/rag"tuym'/, n.
a novel (1975) by E. L. Doctorow.

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U.S. popular music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries distinguished by its heavily syncopated rhythm.

Ragtime found its characteristic expression in formally structured piano compositions, the accented left-hand beat opposed in the right hand by a fast, bouncing melody that gave the music its powerful forward impetus. (The term probably derives from "ragged time," a description of syncopation.) Ragtime compositions typically featured three or four discrete 16-bar strains performed at a moderate tempo. The most celebrated ragtime composer was Scott Joplin. The rhythm and structure of ragtime were important influences on the development of jazz.

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      propulsively syncopated musical style, one forerunner of jazz and the predominant style of American popular music from about 1899 to 1917. Ragtime evolved in the playing of honky-tonk pianists along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the last decades of the 19th century. It was influenced by minstrel-show (minstrel show) songs, blacks' banjo styles, and syncopated (off-beat) dance rhythms of the cakewalk, and also elements of European music. Ragtime found its characteristic expression in formally structured piano compositions. The regularly accented left-hand beat, in 4/4 or 2/4 time, was opposed in the right hand by a fast, bouncingly syncopated melody that gave the music its powerful forward impetus.

      Scott Joplin (Joplin, Scott), called “King of Ragtime,” published the most successful of the early rags, “The Maple Leaf Rag,” in 1899. Joplin, who considered ragtime a permanent and serious branch of classical music, composed hundreds of short pieces, a set of études, and operas in the style. Other important performers were, in St. Louis, Louis Chauvin and Thomas M. Turpin (father of St. Louis ragtime) and, in New Orleans, Tony Jackson.

Additional Reading
Terry Waldo, This Is Ragtime (1976), covers ragtime from the late 1800s to 1975. Other studies include Edward A. Berlin, Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History (1980); and John Edward Hasse (ed.), Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music (1985).

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Universalium. 2010.

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