Ragtime, and the dance craze that went with it, the "cakewalk", first hit the world of entertainment in
the 1890's. Some say it emerged from the syncopated rhythms of banjo music and the name came from "ragging" -
the negro word for clog dancing, in which the dancer reaches a frenzy of delight accompanied by hand clapping and foot-stomping
onlookers. The division of the banjo figuration into two short notes is said to be traceable to this
hand clapping. Others maintain that ragtime is the response of black musicians to the white military march, particularly those of
John Philip Sousa
, and that the name is a derivation of "ragged time", describing the syncopation of the melodic line
. the time, i.e. the rhythm in the left hand, remains strictly constant in ragtime. )
Whatever the derivation, one man emerges as the king of this musical style - Scott Joplin
- whose best-known piano compositions,
"Maple Leaf Rag"
(1899) and "The Entertainer"
(1902) are now world famous.
Another seminal figure, Jelly Roll Morton
, wrote many rag-influenced numbers, including "Granpda's Spells"
and "King Porter Stomp"
but is more important as a key transitional figure between ragtime and jazz
Tin Pan Alley
writers like Irving Berlin
drew heavily on the style, bringing it to the
centre of popular culture, where it contributed to the Charleston dance craze of the 1920's. It was also an influence on later piano styles,
especially the stride and walking bass figures found in the left hand of boogie-woogie.