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Thread: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

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    Default Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    I'm curious do ragtime and old time traditions sort of intertwine?

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    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    hmm, in my mind yes, I will be curious to see how others respond
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Well the oldtime musicians I know do play a number of tunes called rags, but compared to what I learned to play in New Orleans that was called ragtime, it ain't the same.

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Ragtime is old, but it's a genre of it's own, and lots of fun.

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    Registered User Michael Neverisky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Different genres, I would say, even apart from stylistic differences like syncopation and polyphony.

    The ragtime pieces that I play as a fingerstyle guitarist are all composed for piano ( Joplin, Lamb, etc.) or are from the southern stringband tradition (Dallas Rag, Maybell's Dream, etc.). I learn these from sheet music and the melody is always the same.

    The old-time tunes I play on mandolin or fiddle with friends at home and at festivals are all tunes learned by ear and vary depending upon the source. Whose version of Chinquapin Hunting? The crooked or straight version of Flowers of Edinburgh?

    I think of ragtime as recital, or performance music intended for an audience. Playing old-time fiddle tunes is more of a social event for the benefit of the players.

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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    I live in the hometown of the old-time piano world championship. It's all ragtime piano.

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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Yes, I think so. Some of the syncopation comes through on a few tunes, especially on tunes that were commonly played by black strings bands and are in the old-time book. One I like is "Colored Aristocracy".

    OTOH, as a genre, they are definitely different. They both, on the whole, and different feels and forms.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    One thing to keep in mind is that labels follow the music, often come from outsiders, and are used to describe what already exists. For instance, way back, Jelly Roll Morton, John Handy, or whoever didn't compose a tune and say, "Eureka, I've just discovered ragtime music." Neither did some person compose a brand new tune back in the 1840's, then say, "I'm going to call this 'old-time' music, and here are the rules for playing this style." Many of the outside labels for musical styles were derogatory, "bluegrass" for instance, until adopted by the players themselves. The terms "rock 'n roll", "jazz", and "boogie" all referred to sex before they referred to music. In researching the blues, I found that the repertoires of old blues musicians were much broader than those of most blues player today, and what 1920's blues musicians called "blues" varied considerably. Back then, there weren't many rules. Furthermore, so far as I know, the term "Celtic music" didn't exist before the 1970's, and the general style, with different instruments soloing as in a jazz session, was invented in the late 1950's. Numerous fiddle tunes of Scottish and Irish origin played in the British Isles and North America for over a century are now generally labelled as "old time" and not "Celtic." So, one should use these labels only as rough guidelines.

    That being said, depending on the session, people may have strong ideas of about their particular genre, Old Time, Celtic, or whatever, and they do need boundaries or perhaps their old-time session will turn into a bluegrass or country session. You have to get along with them musically, so you might just have to try your ragtime piece and see how they react.
    Last edited by Ranald; Mar-02-2018 at 1:10pm. Reason: yet another typo

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    I agree that ragtime is more performance oriented than old time. It also, in my mind, has some specific musical characteristics not generally found all together in most old-time tunes.

    That wonderful dididiDAHdiDIdi (wanting to eat my dinner / taking us home forever / drinking the milk too quickly)

    Musical phrase of three notes played repeatedly on a four beat - 1231231231231234 kind of a thing

    The use of a seventh chord note to dramatically move to the next section, or starting on the fifth chord to introduce a new section.

    Syncopation

    Lots of music uses these kinds of things, for sure, including some traditional old time, but if a tune includes most or all of these I think most people would call it ragtime.
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Another problem is that there are several tunes that have "rag" in the name, but are not rags. Poppy Leaf Rag comes to mind. It is really a hornpipe really, and most folks upon hearing it would not think ragtime.
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    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    So Pig Ankle Rag? Dill Pickle Rag? I'd consider these real rags (at least when played at a cakewalk tempo) and often hear them from old time jams
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Stueve View Post
    So Pig Ankle Rag? Dill Pickle Rag? I'd consider these real rags (at least when played at a cakewalk tempo) and often hear them from old time jams
    Yea I agree they are rags. Great ones IMO. Dill Pickle is almost the poster boy for ragtime.

