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The Interplay Between Classical Music, Ragtime, and Jazz

(featuring the Desecration: Rag Humoresque by Felix Arndt)

By Ted Tjaden

(January 2021)

Note: I decided to publish this essay despite the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown preventing me from researching some of the composers discussed below using the extensive research reference resources at the University of Toronto Music Library. Rather than waiting for the lockdown to end, I decided to publish this essay realizing that it is still a work in progress. To the extent my goal with this website is to make public domain ragtime era sheet music more easily available, I think I have achieved that even though this essay lacks detailed analysis of some of the composers and their scores and I lack the expertise in classical music to put all of the classical music composers discussed below into their proper historical context. Instead, my approach to the topic is to provide a broad overview or appreciation of the topic rather than any attempt at serious music scholarship. Where appropriate, I indicate below those areas requiring additional research and commentary. I welcome comments and suggestion by email to "owner" at "ragtimepiano.ca". Major changes to this essay will be summarized on the What's New page.

1)  Introduction
2)  Ragtime era composers who "ragged" the classics
3)  Ragtime era composers who "classicized" ragtime
4)  Jazz and modern era composers who "jazzed" the classics
5)  Ragtime and jazz motifs in classical music
6)  Recordings and performances
7)  Bibliography

1)  Introduction
[toc] [top]

This essay discusses classical music in ragtime and jazz and the influence of ragtime and jazz on classical music composers. The technique of "ragging the classics" involves the composer or performer using the melody from a piece well-known classical music and syncopating the tune with ragtime syncopation. Just as as ragtime composers would syncopate the melodies of classic music compositions, classical music composers were also influenced by the melodies and rhythms of ragtime music. Although I usually view classic ragtime piano narrowly, as covering a roughly 20-year period from 1899 to 1919, this essay also touches up "jazzing the classics" and jazz motifs in classical music that followed the ragtime era through to to ragtime revival era to present. As a result, this essay includes a fairly broad array of composers and performers beyond the usual suspects.

In Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History, in speaking of the advanced era of ragtime from 1913 to 1917, the authors note that "[o]ne of the oldest show business devices is to take a classical composition and syncopate it" and the "[t]he ragging of the classics suddenly blossomed forth in this era with great skill and cleverness" (Jasen & Tichenor: 172). Berlin notes in similar terms that "'[r]agging the classics' was an especially popular exercise" and documents the following description of Ben Harney "ragging the classics" in 1899:
His performances including the "ragging" of such popular classic's as Mendelssohn's Spring Song, Rubenstein's Melody in F, and the Intermezzo from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana," which he would first play in their orthodox form. The effect was startling [Berlin: 67].
Likewise, author John Edward Hasse in "Ragtime: From the Top" in Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music, notes that the "ragging" of the classics predates the publication of ragtime sheet music and that many of these performances were never transcribed:
[Another] type of ragtime was "ragging" of classics or other preexisting music. Mendelssohn's "Spring Song" and "Wedding March" and Rubenstein's "Melody in F" were among the favorite classics for "ragging." To "rag" is to syncopate the melody of nonsyncopated work. This technique, which predates the first publication of rags by several decades, was a common performance practice of pianists. Most of this type of ragtime, like most modern jazz improvisations on existing popular songs, was probably never written down or recorded (Hasse: 6).
Another view regarding ragtime and classic music is that some "classic" ragtime piano approaches being "classical music" in its own right. Gunther Schuller, for example, in "Rags, the Classics, and Jazz" in Hasse, Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music, argues that some of the more sophisticated instrumental rags, such as Lamb's Ragtime Nightingale, could be considered as having the same complexity and expressiveness as some classical music compositions:
Classical yearnings in ragtime may take another form of expression: in the overall mood or stance of a piece, as in the many rags of Joseph Lamb (1887-1960). Take his moving, poignant Ragtime Nightingale (1915), an extensive "mood poem," albeit within the standard duration and multithematic form of the piano rag. Unhurried, contemplative, at once simple and grand, haunting, and at times vigorously swinging, Ragtime Nightingale embodies the full spectrum of ragtime's expressions. From the almost Tchaikovskian moodiness of the opening C-minor section with its graceful descending sixths in the middle measures, through the more energetic E-flat second theme to the scintillating Trio in A flat, the piece is a pure joy to hear [Hasse: 86].
A 1925 article from Melody magazine also argues that American ragtime and jazz music was its own form of American classical music:
Our highbrows for years have talked much of the need of declaring our independence of old world forms and inspirations. Well here we have it, in musical forms which are as intensely and significantly American as Verdi's are Italian, or Schumann and Wagner, German. It is as racy as our soil as an Irish folk song is of Ireland. It is the rush of our racing streets. It has all the bright contrasts of our racial conglomerate. It has our moods and our spirit, our impudence and irreverence, our joy in speed and force. American musical genius has in ragtime and jazz contributed something of great vitality to the art of music, in its rhythms and new colorings. [Rackett: 3]
In fact, John Stark, the main publisher of Scott Joplin, James Scott, and Joseph Lamb, was known for his hyperbolic marketing of the "classic" ragtime sheet music published by his company, and in the following statement puts Stark-published rags on par with the "genius" and "psychic advance thought" of compositions by Chopin and Bach:
Since we forced the conviction on this country that what is called  a rag may possibly contain more genius and psychic advance thought than a Chopin nocturne or Bach fugue, writers of diluted  and attenuated imitations have sprung up from Maine's frozen hills to the boiling bogs of Louisiana (Blesh: 118).
Classical musical composer Darius Milhaud (discussed below) also argued at the time that the elements of tone and rhythm in the orchestrated jazz music played by Paul Whiteman's orchestra (including compositions by Gershwin) were a form of (American) classical music that puts to shame the need to "rag the classics":
They have brought us absolutely new elements of tone and rhythm of which they are perfect masters. But these jazz bands have hitherto been used only for dancing, and the music written for them has not got beyond ragtime, the foxtrot, and the shimmy. It was a mistake to adapt pieces of music already famous — ranging from Tosca's prayer to 'Peer Gynt' or Grechaninov's Berceuse — making use of their melodic elements as dance themes. This is an error of taste, as bad in its way as the employment of motor-sirens with percussion instruments. [Milhaud: 171]
However, musician Frederick Hodges in his essay "Is Ragtime 'Classical Music'?" points out the differences between ragtime and classical music, arguing that ragtime as "popular" music arose due to different purposes and motivations (including the sale of sheet music) whereas composers of classical music had different motivations:
Ragtime is not classical music. Ragtime is popular music. Classical music and popular music serve entirely different purposes and have diametrically opposed motivations behind their creation. In general, a classical composer uses music to express his deepest emotions and experiences. Classical music arouses the intellect and the passions. It addresses the deepest questions of human existence. Classical music is sophisticated and intelligent. The impression is that it cannot be appreciated by the uninititated and the uneducated. Of course, classical composers were traditionally supported and constrained by the patronage system. Poverty may have obliged Mozart to accept commissions for works he might not otherwise of written, but his patrons probably never asked him to "dumb it down." The point of sale was a single event — the check from the patron rather than multiple points from a sheet-music buying public.
Hodges does acknowledge the intrinsic qualities of certain ragtime compositions (and I don't think he would necessarily disagree with Schuller's appreciation of Lamb's Ragtime Nightingale) and that the relation between ragtime and classical music may be quite fluid:
While it would be a grave mistake to equate the rags of Scott Joplin or the popular songs of Cole Porter or George Gershwin with classical music, the musical output of these and many other popular composers was nevertheless of such excellent quality that it may (and should) endure for centuries as the pinnacle of American musical achievement in the twentieth century. Indeed, as Rifkin's recordings and as Gershwin's successful forays into classical music proved, the border between popular and classical music could be quite fluid.  In fact, many composers of popular music, such as Gershwin and Ferde Grofé, easily transitioned back and forth between between popular and classical music. Nevertheless, Joplin and Gershwin are among the exceptions. Few would argue that the George Botsford's "Black and White Rag" belongs in the same category as Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."
This essay addresses the relationship between ragtime, jazz and classical music by first looking at compositions from the ragtime and jazz era that use classical motifs and by then looking at classical music composers who were influenced by ragtime and jazz.

As such, section 2 below sets out sheet music, when available, for ragtime era compositions where composers — including those by Felix Arndt, Irving Berlin, Alex Christensen, Edward Claypoole, George Cobb, Artie Matthews, and Paul Pratt – employed classical motifs or ragged the compositions of classical music composers. Section 3 below instead discusses ragtime era composers who "classicized" ragtime with their more sophisticated ragtime compositions. Section 4 below then moves to the jazz and modern era by discussing and modern era composers and performers who "ragged" and "jazzed" the classics, such as George Gershwin and Alec Templeton. Section 5 below then discusses ragtime and jazz motifs in classical music, including compositions by Claude Debussy and Erik Satie. Section 6 below sets out links to commercial and online recordings of "ragging" and "jazzing" the classics followed in section 7 below with a bibliography of resources.

2) Ragtime era composers who "ragged" the classics [toc] [top]

There were a number of ragtime era composers who published compositions on classical music themes or who were influenced by classical music, the most well known of which in this genre include Felix Arndt, Irving Berlin, Alex Christensen, Edward Claypoole, George Cobb, Artie Matthews, and Paul Pratt. The sheet music to compositions by these and other ragtime era composers is set out below by composer, as follows:
Harry Alford
Felix Arndt
Irving Berlin
Alex Christensen
Edward Claypoole
George Cobb
Carleton Colby
Zez Confrey
George Fairman
Bert Grant
Arthur Gutman
E. Clinton Keithley
Max Kortlander
Henry Lange
Julius Lenzberg
Victor Maurice
Will Morrison
Paul Pratt
Paul Rubens
Aubrey Stauffer
Harry Thomas
Edward Winn

a) Harry Alford [toc] [top]

Harry Alford was known for his prowess as a music arranger, as noted by Rick Benjamin in a 1993 article in the following terms:
Harry Alford elevated the arranger's role from that of a drudging technician to that of a creative artist; his ingenious and quirky arrangements soon made a sensation. Within a few years, just about everyone in the entertainment business wanted their music scored by him. Business boomed, and between 1904 and 1924, his studio turned out over 34,000 separate arrangements!
Benjamin notes that some of Alford's most famous arrangements include "Some of These Days" (1910), "Melancholy Baby" (1912), "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" (1910), "I Ain't Got Nobody" (1916), "The Darktown Strutter's Ball" (1916), "It Had to be You" (1924) and "Down by the Old Mill Stream" (1910). The following of his compositions are available online:  “Glad Days: Novelette” (1920) and Soul of the Violet: Romance” (1922).

