Essay on Ragtime and Blues Influence on Jazz

Words: 1368
Pages: 6

Ara Cho
Ethno 50A
October 14, 2011
Seeing Ragtime and Blues as Parents of Jazz Jazz is a music genre that has complex characteristics and history of development and thus many musicians and scholars face troubles in defining what jazz is. In general, jazz is believed to have born in New Orleans. Jazz developed for the pleasure of the social dancers. According to the “Understanding Jazz: What Is Jazz?” of John F. Kennedy center for the Performing Arts, Jazz was created mainly by Afro-Americans, and had elements of European and Afro-American culture. Also, it emphasizes few elements of Jazz, which are swing-feel, syncopation, and improvisation. These different culture and elements of jazz may be explained by how jazz
…show more content…
This practice may be traced to the pre-abolition period, when slaves needed a system of secret communication while they were still within earshot of their masters. This custom of double-entendre, intentional ambiguity through the use of words with two meanings, which was strong in the African literary tradition as well, was incorporated naturally and smoothly into the lyrics of the blues” (pp.48). Thus it is clear that blues is much more of African American music compared to ragtime. Other differences between ragtime and blues seem reasonable knowing their background influences. Ragtime was mostly piano-dominated genre, and many musicians who were trained in European classical music played ragtime. Citing James Haskin in Black Music In America, “syncopated kind of piano playing came to be known as ragtime” (pp.38), and this “was a form that excited Scott Joplin” which he also excelled (pp.38). Scott Joplin was one of the most important ragtime composers, and he was also most popular. “In 1899, his ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ was published”(pp.39) which is also piano-played music. Thus ragtime was piano dominated, but blues was different. Because blues developed from African American work songs, blues was mainly vocal. Blues people usually sang about unjust, frustrations, and sufferings. “Personal feelings are verbalized and serve to call community attention to one’s predicament and misfortune” (Tirro, pp.48). Blues represented voices of people who felt hopeless, and