    Old time jams often are a loose kind of thing. In one of the old time jams I attend the "Going Home" theme from Dvorak's New World Symphony is a popular tune. In another old time jam the tune "Those Were The Days" is often played.

    That said, in my experience the more "orthodox" the old-time session, the more likely the music will be not include formal rags.
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    What I grew up with



    Not exactly oldtime except in New Orleans

    of course they were living in L.A., not LA then...

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    .....of course they were living in L.A., not LA then...


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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    "Rag," like "blues," is a term that was applied to a number of old-time fiddle tunes and songs, although many of these pieces didn't share the characteristics of what we'd consider "mainstream" ragtime and blues music. As I understand it, "ragtime" originally came from a practice of some musicians -- often pianists -- of "ragging the beat" (or "time") when playing standard popular, even classical, compositions. They would add syncopations that weren't in the printed score. This interpretation became popular, and composers like Scott Joplin wrote pieces that incorporated the syncopations. "Ragtime" became a popular term, and a lot of songs and instrumentals were titled "rags" even though they didn't conform to the Joplin-esque style.

    My experience with "rags" in old-time music, has been that these are often pieces that included some syncopations, or chord progressions other than the 1-4-5 most common in fiddle dance tunes. They may have modulations to other keys, or a "circle of fifths" chord progression, that makes them differ from "standard fare." There's no enforceable definition of "ragtime" or "rag," so they can have whatever titles they've acquired, but I doubt that too many of them are included in accepted collections of ragtime compositions. Perhaps they were titled "rags" because ragtime pieces were popular, or because they were considered more complex in terms of rhythm and/or chord structure. Or perhaps because their sound evoked the ragtime barrel-house "feel"; don't know.


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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    "Rag," like "blues," is a term that was applied to a number of old-time fiddle tunes and songs, although many of these pieces didn't share the characteristics of what we'd consider "mainstream" ragtime and blues music. As I understand it, "ragtime" originally came from a practice of some musicians -- often pianists -- of "ragging the beat" (or "time") when playing standard popular, even classical, compositions. .
    Good point. I hadn't put this together in my head. I knew of the bits and pieces, but of course...
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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    I encourage you to search for an old thread here on the Cafe about the influence that hornpipes had on the development of ragtime. For just one example, there are explicit musical phrases in President Garfield's Hornpipe that show up in various guises in later Scott Joplin rags. There are many such examples.

    My own oldtime band plays a number of tunes we refer to as rags, most of them in the key of C, recorded by white string bands(The Leake County Revelers and the Skillet Lickers) and black jug bands (Gus Cannon and Will Shade) in the 1920s and 1930s. Clearly these bands were listening very closely to Jelly Roll Morton piano music and the New Orleans brass bands of the same period. Tunes such as: On the Banks of the Kaney, Lynchburg Town, The Old Cow Crossing the Road, Old Joe, display the syncopation and harmonic structure of trad jazz.

    I feel obligated to add that what Scott Joplin achieved is actually not a good example for answering your question. His music is uniquely sophisticated, and doesn't offer a helpful comparison to the "rags" of the first half of the 20th century. Certainly, his compositions are based on that same catchy syncopation we all know. But the unexpected modulations are decidedly western classical, and go way beyond the folk tradition. As such, his compositions don't really lead us to the place that old-time meets rags.
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Nollman View Post

    I feel obligated to add that what Scott Joplin achieved is actually not a good example for answering your question. His music is uniquely sophisticated, and doesn't offer a helpful comparison to the "rags" of the first half of the 20th century. Certainly, his compositions are based on that same catchy syncopation we all know. But the unexpected modulations are decidedly western classical, and go way beyond the folk tradition. As such, his compositions don't really lead us to the place that old-time meets rags.
    I wouldn't be shy about taking "Alabama Jubilee" to an old-time session though. It doesn't have that same level of sophistication. I wish Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong's version was on YouTube, but it's only available on a long-out-of-print mid-70's Mariposa Folk Festival record.