In the following piece, Alford has given orchestral ragtime treatment to "
Chi me Frena in Tal Momento" from Gaetano Donizetti's opera Lucia de Lammermoor:

Portrait of Harry Alford

Harry Alford, Lucy's Sextette: Ragtime Travesty on the "Sextette" from "Lucia" Chicago: Alford-Colby Music Library, 1914.

[view orchestral arrangement from BandMusicPDF.com] [Listen to 1916 Victor recording of Alford's ragtime version]

Source [top]

b) Felix Arndt
[toc] [top]

Felix Arndt (20 May 1889 – 15 October 1918) was an American composer and prolific maker of piano rolls.

Two of his more famous rag/novelty compositions are
Nola: A Silhouette for Piano (1914) and Marionette (1914) (for a 1917 Victor recording of Felix Arndt playing Marionette, click here).

Arndt's most f
amous example of syncopating classical music is his Desecration Rag from 1914 setting out ragtime versions of the following classical compositions:
Sheet Music Cover for Desecration:
                              Rag Humoresque (Felix Arndt)

Felix Arndt, Desecration: Rag Humoresque (New York: G. Ricordi & Co, 1914).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1917 Victor piano roll played by Felix Arndt] [listen to piano performance by Max Keenlyside]

Source: York University Libraries, Sheet Music Collections (Toronto) [top]

Two years later, Arndt published the following piece with An Operatic Nightmare: Desecration Rag (No. 2), his ragtime take on the following operas:
                                Operatic Nightmare Sheet Music Cover

Felix Arndt,
An Operatic Nightmare: Desecration Rag (No. 2) Cleveland, OH: Sam Fox Pub Co, 1916).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1916 Victor piano roll played by Felix Arndt] [listen to piano performance by Christina Pepper]

Source: Photocopy [top]

c) Irving Berlin
 [toc] [top]

As noted in his Wikipedia entry, Irving Berlin wrote over 1,500 songs, including the scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards.

Known for many popular songs – including Alexander's Ragtime Band, Easter Parade, Puttin' on the Ritz, Cheek to Cheek, White Christmas, Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better), and There's No Business Like Show Business – Berlin wrote the following ragtime song in 1909 doing a take on
Felix Mendelssohn's Spring Song:

Cover sheet for That Mesmerizing
                          Mendellsohn Tune (Irving Berlin)

Irving Berlin, That Mesmerizing Mendellsohn Tune: Mendelssohn Rag (New York: Ted Snyder & Co., 1909).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1910 recording] [listen to original classical version]

Source: York University Libraries, Sheet Music Collections (Toronto) [top]

In 1910, Irving Berlin published the following song, made famous by May Irwin:

Sheet music cover of That Opera Rag
                          (Irving Berlin)

Irving Berlin, That Opera Rag (New York: Ted Snyder & Co., 1910).

[view sheet music] [read article involving this song]

Source: Lester S Levy Sheet Music Collection [top]

In Opera Burlesque (1912), the song opens up with the following lyrics:
Let's sing some Ragtime Op'ra,
Let's sing some op'ra grand,
About a man, Called Ephraham,
who heard the Sextette from Lucia, so beautiful,
Ev'ry night you'd see him sitting in the gallery
He Loved to hear Caruso sing his part so tenderly.
Photo of Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin, Opera Burlesque (on the "Sextette" from Lucia de Lammermoor) (1912)

[sheet music appears to be available in Vol 2 of Berlin: Early Songs] [purchase arranged version from MusicNotes] [top]

Irving Berlin's debut musical, Watch Your Step (book by Harry B. Smith) (1914), which features his Syncopated Walk (1914) [listen to 1915 recording], the composer also rags opera tunes in the Act II Finale in "Opera in Modern Time" in which, as noted in the Wikipedia article for this musical, melodies from famous operas were turned into popular dances of the time, with the ghost of Verdi appearing to protest the ragging of his Rigoletto, to no avail (the operas parodied include Verdi's Rigoletto and Aida, Gounod’s Faust, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s La Bohème, and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci) (note: the sheet music below has the title Ragtime Opera Medley):

Sheet music cover for Ragtime Opera
                          Medley (from Watch Your Step) (Irving Berlin)

Irving Berlin, Ragtime Opera Medley (from Watch Your Step) (New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co., 1914).

[view sheet music]

Source: [top]

For a large online collection of Irving Berlin sheet music, see the online holdings of Irving Berlin songs from the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection.

For more resources on Irving Berlin, see:
  • Hamm, Charles, ed. Berlin: Early Songs (3 vol.). Madison, WI: Published for the American Musicological Society by A-R Editions, 1994 [publisher's website].
  • Hamm, Charles. Irving Berlin — Songs from the Melting Pot: The Formative Years, 1907-1914 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) [publisher's website].
  • Kaplan, James. Irving Berlin: New York Genius. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,2019 [publisher's website].
  • Magee, Jeffrey. Irving Berlin's American Musical Theater. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014 [publisher's website].

d) Alex Christensen
[toc] [top]

My separate essay on Alex Christensen documents the role that Christensen played in the spread of the popularity of ragtime through his instruction manuals, publication of the Ragtime Review, and publisher of his own compositions and those of others.

Christensen published a number of compositions that ragged the classics, written in a simplified form, presumably so as to be more easily playable by amateur pianists who likely made up the majority of students in his schools or purchasers of his publications.

Although not an example of a classical piece of music being raggified, the sample instructions to the right from
Christensen's Rag-Time Instruction Book for Piano (Chicago: Alex W. Christensen, 1909) at 25 shows his typical, simplified and formulaic approach to syncopating melodies:

Image of page from Christensen's Rag-Time
                          Instruction Book for Piano (Chicago: Alex W.
                          Christensen, 1909)

The first example below by Christensen of "ragging the classics" is his ragtime version of Mendelssohn's Wedding March:

Ragtime Wedding March (Apologies to
                            Mendelssohn) Sheet Music Cover

Axel Christensen, Ragtime Wedding March (Apologies to Mendelssohn) (Chicago: Christensen School, 1908).

[view sheet music] [listen to ragtime version]

Source:  Library of Congress, Music Division [top]

Another example is Christensen ragging Gustav Lange's Flower Song (Blumenlied):

Image of first page of Lange's Flower
                            Song in Ragtime (Christensen) 

Axel Christensen, Lange's Flower Song in Ragtime (Blumenlied) (1909).

[view sheet music]

Source: Christensen's Rag-Time Instruction Book for Piano (Chicago: Alex W. Christensen, 1909) [top]

In the following piece, Christensen does his ragtime versions of the following classical compositions: Franz Liszt's Liebestraum, Anton Rubinstein's Melody in F, and “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice” from Camille Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah:

 Sheet music cover for Teasing the
                            Klassics (Axel Christensen)

Axel Christensen, Teasing the Klassics (Chicago: Forster Music, 1923).
Listed in That American Rag: Jasen and Jones (2000): 396).

[view sheet music]

Source: University of Alberta Libraries Sheet Music Collection [top]

In addition, Robert Marine, a teacher within the Christensen school system, also may have ragged the classics in the following hard-to-source piece of sheet music based on the words "keyboard" and "klassic" in the title:
  • Robert Marine, Keyboard Klassic (New York, NY: Robert Marine, Inc, 1928)). Listed in That American Rag: Jasen and Jones (2000): 370).

e) Edward Claypoole
[toc] [top]

Edward Claypoole (20 December 1883 – 16 February 1952) was a child prodigy at piano and sold his first two compositions, Prancin Jimmy (1899) and Cake-walk Lindy (1900), in 1900 to Joseph Stern:
Jasen and Tichenor (1978): 170. He is also known for his Reuben Fox Trot (1914) and American Jubilee (1916). Despite working most of his life as a court clerk, Claypoole is credited with over 500 compositions, including a number of novelty rags, such as Jazzapation (1920), Skidding – Novelty Solo (1923), Dusting the Keys (A Dusty Rag Fox Trot) (1923), and Bouncing on the Keys (1924): Jasen and Tichenor (1978): 172-73.

In Ragging the Scale (below), Claypoole does a clever riff on traditional piano scale exercises, selling over 2 million copies (for a modern homage to this piece, see Bill Edward's Hanon Rag, discussed below).

However, according to Jasen and Tichenor, Claypoole saw no royalties for Ragging the Scale since Claypoole sold the piece outright to the publisher for $25 (
Jasen and Tichenor (1978): 172-73.

For Claypoole to have been denied royalties is perhaps appropriate because, according to Al Rose's humorous re-telling of Eubie Blake's account of this piece in Eubie Blake [Rose: 40-41], Eubie Blake had in fact perfected ragging the scale in five keys in playful competitions with Hughie Wolford in 1905 or 1906 in Baltimore, well prior to Claypoole publishing "his" version in 1915.

Sheet Music Cover for Ragging the Scale
                          (Edward Claypoole)

Edward Claypoole,
Ragging the Scale (New York: Broadway Music Corporation, 1915).

[view sheet music] [listen to transcribed piano roll played by Charley Straight]

Source: Digital Commons@Connecticut College [top]

George Cobb [toc] [top]

In my separate essay on George Cobb I set out links to all of his 215 known ragtime-related compositions, including some of his more famous pieces, such as Rubber Plant Rag: A Stretcherette (1909), Aggravation Rag (1910), Rabbit's Foot (1915), The Midnight Trot (1916), Cracked Ice Rag (1918), Irish Confetti: Fox Trot (1918), Feeding the Kitty: A Ragtime One-Step (1919), and Piano Salad (1923).

