium used to operate the player piano,band/fairground organs, calliopes, and hand-cranked organs and pipe organs.Basically, a piano roll is a roll of paper with holes punched in it.The position and length of the perforations determined the note played on the piano.Well, the piano roll moves over a device known as the 'tracker bar,'which had 88 holes, um, or one for each piano key.When a perforation passed over the hole, the note sounds.Believe it or not, piano rolls have been in continuous mass production since around 1897.So, even though a piano roll was used to make a piano play without an actual person playing,we must remember that pianists actually created the music for the piano rolls.Confused? I hope not.Let's move on then.
Another change was called the novelty piano, which can be considered a pianistic cousin of jazz,and this appeared around the same time as the piano roll. Its originators were mostly piano roll artists from the Chicago area. Actually, the novelty piano was developed as a vehicle to showcase the talents of these professionals and was more often sold in the form of recordings and piano rolls than as sheet music.
Anyways, novelty piano slowly fell out of favor to, or was absorbed into, the new orchestral styles as the piano moved off center stage and took a support role. By, um, 1920, though, two new technologies had appeared which allowed the general public to hear music as performed by skilled musicians: the "handplayed" piano roll and the phonograph record.
Now, the most important new form of actually playing the piano in a live performance was called, ah, stride piano, used primarily in jazz. The distinctive technique originated in, um, Harlem, in or about 1919. It was partially influenced by ragtime, which features improvisation, blue notes, and swing rhythms. The over simplistic name "stride" comes from the "striding" lefthand movement. See how I'm doing it? As well, pedal technique further varied the left-hand sound. Quite frankly, stride piano is one of the most difficult styles of jazz piano playing because it takes years to master and is often confused with other jazz piano where the left hand alternates. Like this!
Okay, on a final note, a significant ragtime revival occurred in the 1950s. Ragtime styles of the past were made available on records, and new rags were composed, published, and recorded. A number of popular recordings featured, um, "prepared pianos," simulating the sound of a piano in an old honkey tonk. So, as you can see, we still have portions of piano ragtime music incorporated into the music we hear today.