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Scott Joplin

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  • March 3, 2013
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Scott Joplin, the son of a Freed Slave and a Freeborn Woman, was a first Generation Free Black American born around 1868. Joplin was born in Texas; it was a time and place where the air was electrified with a plethora of stimulating sounds. Gospel hymns, plantation songs, the blues, nature and human activity culminated into a great symphony of humanity. From an early age he showed great talent and desire to learn more about music. A German Music Professor, Julius Weiss, overheard Joplin playing and offered the 11-year-old free music lessons. Ragtime as a musical form was born from marches, the cakewalk, and jigs and usually was performed on the piano or banjo. Ragtime's African American Roots gave it a shaky start due to rampant prejudice; however, Scott Joplin brought the form to maturity as Classical Ragtime. Joplin's influence spread ragtime across color barriers and brought recognition and appreciation to African American music. "Joplin's ragtime expressed the intensity and energy of a modern urban America" (Scott and Rutkoff, 2001). Joplin Died in 1917 at the age of 48, cutting short a remarkable musical career. Some of his works have been lost, however those that have survived influenced Jazz, Blues, and many other music forms.

In 1970, Joplin was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame by the National Academy of Popular Music and in 1976 Joplin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to American music.

America's interest in Joplin and appreciation for his music was reawakened when his rag-time piece, "The Entertainer" was used in the 1973 movie The Sting. The Entertainer is now #10 on the Songs of the Century list (CBS, 2001).

The Entertainer's subject may not be apparent and some scholars insist that music inherently has no subject matter at all (Jacobus & Martin, 2004, p. 267). However, when we listen closely, many elements help give shape to the music and conjure up powerful feelings in the listener. More precisely, the...