Known as a clever and prolific tune-smith, Cobb also dabbled in "ragging the classics."

In the first example, Cobb rags the main melodies from "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg's
Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46:

                            Gink: One Step (Adapted from "Peer
                            Gynt" Suite 1) (Apologies to Grieg)

George Cobb, Peter Gink: One Step (Adapted from "Peer Gynt" Suite 1) (Apologies to Grieg) (Boston: Walter Jacobs, 1918).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1919 Victor recording of Cobb's version] [listen to MIDI by Sue Keller of Cobb's version] [listen to classical musical version by Czech National Symphony]

Sources: National Library of Australia Digital Collections. Also available in Melody magazine (March 1918). Image cover from photocopy from Toronto Reference Library sheet music collection [top]

The next example, the Russian Rag, was likely one of Cobb's most famous of all of his many compositions, being his ragtime version of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op.3, No.2, a piece that was so popular that he did a "new" version of the rag in 1923, listed below.

                            Rag Sheet Music Cover

George Cobb, Russian Rag (Chicago: Will Rossiter, 1918). Listed in TAR. Copyright registration date: 27 April 1918.

[view sheet music] [listen to 1921 Berliner Gram-O-Phone recording from Library and Archives Canada]

Listen to Historic .MP3 Recording: Montreal: His Master's Voice, 1921: Berliner Gram-O-Phone Co (Library and Archives Canada)

Source: Indiana University Sheet Music Collections [top]

Cobb returned to
Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46 by ragging the second song in that suite, "Aase's Death" in the following piece:

                          Toddy: One Step (With Apologies To Mr. Grieg)
                          Sheet Music Cover

George Cobb, Asa's Toddy: One Step (with Apologies to Mr Grieg) (New York: Jerome H Remick, 1920).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI file of Cobb's rag version] [listen to original classical version]

Source: Photocopy from the Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University [top]

Cobb also arranged a ragtime version of the "Anvil Chorus" from Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore with the Blacksmith Rag by Rednip (an alias for Harold Pinder) with words by Will Garton and Leo Wood:

Blacksmith Rag (With The "Anvil
                            Chorus") Sheet Music Cover

George Cobb (arranger), Blacksmith Rag (with the "Anvil Chorus") (words by Will Garton and Leo Wood) (composed by Rednip) (Boston: Ted Garton Music Co, 1920).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI file of Cobb's arranged version] [listen to classical version by Royal Opera House]

Source: Indiana University Sheet Music Collections [top]

In the following piece, as noted by Hodges, Cobb syncopated several themes from the music of 
Anto nín Dvořák:

Bohunkus: Novelty One Step Sheet Music

George Cobb, Bohunkus: Novelty One Step (Boston: Walter Jacobs, 1920).

[view sheet music] [listen to a MIDI of the ragtime version]

Source: Melody magazine (March 1920) [top]

In the following piece, as also noted by Hodges, Cobb syncopated several themes from the music of  Franz Schubert’s "Ave Maria" and themes by Moritz Moszkowski:

Shivaree: One Step Sheet Music: First

George Cobb, Shivaree: One Step (Boston: Walter Jacobs, 1921).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI of ragtime version]

Source: Melody magazine (October 1921) [top]

In Torrid Dora (Toreador), a piece listed in That American Rag [ Jasen and Jones (2000):374], Cobb does his ragtime take on the "Toreador's Song" from Carmen by Georges Bizet:

Torrid Dora Sheet Music Cover

George Cobb, Torrid Dora (Toreador) (Chicago: Will Rossiter, 1921). Listed in TAR. Copyright registration date: 18 December 1921.

[view sheet music] [listen to Bizet's version by the Royal Opera House]

Source: York University Libraries, Sheet Music Collections (Toronto) [top]

After the success of the Russian Rag (1918) (above), Cobb released the following variations on the same them with The New Russian Rag, also listed in That American Rag [Jasen and Jones, 2000: 376]:

Sheet music cover for New Russian Rag

George Cobb, The New Russian Rag (Chicago: Will Rossiter, 1923).

[view sheet music]

Source: York University Libraries, Sheet Music Collections (Toronto)  [top]

Finally, in the following piece, Cobb published a syncopated version of
Cécile Chaminade's Scarf Dance, op. 37:

Cover for Melody magazine (August

George Cobb, Summer Furs (A Syncopated Classic: Scarf Dance Chaminade) (Boston: Walter Jacobs, 1924).

[view sheet music] [listen to a 1916 Victor roll of the classical version]

Source: Melody magazine (August 1924)  [top]

Carleton Colby [toc] [top]

Carleton Colby (1881-1937)
was a cellist, organist, arranger, and manager of the Harry L. Alford music studios in Chicago, as noted in an online obituary. He died suddenly on July 23, 1937.

Compositions written or arranged by Colby span a 40-year-plus period and include the following titles (and I assume this list is incomplete):
I Can't Take My Eyes Off the Pitcher! (1910) (by A.V. Hedin) (words by Carlton Colby); The Maid in the Moon (from “The Cat and the Fiddle”) (1912); Pick a Chicken: One-Step and Trot (by Mel B. Kaufman) (arranged by Harry Alford and Carleton Colby) (1914); Tattered Opera (1914); Good Bye Rag (1920) [in Ragtime Jubilee folio, Dover]; Faith: A Sacred Solo (1928); Lee Sims Piano Method (Jazz) (editor) (1928); Headlines: A Modern Rhapsody (1934); Going Down to London (1935); Cowboy and Mountain Songs: Orchestra Folio No. 1 (1936); Three Blind Mice: Scherzo (1936); Softly Steals the Night (A Spanish Serenade) (by Egbert van Alstyne, arranged by Carleton Colby) (1934); The Toy Shop: Descriptive Fantasy for Narrator and Concert Band (1956).

In the following piece, Colby composed a ragtime version of 
Giuseppe Verdi's 'Miserere d'un alma gia vicina" from Il Trovatore:

Cover of sheet music for Misery Rag:
                          Ragtime on the "Miserre" from Il
                          Trovatore (Colby)

Carleton Colby, Misery Rag: Ragtime on the "Miserere" from Il Trovatore (Chicago: Alford-Colby Music Library, 1914).

[view sheet music] [full orchestra score from IMSLP] [listen to classical version]

Source: International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) [top]

h) Zez Confrey [toc] [top]

Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey (3 April 1895 – 22 November 1971) composed a number of "novelty" piano compositions, the most famous of which include Stumbling (1912), My Pet (1921), Kittens on the Keys (1921), Coaxing the Piano (1922), Nickel in the Slot (1923) and Dizzy Fingers (1923).

Confrey also composed a number of pieces that ragged the classics or that contained classical music motifs, including the following compositions (author's note: I prepared this entry on Zez Confrey quickly in January 2022 and have not had time to research the following pieces in detail, some of which I have included based solely on their title; in addition, this list may not be complete – I would hope to expand this section on Confrey sometime in the future):
  • Three Little Oddities (Impromptu, Romanza, Novelette) (1923) (for piano or violin and piano)
  • Humorestless (1925)
  • Flower Song (1925)
  • Spring Song (1925)
  • Melody in F (1925)
  • Traumerei (1925)
  • Fantasy – Classical (1926)
  • Concert Etude in F Sharp Minor (1929)
Additional resources for researching Zez Confrey:

i) George Fairman
[toc] [top]

George Fairman (1881-1962) was a composer of ragtime and patriotic songs, including but not limited to The Bugavue Rag (1902),
Way Down South (1912) (listen to 1913 recording), I'm the Guy Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle (1914), Sailor Boy (words by Edward Ridge) (1914), I Think We've Got Another Washington and Wilson is His Name (1915), Hello America, Hello! (1917) (listen to 1918 recording), I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way (1917) (listen to 1917 recording), When You Find There's Someone Missing (1917), He's A Better Man Than You, Kaiser Bill (1918), I'd Love to Dance an Old Fashioned Waltz (1918), Here's to Your Boy and My Boy (1918), Bo-La-Bo: Eqyptian Fox-Trot Song (1919) (listen to 1920 recording), Not in a Thousand Years (1919), Everybody Tells It to Sweeney (words by Sydney Mitchell) (1920), If Shamrocks Grew Along the Swanee Shore (1921), She's Always Singing the Blues (words by Al Bernard) (1921), and Kiss Mama, Kiss Papa (lyrics by Al Herman) (1922).

According to Jasen and Jones (2000: 321), George Fairman composed under the pseudonym Joe Arizonia.

Fairman is included here for the following compositions that "rag" the classics, with the later ones done more in a novelty piano style:

Sheet music cover for That Ragtime
                          Mel-o-dy (With Apologies to Rubenstein's
                          Melody in F) (George Fairman)

George Fairman,
That Ragtime Mel-o-dy (With Apologies to Rubenstein's Melody in F) (Chicago: Star Music Publishing, 1910).

[view sheet music] [top]

First page of music for Syncopated
                          Butterfly (George Fairman)

George Fairman, Syncopated Butterfly (New York: Jack Mills Inc., 1922).

[view sheet music]
First page of music for Syncopated Minuet
                          (George Fairman)

George Fairman, Syncopated Minuet (New York: Jack Mills Inc., 1922).

[view sheet music] [top]

First page of Jack Mills Folio of

George Fairman, Syncopated Polish Dance. (New York: Jack Mills Inc., 1922) (based on melodies by Xaver Scharwenka).

[view sheet music] [top]

Sheet music cover for Silence 'n Fun
                          (George Fairman)

George Fairman, Silence 'n Fun (New York: Jack Mills Inc., 1923).

[purchase sheet music] [top] [note: I have not been able to locate a free online version]

First page of Jack Mills Folio of

George Fairman, Syncopated Scarf Dance (New York: Jack Mills Inc., 1923).