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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    I wouldn't be shy about taking "Alabama Jubilee" to an old-time session though. It doesn't have that same level of sophistication. I wish Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong's version was on YouTube, but it's only available on a long-out-of-print mid-70's Mariposa Folk Festival record.
    Is this the one? 1975 Mariposa Folk Festival records that someone put on YouTube just a few months ago, fast-forward to 57:20:


    (or direct link)

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Nollman View Post
    ...... white string bands(The Leake County Revelers and the Skillet Lickers) and black jug bands (Gus Cannon and Will Shade) in the 1920s and 1930s. Clearly these bands were listening very closely to Jelly Roll Morton piano music and the New Orleans brass bands of the same period.
    I think that these early bands were both influencing each other, and had a pool of common influences.

    There are lots of tunes that cross over the New Orleans jazz repertoire and the oldtime repertoire. Those guys had listened to a lot of the same music...it just came out differently in various locals.

    Also, good point about Joplin's classicism. Remember his opera?

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    Is this the one? 1975 Mariposa Folk Festival records that someone put on YouTube just a few months ago, fast-forward to 57:20:


    (or direct link)
    Yes, it's a wonderful album all round. Incidentally, "Alabama Jubillee" is proceeded by John Arpin doing a lively Jelly Roll Morton rag on piano (approx. 141:50) and followed by "The Original Sloth Band" with Ken Whiteley on banjo -- his name just came up in a discussion of mandolin blues players on the Jazz, Blues... Forum. It's a wonderful album. If you're a fiddle fan, start at the beginning and listen to the first six numbers with musicians from the British Isles, Cape Breton, Ottawa Valley, Quebec, New Brunswick, Louisiana, and Newfoundland. And if you're a young person wondering why the old folks mumble in their soup about how folk festivals don't have folk music any more, listen to the whole thing. There's also a Mariposa 76 double album that I don't like as much, although for me, they both bring memories of hot summer days, a sweetheart, good friends, good music, good -- here I'll draw the veil.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Yes, it's a wonderful album all round. Incidentally, "Alabama Jubillee" is proceeded by John Arpin doing a lively Jelly Roll Morton rag on piano (approx. 141:50)
    The Jelly Roll Morton piece is "Wolverine Blues", by the way (which emphasizes my point about labelling genres of music in Post #8 -- how many blues players today would call that "blues"?).

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    The Jelly Roll Morton piece is "Wolverine Blues", by the way (which emphasizes my point about labelling genres of music in Post #8 -- how many blues players today would call that "blues"?).
    Once songwriters and publishers realized that blues and ragtime were selling, lots of tunes had the terms "blues" or "rag" gratuitously added to the title.

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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    In general, binding music within its genre definitions is a losing cause. Creative people have always bent, borrowed and stolen from the old in service to the new. Old time bleeds into ragtime, bleeds into trad jazz, into howling wolf grooves, into bluegrass, into rock and roll, on and on and on. Using my own work as an extreme example, I produced a one-off album 5 years ago of old time and Celtic standards (shove the pigs foot, swinging on a gate, etc) transformed via the looping and layering procedures we associate with techno, House, and noise.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Ragtime Oldtime?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Nollman View Post
    In general, binding music within its genre definitions is a losing cause. Creative people have always bent, borrowed and stolen from the old in service to the new. Old time bleeds into ragtime, bleeds into trad jazz, into howling wolf grooves, into bluegrass, into rock and roll, on and on and on.
    I agree with that 100%. I just would not want that to mean or imply that there are no distinctions between genres and types of music. The boarders may be fuzzy, and appropriately so.
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