[view sheet music] [top]

Sheet music cover for Minuet in Blue
                          (George Fairman)

George Fairman, Minuet In Blue (New York: Fairman Music Pub. Co. Inc., 1928).

[purchase sheet music] [top]

j) Bert Grant
[toc] [top]

Bert F. Grant (12 July 1878 – 10 May 1951) was a prolific composer of ragtime songs, including The Rose and the Honey Bee (lyrics by Malvin Franklin) (1909), I'm the Guy
(words by Rube Goldberg) (1912), and Broadway: Don't Blame it All on Broadway (1913). There are a large number of his ragtime songs available online here, here, and here.

He is also the composer of
Aero Rag (1910).

He is included here for the following novelty piano piece that includes the ragging of
Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op.3, No.2:

Sheet music cover for Russianova (Bert

Bert Grant (with Cecil Arnold), Russianova (
New York: Jack Mills Inc., 1923).

[purchase PDF of sheet music] [listen to performance by Frederick Hodges]

[purchase Manhattan Serenade by Frederick Hodges containing this composition] [top]

Arthur Gutman [toc] [top]

I could not find much information about Arthur Gutman who was the composer of Carmencia (Castillian One Step) (1919) [listen to MIDI file], the music arranger for 9 Broadway shows spanning 1916 to 1936, and editor of The Prairie Ramblers and Patsy Montana's Collection of Songs (1936).

He is included here for the following composition, listed in That American Rag
[Jason and Jones (2000): 398] since, I presume, it is a ragtime version of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 for Piano (but I cannot verify that since I have not been able to source a copy of this composition):

l) E Clinton Keithley
[toc] [top]

E. Clinton Keithley (1880-1955) was a ragtime composer known for the following two rags, both listed in That American Rag: Dixie Kisses: Rag Intermezzo (1909) and Bumble Bee Rag (1909) [listen to piano roll].

He also composed a number of ragtime songs, available online here and here. In addition, there are a number of online piano roll recordings of his songs played by various performers.

The following composition is Keithley's ragtime version of melodies from Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow:

                          music cover for Merry Widow Rag (Keithley)

E. Clinton Keithley,
Merry Widow Rag (Louisville, KY: Keith Music, 1908).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI recording of ragtime version] [listen to classical music version]

Source: IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana [top]

m) Max Kortlander
[toc] [top]

Max Kortlander (1 September 1890 – 11 October 1961) was a prolific composer of novelty rags and songs as well as being famous for his hand-played piano rolls, as noted by Jasen (2000: 123-24):
Kortlander was a composer of extraordinary rags, a brilliant piano-roll arranger of pop tunes of the day, and a magnificent performer of hand-played piano rolls, eventually going on to become president of QRS in 1931, which he owned until his death.
Some of his instrumental compositions include the following pieces: Blue Clover Man (1920), Hunting the Ball Rag (1922) (unpublished), Deuces Wild (1923), Red Clover (1923), Shimmie Shoes (1923), Black'n Blue (1924), Buck Shots (1924), Butter Fingers (1924), Flowers of Spain (1924), On Hawaiian Sands (1924) , Left Hand Tricks (1924), New Orleans Fizz (1924), Rain Drops (1924), and Silver Screen (1924).

For a good recording of Kortlander's piano rolls, see Piano Roll Artistry of Max Kortlander (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings) (1981).

In the following piece, Kortlander does a ragtime version of Frederic Chopin's Funeral March:

Max Kortlander picture

Max Kortlander, Funeral Rag
(not copyrighted or published)

[view sheet music] [listen to piano roll of ragtime version] [listen to classical musical version]

Source: IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana [top]

n) Henry Lange
[toc] [top]

Henry Lange (20 July 1895 – 10 June 1985) was a pianist for Paul Whiteman’s orchestra in 1920 and performed during the evening of the debut of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924. He composed novelty compositions with Jack Mills, including Whippin’ the Ivories (1922) [listen to performance] and Page Mr. Pianist (1922) [listen to MIDI file].

Lange is included here for the following novelty instrumentals that syncopate classical music themes:

Sheet music cover for Cho-Piano (Henry

Henry Lange,
Cho-Piano (New York: Jack Mills, 1922).

[view sheet music] [listen to performance]

Source: Walter Cosand [top]

Sheet music cover for Symphanola (Henry

Henry Lange, Symphanola (New York: Jack Mills, 1922).

[view sheet music] [listen to performance]

Source: Walter Cosand [top]

Sheet music cover for Classicana: A
                          Syncopated Panorama (Henry Lange)

Henry Lange, Classicana: A Syncopated Panorama (New York: Waterson Berlin & Snyder Co., 1923).

[view sheet music]

Source: Walter Cosand [top]

o) Julius Lenzberg
[toc] [top]

Julius Lenzberg (3 January 1878 – 24 April 1956) was a German-American composer of ragtime who has a number of compositions available online, including Bell's Academy March (1894), Gallant Commodore: A Brilliant March Two Step (1898), Haunting Rag (1911) (listen to piano roll), That Madrid Rag (1911), Some Baby — One-Step, Two-Step, Turkey Trot (1913), Colonial Rag (1914) (with Ernest Ball), Merry Whirl: One Step (1915), Razzle Dazzle: One Step (1919), and Moonlight on the Nile (lyrics by Gus Kahn & Bud G. DeSylva) (1919).

Lenzberg is perhaps most well known for his ragtime version of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 for Piano in the following rag:
Photo of Julius Lenzberg 1911

Photo of Julius Lenzberg (1911)

Sheet Music Cover for Hungarian Rag

Julius Lenzberg, Hungarian Rag (New York: Jerome H Remick, 1913).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI from Bill's Audio Reference Library] [listen to performance of Liszt's version by Valentina Lisitsa] [top]

In Operatic Rag, Lenzberg does a ragtime version of a number of famous opera arias, including:
Sheet music cover for Operatic Rag

Julius Lenzberg, Operatic Rag (New York: Jerome H Remick, 1914).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1916 Victor recording] [listen to MIDI from Dorian Henry] [top]

Although I have not yet identified a classical music antecedent for Rag-A-Minor by Lenzberg, I have included it here since it sounds as though it could have been influenced by classical music motifs:

Sheet music cover for Rag-A-Minor

Julius Lenzberg, Rag-A-Minor (New York: T.B. Harms, 1917).

[view sheet music] [listen to a 1917 Columbia recording] [top]

p) Victor Maurice
[toc] [top]

There is little information available about the following composer and what appears to be a version of "ragging" Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow:

q) Will Morrison
[toc] [top]

Will Morrison (12 October 1874 – 18 December 1937) was a mid-West ragtime composer affiliated with the publisher J.H. Aufderheide. In That American Rag, Will Morrison is described as being "besotted" with ragtime, publishing Cecil Duane Crabb's Fluffy Ruffles in 1907, which was soon thereafter picked up by J.H. Aufderheide in 1908 (Jason and Jones (2000): 154).

Will Morrison is known for
for Trouble Rag (with Cecil Duane Crabbe) (1908), Dance of the Sun Rays: Valse Impromptu (1909), Scarecrow Rag (1911),  Sour Grapes Rag (1912), Will o' The Wisp: Syncopated Waltzes (1912), and That Waltz (1914).

In the following piece from 1915, Morrison does a ragtime waltz version of
Antonín Dvořák's Humoresques:

Humoreske: Syncopated Waltzes Sheet
                            Music Cover

Will Morrison, Humoreske: Syncopated Waltzes (Indianopolis, IN: Warner C Williams,  1915).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI of ragtime version] [listen to Antonín Dvořák's original composition]

Source: Charles H Templeton Sheet Music Collection (MSU) [top]

In the following piece from 1915, Morrison does a ragtime waltz version of Anton Rubinstein's Melody in F:

Sheet music cover for Melody in F
                          (Syncopated Waltzes) (Will Morrison)

Will Morrison, Melody in F (Syncopated Waltzes) (Indianapolis: Warner C Williams, 1913).

[view sheet music] [listen to MIDI of ragtime version] [listen to Rubinstein's original composition]

Source: York University Libraries, Sheet Music Collections (Toronto)  [top]

In addition, from the same publisher (Warner Williams) is the publisher's arranged version of a syncopated waltz on the themes from Il Trovatore:

r) Paul Pratt
[toc] [top]

Paul Pratt (1 November 1890 – 7 July 1948) was a prolific mid-West composer of ragtime era compositions as well as a piano roll performer, perhaps being most famous for Vanity Rag (1905), 
Colonial Glide (1910), Hot House Rag (1914), and  On the Rural Route (1917), along with the classically-themed Springtime Rag, based on Felix Mendelssohn's Spring Song:

Sheet music cover
                          for Springtime Rag (Paul Pratt)

Paul Pratt, Springtime Rag (St. Louis: John Stark & Son, 1916).

[view sheet music] [view transcription by Ragnar Hellspong]
[listen to a recording by Wally Rose from the Internet Archives]
[listen to original classical version]

Source: Charles H Templeton Sheet Music Collection (MSU) [top]

s) Paul Rubens
[toc] [top]

Paul Rubens (29 April 1875 – 5 February 1917) was an English songwriter who is most well known for writing musical comedies for the English stage.

Rubens also wrote a number of compositions of likely interest to most ragtime musicians, including:
  • In Venice: Italian Serenade (1897) (Witmark)
  • Ragtime Pasmala – Characteristic Two Step (1899) [listen to MIDI file].
  • Florodora (by Leslie Stuart, additional songs by Paul Rubens)
  • Virginia Courtship: Waltzes (1898)
  • Kunnin' Kaffirs: A Dusky Characteristic March & Two Step (1900)
  • Way Down South: Characteristic March and Cake Walk (1902) (available here in print at University of Colorado) (and midi and PDF available here for purchase)
  • The German Cakewalk (1903), listed in my separate essay Cakewalks in the Ragtime Era.
  • The Argentine: Tango Dance (from The Sunshine Girl) (1912)
In the following piece, Rubens does his ragtime take on themes from Strauss:

Vienna Rag Sheet Music Cover

Paul Rubens, The Vienna Rag: Cake Walk á la "Strauss" (New York: Jos. W. Stern & Co., 1905).

[view sheet music]

Source: Charles H Templeton Sheet Music Collection (MSU) [top]

Aubrey Stauffer [toc] [top]

Aubrey Stauffer (born 14 June 1876) was a composer of ragtime era novelty songs.

For someone who appears to have been a fairly prolific composer, there is very little information about Aubrey Stauffer online, including no "master list" of his compositions.

The BMG (Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar) Journal (June 1927) at 133 describes Stauffer as "one of the best-known mandolists in America".

From various searches, it appears that Stauffer wrote primarily novelty songs, with many of them for the musical theatre stage and many of them self-copyrighted by him (indicating Chicago as the city of publication).

Here is the best list I could compile of his compositions: Huckleberry Finn: A Missouri Intermezzo (1904), My Marguerite (with Edward G. Hill) (1904) (as a mandolin duet), My Vision (with T.L. Le Fever) (1904), Ben Hur: Overture, op. 28 (1906) (listen to a 2011 performance), Consequences or What a Little Smoke Will Do (with Al G. Coney) (1907), Chicago (1909) (words by Jimmy O'Brien) (1909), I'm Lonesome for You All the Time (music by Ernie Erdman, words by Aubrey Stauffer), Oh! You "Jeffreies" (with Milton Weil and Roger Lewis) (1910), That Peculiar Rag (1910) (as publisher), Oh That Oriental Rag (with Ernie Erdman) (1911), My Sweet, Sweet Evenin' Star: A Classic Novelty Song (with Ernie Erdman) (1911), Let's Play Post-Office (with Ernie Erdman) (1911),  The Wreck of the Titanic (1912), Oh, You September Morn (words by Arthur Gillespie) (1913), Oh Skin-nay! C'mon Over! (words by Ruth Owen Riggs) (1913), Beautiful Dreams I'm Dreaming (with Arthur Gillespie) (1913), I Can Get Enough of Everything but You (words by WM Baltzell (1917), The Young Rajah ( 1922) (listen to a 1922 recording), Hollywood Fox Trot (1923) (listen to a 1923 recording), When a Little Boy Loves a Little Girl (1924), and Carry on for General MacArthur: A Marching Song (1942).

In the following song, Stauffer gives ragtime song treatment to Robert Schumman's "Traumerei" from Kinderszenen, Op. 15.

Sheet music cover for That Lovin'
                          Traumerei (Stauffer)

Aubrey Stauffer, 
That Lovin' Traumerei (Chicago: Aubrey Stauffer, 1910).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1912 Victor recording with vocals by Al Jolson] [listen to Schumann's original]

Source: Duke University Digital Collections: Historic American Sheet Music [top]

u) Harry Thomas
[toc] [top]

Harry Thomas was born Reginald Thomas Broughton in Bristol England but immigrated to Montreal, Canada, when he was 19 years old (Gilmore 1989: 280). Apparently, Thomas had no formal musical training and was self-taught but "studied" under Willie Eckstein and would play at the Strand Theatre in Eckstein's absence:
The two men, though dissimilar in temperament and musical training, shared a fondness for two pleasures – liquor and improvisation. Both pianists could spontaneously weave snippets of melody from popular songs and classical masterpieces into an engaging and often humourous musical commentary on the events silently unfolding on the theatre screen (Gilmore 1988: 17).
In the fall of 1916, Harry Thomas went to Chicago to record piano rolls for QRS Company and then on to New York to record Delirious Rag and Perpetual Rag for Metro-Art and Universal (Gilmore 1988: 17). Later that year, he returned to New York to record for Victor Talking Machine a 78 rpm with Delirious Rag on one side and A Classical Spasm on the other side, also manufactured in Montreal by the Berliner Gramophone Company (see above for his recording of A Classical Spasm). These recordings, according to Gilmore (1989:281) made Thomas the first musician resident in Canada to record ragtime.

Harry Thomas is included here for the following recording even though no sheet music for the composition is known to exist:

For an incredible performance by Mimi Blais of her take on fellow Canadian Willie Eckstein's Musical Massacre (a parody of Chopin), see her online performance listed below.

v) Edward Winn
[toc] [top]

Edward Winn, who began his School of Popular Music in Newark, N.J., in 1901 (Jason and Jones, TAR: 124), was the author of various ragtime instruction manuals, including Winn's Practical Method of Popular Music: Rag and Jazz Piano Playing (circa 1920), listed in my separate essay on Alex Christensen and the ragtime instruction manuals of Christensen and others.

In addition, from 1918 to 1919, Winn also authored a column in Melody magazine called 
'Ragging the Popular Song Hits" that, in addition to the popular song hits of the time, included the following "silent movie music" based on themes by classical music composers (and even though the following compositions are not heavily syncopated and many were arranged by in-house arrangers, it would not be difficult for the serious student to "rag" these classical compositions):
See also:
Similar to the various ragtime instruction manuals discussed in my essay on Alex Christensen, there were a number of ragtime era "film music" folios published, aimed at pianists and organists who played the keyboards during silent films. Two examples from the Silent Film Sound & Music Archive, are the following folios that provide the piano music for various pieces of classical music, appropriately identified for different types of movie scenes (car chase, romantic scene, and so on). Although the classical music pieces in these folios are not heavily syncopated versions of classical music, they would likely be of interest to most ragtime musicians, especially those who perform live at silent movie film festivals:

v) Miscellaneous [toc] [top]

Included in this section are various ragtime era compositions that "rag the classics" where I have not had time to expand on the composers or compositions in a section above dedicated to the particular composer:

3)  Ragtime era composers who "classicized" ragtime [toc] [top]

The ragtime compositions of the following ragtime composers likely fall into Schuller's categorization above of "classical" ragtime music where "classical yearnings" may be expressed in the overall mood or stance of a piece even where the piece cannot be tied to a particular piece of classical music. Simply put, whether you agree or not with Schuller's characterization, these are composers of "classic" ragtime whose works usually transcend the crassness of some Tin Pan Alley or honky-tonk ragtime music.

Eubie Blake
Will Marion Cook
Scott Joplin
Joseph Lamb
Artie Matthews

a) Eubie Blake
[toc] [top]

James Herbert "Eubie" Blake (7 February 1887 – 12 February 1983)
was a legendary ragtime composer and performer, famous for a number of unique ragtime instrumentals and his partnership with Noble Sissle and their production of the Broadway Music Shuffle Along.

In my separate essay on Ragtime in Canada, I discuss Eubie Blake's influence, along with John Arpin and other Canadians, of promoting the ragtime revival in Canada with Blake's many visits to Toronto in the 1969's and 1970's to perform.

In Eubie Blake, author Al Rose describes Blake as having been "deeply affected by the music of Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikowsky, and George Gershwin" [Rose: 156] and describes the "classical" nature of Eubie's compositions in the following terms:
It is as a composer of classics and semiclassics that Eubie has done sóme of his most exciting, though least known, work. "Dictys on Seventh Avenue," his "graduation piece" for his New York University degree, is in the Reginald Forsythe-David Rose mold but is nevertheless pure Eubie, as is his Gershwinesque "Capricious Harlem." Most surprising and most difficult to identify with Eubie are the two exotic etudes "Rain Drops" and "Butterfly." These delicate little tone poems are clearly in the genre of Debussy, with a hint of Richard Strauss. They are in no way imitative, though. It's just that these earlier composers established forms in which Eubie is supremely at ease. "Rain Drops" is built on a single note set ingeniously, like a diamond, in a ring of complex chords. It is slow in tempo, a "mood" piece, yet it is exciting. Excruciatingly restrained and suspenseful, it may ultimately go farthest in establishing Eubie's credentials in the ranks of formal classical composers. "Butterfly" has a more programmatic character. Eubie captures flutters and silences in a gossamer of taste and sensitivity. [Rose: 157-58]
Some of Eubie Blake's more famous piano compositions include the following pieces:
The transcriptions by Terry Waldo of the following Eubie Blake compositions are available in Sincerely Eubie Blake (Brooklyn, NY: Eubie Blake Music, 1975) (publisher's website):
For a folio of waltzes by Eubie Blake, see Eubie Blake: Original Classic Waltzes for the Piano (New York: Edwards B. Marks Music Corporation, 1976) containing the following compositions:
  • Valse Marion
  • Valse Eileen
  • Valse Annette
  • Valse Erda
  • Valse Delma
  • Valse Eth-el
  • Valse Vera
  • Lady Beautiful
For some additional online recordings of Eubie ragging the classics, see:

b) Will Marion Cook
[toc] [top]

Will Marion Cook (January 27, 1869 – July 19, 1944) was an American composer, violinist, and choral director. His Wikipedia entry highlights Cook's fascinating life, including the following details: he was a student of
Antonín Dvořák, he performed for King George V, he was the first black lawyer to practice in Washington, and was Dean of Howard University Law School.

Cook is included in this essay for the following two of his compositions, which although clearly in the ragtime idiom, put Cook at an implicit intersection with classical musical given his classical music training:

Until I am able to expand this entry on Cook in future updates, the following resources provide more information:
  • Carter, Marva Griffin. Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Riis, Thomas, ed. The Music and Scripts of In Dahomey. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 1996 [publisher's website]

c) Scott Joplin
[toc] [top]

In my separate essay in Scott Joplin, I set out commentary and links to all of the sheet music for his public domain ragtime music compositions.

He is mentioned here despite not being known for ragging the classics as being a composer, like
Nathaniel Dett, George Gershwin, and Artie Matthews, who had classical music aspirations, including his opera Treemonisha, believed to have been completed in 1910.

More information on Treemonisha is available here; the Library of Congress also has an online essay on Treemonisha here.

d) Joseph Lamb
[toc] [top]

In my separate essay on Joseph Lamb, I set out links to and discussion of all of his public domain piano sheet music, including those published by HH Sparks in Toronto when Lamb was a student in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, those published under not well-known pseudonyms with HH Sparks, and his "classic rags" published with Jospeh Stark in New York.

Although Lamb was not known for "ragging the classics," he is included here for the classical music motifs found in one of his most famous Stark rags, Ragtime Nightingale (sheet music below), believed to have been w
ritten in response to James Scott's Ragtime Oriole (available here) even though it is likely that James Scott did not intend his work to be birdlike [Scotti (1977:90)], unlike the trio section of Lamb's Ragtime Nightingale which was intended in part to mimic the sounds of nightingale birds.

In They All Played Ragtime, the authors quote Lamb describing the origins of Ragtime Nightingale and the influence of Ethelbert Nevin's Nightingale Song:
I wrote heavy rags, the way I wanted whether it was hard to play or not. Chords might strike me first, or a melody, or a conjunction of chord and melody. I kept it working it over until I got something. With my Ragtime Nightingale, it was the name that struck me first. You may have noticed that in the beginning of the trio I use a little part of Ethelbert Nevin's Nightingale Song. I saw it in an Etude magazine of my sisters'. I usually got one complete strain finished and the others would follow, but the strains have to fit with each other.
[Blesh and Janis: 238]
 The opening arpeggiated chord from Ragtime Nightingale is said to have also been based on Chopin's Etude in C Minor, Opus 10, no 12 ("Revolutionary Etude").
Sheet music cover for Nightingale Rag

Joseph Lamb, The Ragtime Nightingale (St Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1915). Copyrighted 10 June 1915.

[view sheet music]

Source:  Cover from Library of Congress, Music Division [top]

e) Artie Matthews [toc] [top]

Artie Matthews (15 November 1888 – 25 October 1958) was a ragtime composer most famous for his "Pastime" rags (below) and 
Weary Blues (1915). Matthews also arranged Baby Seals Blues (by Baby F. Seals) (1912) and Birmingham Blues (with Charles McCord) (1922), among other things.

Like Nathaniel Dett, Artie Matthews focused on classical music after the ragtime era ended by establishing with his wife Anna in 1921 the Cosmopolitan School of Music, a music school for African Americans, where Matthews taught until his death.

In Ragtime: An Encyclopedia, Discography, and Sheetography, David Jasen says this about Artie Matthews in describing the "Pastime" rags:

The five "Pastimes" reveal his milieu in theatre work; they are bold and dramatic, extraordinarily pianistic, and reflect the vaudeville side of ragtime, but within the polished Classic rag format. From the perspective of early Classic ragtime, these works are innovations in the idiom [Jasen: 142-43].
Sheet Music Cover for Pastime Rag No. 1
                          (Artie Matthews)

Artie Matthews, Pastime Rag No. 1 (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1913).

[view sheet music]

Source: Library of Congress [top]
Sheet Music Cover for Pastime Rag No. 2
                          (Artie Matthews)

Artie Matthews, Pastime Rag No. 2 (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1913).

[view sheet music]

Source: Charles H Templeton Sheet Music Collection (MSU) [top]

Sheet Music Cover for Pastime Rag No. 3
                          (Artie Matthews)

Artie Matthews,
Pastime Rag No. 3
(St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1916).

[view sheet music]

International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) [top]
Sheet Music Cover for Pastime Rag No. 4
                          (Artie Matthews)

Artie Matthews,
Pastime Rag No. 4
(St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1920).

[view sheet music]

Library of Congress [top]
Sheet Music Cover for Pastime Rag No. 5
                          (Artie Matthews)
Artie Matthews,
Pastime Rag No. 5
(St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1918).

[view sheet music]

Source: International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) [top]

4)  Jazz and modern era composers who "jazzed" the classics [toc] [top]

The ragtime era, traditionally viewed as being from 1899 to 1919, was gradually eclipsed by the growth and popularity of jazz music, a phenomena that also saw classic music being "jazzed" in the same way that it had been "ragged" in the past. This section discusses the following jazz era composers and performers who "jazzed" the classics in one way or another along with those ragtime and jazz composers from the ragtime revival era to present who have ragged or jazzed the classics:

George Gershwin
Alec Templeton
Fats Waller
Modern examples of ragging and jazzing the classics

George Gershwin [toc] [top]

George Gershwin (26 September 1898 – 11 July 1937) was a prolific composer whose short career spanned ragtime, jazz, Broadway musicals, classical music and Hollywood film scores.

Some of Gershwin's more well-known compositions include Swanee (1919), Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Fascinating Rhythm (1924), Concerto in F (1925), An American in Paris (1928), I Got Rhythm (1930), and Porgy and Bess (1935).
He has not yet been widely discussed on this website since my focus is on instrumental ragtime piano from the era of classical ragtime piano (circa 1899 to 1917). Gershwin is included here despite not having published music that ragged the classics because he, like Nathaniel Dett, Scott Joplin and Artie Matthews, gained experience composing traditional ragtime but "evolved" to compose or focus on classical music (and, in Gershwin's case, orchestrated jazz music) and otherwise is someone whose compositions would fall into Schuller's notion above that classical yearnings in ragtime ear compositions may be expressed in the overall mood or stance of a piece.

In That American Rag [Jason and Jones (2000):
289], the authors describe Gershwin's work as a teenager as a song-plugger for Joseph Remick in New York:
For 3 years in the mid-teens Remick's star demonstrator was George Gershwin, who pounded out the firm's tunes in a piano cubicle for $15 a week. Gershwin was not able to place his own songs with his employer during his tenure, but in June 1917, three months after he left, Remick published his only rag, Rialto Ripples (co-composed with Will Donaldson).
During that time, Gershwin is said to have recorded hundreds of piano rolls, sometimes under aliases such as Fred Murtha and Bert Wynn, including his Perfection #86738 piano roll (as Fred Murtha) of Artie Matthews' Pastime Rag No. 3. For a video performance of Rialto Ripples by Jeffrey Biegel, click here. For commentary on Rialto Ripples, click here.

Gershwin is also included here for the rag version he wrote as a teenager on
Robert Schumman's "Traumerei" from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, in the following composition, available now only as a recording:

Photo of George Gerswhin

George Gershwin, Ragging the "Traumerei" (
lyrics by Leonard Praskins) (1912/1913).

[listen to performance by Paul Bisaccia] [top]

For commentary on the foregoing composition, see:
  • "Chapter 12: From 'Ragging the Traumerei' (ca. 1913) to The Capitol Revue (1919)" (at 219) in George Gershwin. Berkeley, CA: California University Press, 2006 [publisher's website].

b) Alec Templeton [toc] [top]

As noted in his Wikipedia entry, Alec Templeton (4 July 1909/10 – 28 March 1963) was a Welsh composer, pianist and satirist. Blind from birth and gifted with absolute pitch, Templeton wrote and performed a number of novelty songs.

Much of Templeton's output has been recorded on piano rolls even though not many of his piano compositions appear in print.

For examples of some of Templeton's entertaining recordings that touch upon "jazzing the classics," see:
Links to the sheet music to the following pieces are available here and here:
For an interesting analysis of the score for Bach Goes to Town, see Bjarne Pagh Byrnak, "Suspected Manuscript Error in the 1938 Edition of the Fugue of Alec Templeton’s 'Bach Goes to Town'" (2013).

The following commercial recordings of Alec Templeton are likely difficult to source:

c) Fats Waller
[toc] [top]

Fats Waller (21 May 1904 – 15 December 1943) was a legendary stride piano composer and performer. Some of his more popular keyboard compositions include
African Ripples (1934) [listen to recording], Alligator Crawl (1934) [listen to recording], and Viper's Drag (1934) [listen to recording].

In 1978, a successful Broadway musical featured his music in Ain't Misbehavin'.

He is included here primarily for the following composition, being a "swing piano" take on the music of Bach:

  • Fats Waller. "Bach" Up To Me: Swingopation (1938)
For a great performance of this piece by Stephanie Trick, see here.

Since much of Fats Waller's music may be covered by copyright, depending on your jurisdiction, the sheet music to the foregoing piece, along with many of his other compositions, is available for purchase here (a different folio without the foregoing piece is also here).

d) Modern examples of ragging and jazzing the classics [toc] [top]

In this section, I briefly set out information on contemporary ragtime musicians and composers who have "ragged" or "jazzed" the classics or who otherwise fall within my broad definition as composers or performers of "classical" ragtime (set out below roughly by age of composer or performer):

  • Robert "Ragtime Bob" Darch: Robert "Ragtime Bob" Darch (31 March 1920 – 20 October 2002) was a well-known ragtime performer and raconteur credited with keeping ragtime alive as part of the ragtime revival, including his many appearances in Toronto as described in here in my separate essay on Ragtime in Canada.

    He is included here for the following ragtime song that I purchased years ago, I believe through the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation (but it no longer appears to be for sale in their online store). Music and lyrics are by Darch and he dedicates the piece "to my Esteemed Friend Professor Don Burns". The lyrics contain the following passage regarding Professor Burns:
His fingers waggle to and fro, with syncopated tremolo
But he is so fantastic, when playin' all the classics
He plays Debussy in D with just one finger
Mozart in B with ne'er a clinker, Brahms and Ravel,
Oh how he makes them sound swell
Strauss and Stravinsky he plays equally well.
He plays Beethoven and Bach on all the black keys
Chopin and Gluck and L. Godowsky
Melody in F, he always plays it in C,
Professor Burn's Classic Repertoiree ....
Sheet music cover for Professor Burns'
                            Classic Repertoiree (Ragtime Bob Darch)

Robert "Ragtime Bob" Darch, Professor Burns' Classic Repertoiree (n.p.: Big River Music Publishing, 1994).

Source: Personal copy [top]
Although the following composition by Darch is not an example of "ragging the classics" (but instead his tribute to Piper's Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada), it may still be of interest to some readers (and was purportedly arranged by Joseph Lamb):
  • Robert "Ragtime Bob" Darch (arranged by Joseph F. Lamb). Opera House Rag: A Sterling Collection (Virginia City, NV: The Ragtime Music Publishing Company, 1960) (held in print by York University from the John Arpin Collection) (listen to performance by Squeek Steele and Tom Brier).
  • Claude Bolling: Claude Bolling (10 April 1930 – 29 December 2020) was a well-known French jazz pianist and composer. Arguably, he is well outside the scope of this essay but I include mention of him here for his 1967 recording Original Ragtime, being not a take on "ragging the classics" but instead a "jazzing of ragtime":
  • John Arpin: John Arpin (3 December 1936 – 8 November 2007) and his influence on the popularity of ragtime in Canada is discussed here in my separate essay on ragtime in Canada. As noted above, none other than Eubie Blake called Arpin the "Chopin of Ragtime" for his complex and melodic arrangements of ragtime compositions. Set out below is information on Arpin's recordings of opera tunes, Beatles songs and Latin American tangos.
Since Bolcom's compositions are still protected by copyright, you will not find them online. However, the following folio is highly recommended for purchase from your preferred bookseller:
The foregoing folio contains the following compositions, all of them reflecting Bolcom's interweaving of ragtime and classical music melodies and techniques:
  • Three Classical Rags (1967): Glad Rag, Epitaph for Louis Chauvin, Incinerator Rag
  • California Porcupine Rag (1968)
  • The Garden of Eden (1969): Old Adam, The Eternal Feminine, The Serpent's Kiss, Through Eden's Gate
  • Three Popular Rags: Seabiscuts Rag (1967), Tabby Cat Walk (1968), Last Rag (1968)
  • Lost Lady Rag (1969)
  • The Gardenia (1970)
  • Three Ghost Rags: Graceful Ghost Rag (1970), The Poltergeist (1971), Dream Shadows (1971)
  • Rag Tango (1971)
  • Knight Hubert (1971)
  • The Brooklyn Dodge (1972)
  • Raggin' Rudi (1974)
  • Fields of Flowers (1977)
  • Epithalamium (1993)
  • Knockout: A Rag (2008)
  • Estela: Rag Latino (2010)
  • Contentment: A Rag

For an analysis of Bolcom's Ghost Rags, see Vera Zholondz, "Ghost Rags by William Bolcom: A Descriptive Analysis and Performance Guide" (2017). LSU Doctoral Dissertations 4387.

  • Hal Isbitz: Hal Isbitz is a classically trained musician who has composed a number of rags and tangos. He is included here primarily for his Blue Gardenia folio of Latin-American tangos, evocative in part of the music of Ernesto Nazareth, discussed below
The folio for Blue Gardenia contains the following tangos by Hal Isbitz and is available for purchase from the composer [hal "at" silcom.com]: At Midnight, Blue Gardenia, Caterina, Copacabana, Dolores, The Flirt, Margarita, La Mariposa, Meditation, Miranda, Morelia, and Pierre.

I can highly recommend John Arpin's recording of the foregoing pieces: John Arpin, Blue Gardenia (Classical 1998).
  • William Albright: William Albright (20 October 1944 – 17 September 1998) was a classically-trained American composer who, in addition to writing classical music, published the following "classically-tinged" rags:
  • Glenn Jenks: Glenn Jenks (9 February 1947 – 21 January 2016) was a prolific ragtime composer, teacher and performer from Maine who fused traditional ragtime with classical music themes. His online obituary describes his love of gardening and birds. Composer Aaron Robinson has undertaken a project to catalog and digitize Jenks' compositions, as described here, which I assume culminated in the availability for purchase of Glenn Jenks, The Complete Ragtime Works for Piano as a digital download (my favorite pieces from this collection are The Elegiac Rag and Sosua). 
The foregoing folio also includes Jenks' "desecration" of a number of classical music compositions, as follows:
Glenn Jenks also composed a String Quartet in Ragtime (the sheet music for which I do not yet see as being easily available for purchase). For a performance of this piece by the Vanadium String Quartet, see:
A number of performances by Glenn Jenks of his various rags are otherwise also available on the Glenn Jenks YouTube channel.
  • Ethan Uslan: As noted on his website, Ethan is a ragtime performer and composer from Charlotte, North Carolina, whose entertaining podcast – The Carolina Shout – covers "themed" episodes on various aspects of ragtime and swing music (see below for a list of his podcast episodes on the theme of "ragging the classics"). Ethan also has published a number of his "ragging the classics" sheet music compositions, including the following titles available for purchase on his website (that I can highly recommend, although they are for advanced players):
More generally, unrelated to the foregoing list of "modern" ragtime composers or performers, there are the following two folios from 1998 of beginner-to-intermediate-level ragtime arrangements of classical music, see:

Ragtime and jazz motifs in classical music [toc] [top]

It was not only ragtime or jazz composers or performers were influenced by classical music. There were in fact a number of classical music composers who were influenced by ragtime and jazz rhythms and themes. Set out below is a list of some of these classical music composers – such as Debussy, Ravel and Satie – along with other ragtime era composers of classical music who have some ties to ragtime music. Arguably, it may be that John Philip Sousa – associated more with traditional march music for orchestras – falls on the periphery of this group but is included due to his incorporation of ragtime in his orchestra's performances and the fact that many ragtime piano performers would in fact "rag" his traditional march compositions. Likewise, it could be argued that Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Ernesto Nazareth are also on the periphery of this group but are included due to their works having some thematic ties to ragtime music. Since I lack the expertise and resources to draw proper lines between the works of the composers below to each other and to analyze their scores in depth for specific examples of the ragtime influence in their music, my treatment of the composers and their works below is relatively superficial for now but is something I may try to expand upon in future updates to this essay when I have more time and can access resources at the University music library when the pandemic lockdown restrictions have ended.

William Levi Dawson
Claude Debussy
Nathaniel Dett
Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Percy Grainger
Arthur Honegger
Charles Ives
Darius Milhaud
Ernesto Nazareth
Ethelbert Nevin
Maurice Ravel
Erik Satie
John Philip Sousa
William Grant Still
Igor Stravinsky

a) William Levi Dawson [toc] [top]

William Levi Dawson (September 26, 1899 – May 2, 1990) was an African-American composer, born at the start of the ragtime era, whose career and music focused on orchestral compositions and arrangements for choirs, including those based on African spirituals. In 1934, the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by conductor Leopold Stokowski, debuted Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony (audio recording available here), which, according to the Wikipedia entry for Dawson, he later revised in 1952 with added African rhythms inspired by the composer's trip to West Africa.

Additional resources:

b) Claude Debussy
[toc] [top]

Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer known for such pieces as Clair de Lune (1890) ([view sheet music] [listen to Debussy playing his own composition] [listen to Jonny May's ragtime version]) and 2 Arabesques (1890) ([view sheet music] [listen to Debussy's version]).

Like his contemporaries Erik Satie (below), Maurice Ravel (below), and Igor Stravinsky (below), Claude Debussy explored ragtime and jazz music in his own compositions, the most famous example of which is Golliwog's Cakewalk from his six-movement suite, Children's Corner:

Golliwog's Cakewalk Sheet Music Cover

Claude Debussy, Golliwog's Cakewalk (1908).

[view sheet music] [listen to Debussy playing his own composition]

Source: Personal copy [top]

The Wikipedia entry for the following cakewalk notes Debussy's allusions to banjo chords and drums heard from ministrel shows:

First page of music for Le petit negre

Claude Debussy,
Le petite nègre: cakewalk (1909).

[view sheet music] [listen to performance by Ichiro Kaneko] [top]

Debussy continued to explore ragtime themes in the following composition:

First page of music for Ministrels

Claude Debussy,
Minstrels (in Préludes, Livre 1) (1909-10).

[view sheet music] [listen to Debussy playing his own composition] [top]

According to the Wikipedia entry for the following waltz, Debussy debuted it at the New Carlton Hotel in Paris, where it was transcribed for strings and performed by the popular 'gypsy' violinist, Léoni, for whom Debussy wrote it (and who was given the manuscript by the composer):

First page of music for La plus que lente

Claude Debussy,
La plus que lente, L. 121 (1910) (waltz).

[view sheet music] [listen to recording] [top]

The following piece was apparently written about the American clown, Edward Lavine, whose costume was part soldier, part clown:

First page of music for Général Lavine –
                          Eccentric (Debussy)

Claude Debussy,
néral Lavine – Eccentric (in Préludes, Livre 2) (1912-13).

[view sheet music] [listen to recording by Krystian Zimerman] [top]

c) Nathaniel Dett
[toc] [top]

R Nathaniel Dett, born in Canada, was a composer who wrote in the ragtime idiom early in his career, despite being known primarily for his compositions of classical music and spirituals.

His three earliest known compositions were in the ragtime mode, being After the Cake Walk, Cave of the Winds, and Inspiration Waltzes:

In After the Cake Walk (1900), Dett has written what he described as a "March Cake Walk" in the key of G major with the Trio and final sections in the key of C major. It is an energetic, lightly syncopated and rhythmic piece in the ragtime march tradition:

First page of sheet music for After the
                          Cakewalk (Nathaniel Dett)

Nathaniel Dett, After the Cake Walk (Toronto, ON: Whaley, Royce & Co, 1900).

[view sheet music]

Source: Copy obtained from the Toronto Reference Library [top]

In Cave of the Winds (1902), also in the keys of G and C major, Dett has written what is described by McBrier (Lerma and McBrier 1973:ix) as a vigourous march using simple traditional harmony. The title refers to the "Cave of the Winds" found at Niagara Falls, the city where Dett was living at the time he composed this piece:

First page of Cave of the Winds Sheet
                            Music (Nathaniel Dett)
Nathaniel Dett, Cave of the Winds (Niagara Falls, NY: SC Fagard, 1902).

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada [top]

In the typical fashion of a romantic, Dett describes the "inspiration" for Inspiration Waltzes (1903) in the introduction to this piece as follows: "I awoke one night at midnight and heard, as in a dream, the melodies of this Waltz played over and over, until I again fell asleep. Next morning I found it was still fresh in my memory. I created the Introduction and some other parts to give the whole completeness, but the main themes were truly 'Inspirations' or, to put it more poetically were truly 'dictated' by the Muse."

Picture of R Nathaniel Dett
Nathaniel Dett, Inspiration Waltzes, S. 3, for piano (London: Richard A. Saalfield, 1903).

Source: I have been unable to source the sheet music for this title; an edited version is available for purchase here [top]

Although I have been unable to obtain a copy of the following piece, from its title, it is reasonable to assume the piece is more closely tied to the ragtime idiom than classical music.

Picture of R Nathaniel Dett

Nathaniel Dett (lyrics by John A. Hogan),
My Agnes from Niagara (1909).

Source: I have been unable to source an online version of this sheet music but it is held in print by the Library of Congress.

With the publication of Magnolia: Suite for Piano, we can see Dett's evolution beyond stereotypical ragtime influences:

First page of sheet music for Magnolia
                          Suite (Nathaniel Dett)

Nathaniel Dett,
Magnolia: Suite for Piano (Chicago: Clayton Summy Co, 1912).

[view sheet music]

Source: Eastman School of Music – Sibley Music Library [top]

In I'll Never Turn Back No More, Dett has written a gospel choir dedicated to his two choirs, The Hampton Choral Union of the Hampton-Phoebus Community and The Institute Choir of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute:

First page of music for I'll Never Turn
                          Back (Nathaniel Dett)

Nathaniel Dett,
I'll Never Turn Back No More (New York: J. Fischer & Bro., 1913).

[view sheet music]

Source: Eastman School of Music – Sibley Music Library [top]

In the introduction to In the Bottoms immediately below, Dett describes the piece as a suite of five numbers "giving pictures of moods or scenes peculiar to Negro life in the river bottoms of the Southern sections of North America."

First page of sheet music for In the
                          Bottoms (Nathaniel Dett)

Nathaniel Dett, In the Bottoms: Characteristic Suite for the Piano (1913).

[view sheet music]

Source: International Music Score Library Project [top]

One of those five suites from In the Bottoms is a moderately syncopated dance entitled Juba and is arguably the most well-known of the five suites and is included below as a "stand alone" composition:

Picture of R Nathaniel Dett

Nathaniel Dett, Juba (from the suite In the Bottoms for the piano) (1913).

[view sheet music] [listen to 1928 Victor roll]

Source: National Library of Australia Digital Collections [top]

Dett, whose mother was Canadian, was born in Drummondville, Ontario (later incorporated into Niagara Falls, Ontario) and showed promise on the piano as a young boy and was given piano lessons. During the time he composed the three ragtime-related pieces above, Dett was an organist at a church in Niagara Falls. He later studied at the Oliver Willis Halstead Conservatory in Lockport, New York from 1901 to 1903 and then at Oberlin College (Ohio) from 1903 to 1908, where he was the first African-American to earn a Bachelor of Music degree with a major in composition and the piano. He later obtained a Master of Music degree in 1938 from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

After the publication of his early more ragtime-influenced pieces listed above, and after attending music school, Dett's compositions took on a much more classical tone, incorporating Negro spirituals and other ethnic elements. Dett's music falls with the sphere of romanticism, with highly lyrical and thematic moods. In addition to composing, Dett spent most of his working life teaching at various music faculties in the United States and touring and performing his music (including tours to Canada and to Europe).

His other major works include Enchantment: A Romantic Suite on an Original Program (1922), Cinnamon Grove: A Suite for the Piano (1928), Tropic Winter: Suite for the Piano (1938) and Eight Bible Vignettes (1941 ~ 1943).

During the latter part of his life, Dett struck up a friendship with musician Percy Grainger (discussed below), composer of, among other pieces, In Dahomey: Cakewalk Smasher).

The Sibley Music Library at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester has an extensive R. Nathaniel Dett collection.

It remains unclear whether the ragtime music of Scott Joplin influenced Dett or whether Joplin himself knew of Dett, especially given Joplin's proclivity to be taken seriously as a composer. Much of the literature is silent on this point, with there being no mention of Dett in either They All Played Ragtime (Blesh and Janish 1966) and That American Rag (Jasen and Jones 2000). Edward Berlin does mention Dett in Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History (Berlin 1980:107) in the context of musical rhythms found in musical sources of early ragtime.

Given that Dett was driven in the early 1900's to write ragtime-related pieces, it is reasonable to assume that he knew of Scott Joplin during his career, given the general popularity of ragtime music that spread throughout the North East at that time. Dett himself, in moving towards more classical compositions, was perhaps trying to avoid stereotyped ragtime sounds. In a note to In the Bottoms, Dett refers to the common rhythmic figure found in ragtime music as being a "frequent occurrence in the music of the ante-bellum folk-dances" with "its marked individuality" causing "it to be much misused for purposes of caricature."

Simpson (1993:11) describes Dett's "shame" when being exposed to Antonín Dvořák's incorporation of Negro and Indian musical heritages into his music when "the naive young Dett revealed embarrassment that musically his race was identified only with the current and frivolous ragtime style." Simpson later notes, however, that later on, "while a student at Oberlin College, Dett fortunately developed a broader, more cheerful perspective of the larger Negro idiom" but even as late as 1918 Simpson notes (1993:12) that Dett commented on the attitude of a majority of the black race in an interview carried by Musical America:

The Negro people as a whole cannot be looked to as a very great aid in the work of conserving their folk music. At the present time they are inclined to regard it as a vestige of the slavery they are trying to put behind them and to be ashamed of it. Moreover, the prevailing manner of presenting Negro music to the public – the "coon" song of vaudeville or the minstrel show – has not tended to increase appreciation of it, either among the Negro or white races.

However, it is less certain whether Joplin knew of Dett and his music. The possibility exists that perhaps he did not, given the regional differences that "served as barriers to a shared culture" and that affirmed "the existence of diverse experiences within the African American community in the United States" at that time (Curtis 1994:188). Since Dett's classical compositions came towards the end of Joplin's life, and given the state of communications in those days, it is entirely possible that Joplin died, dreaming of his own classical ambitions with the publication of his opera Treemonisha without knowing of the classical publications of R. Nathaniel Dett.

A more detailed analysis of Dett's life and his (classical) music is provided by Simpson (1993).

Dett died of a heart attack on October 2, 1943, but his legacy lives on in Canada through The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, described on their website as "Canada's first professional choral group dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues."

For a good recording of Dett's music, see the following CD: Denver Oldham: R. Nathaniel Dett: Piano Works (1988).

d) Louis Moreau Gottschalk
[toc] [top]

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (8 May 1829 – 18 December 1869) was a New Orleans composer and performer who spent most of his professional career outside of the United States but whose music was infused with African and Caribbean motifs and rhythms.

In They All Played Ragtime, authors Blesh and Janis describe Gottschalk's work as an early precursor to ragtime with Gottschalk's incorporation of African and Caribbean drumbeats in La Bamboula – Danse des Nègres (below):
It was in 1847, a half century before the first ragtime composition was published, that eighteen-year old Louis Moreau Gottschalk, son of an English cotton broker and a highborn French Creole lady, wrote the long, vastly difficult piano fantaisie La Bamboula – Danse des Nègres. A prodigy at fifteen, Gottschalk had already established himself in concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris with huge public success and the praise of the great Chopin. La Bamboula is the composer's Opus 2; La Moree (Gottschalk was playing this "Ode to Death" at Rio de Janeiro when fatally stricken in 1869) is his Opus 60, but the earlier work with its strong Negroid inspiration is considered his masterpiece [Blesh and Janis: 82].
The compositions by Gottschalk that reflect his melding of African and Caribbean melodies and rhythms and of the most likely interest to ragtime piano performers include but are not limited to the following pieces:
For a print folio of Gottschalk's works, see Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (New York: Dover Publications, 1973).

For commercial recordings of Gottschalk, consider the following:
  • Morten Gunnar Larsen, Creole Connections (Classical 2014) (includes compositions by Ernesto Nazareth and Astor Piazzollo)
  • Klaus Kaufmann, Works for Piano (Klavierwerke) (Koch Schwann/Musica Mundi 1994)
The foregoing does not give adequate treatment to Gottschalk and his compositions and I would hope to expand upon the foregoing in due course; in the meantime, the following books provide more details about this composer:
  • S. Frederick Starr: Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

e) Percy Grainger
[toc] [top]

Percy Grainger (8 July 1882 – 20 February 1961) was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist who lived in the United States from 1914 and became an American citizen in 1918. Although he is often noted for his arrangements of English folk songs, like the popular Country Gardens [view sheet music] [listen to a recording by the composer], he is included here for his showpiece composition, In Dahomey: A Cakewalk Smasher, based on tunes from In Dahomey by Will Marion Cook and a song by Arthur Pryor:

First page of music for In Dahomey:
                          Cakewalk Smasher (Grainger)

Percy Grainger, In Dahomey: Cakewalk Smasher (circa 1903-1909).

[view sheet music] [listen to performance by Marc-André Hamelin] [top]

Another interesting composition by Grainger, albeit likely outside the scope of this essay, is his Handel in the Strand
("Room-Music Tit-Bits No 2"). Lewis Forman, in "Miscellaneous Works" in The Percy Grainger Companion [Forman: 137], notes that the piece was originally titled Clog Dance and explains why the name of the composition was changed:
Handel in the Strand ("Room-Music Tit-Bits No 2") was originally entitled Clog Dance, but its dedicatee, the banker William Gair Rathbone, who had befriended Grainger, suggested the evocative title eventually used. He felt that the music "seemed to reflect both Handel and English Musical Comedy," the home of the latter being The Strand in London's West End. Grainger tells us that in bars 1 to 16, and their repetition at bars 47 to 60, he made use of matter from some variations he wrote on Handel's "Harmonious Blacksmith" tune. [Forman: 138]
First page of music for Handel in the
                          Strand (Grainger)

Percy Grainger,
Handel in the Strand ("Room-Music Tit-Bits No 2")

[view sheet music] [listen to performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra] [top]

The foregoing does not do justice to Grainger's life or his work and glosses over what appears to have been his sadomasochism [note: the link is safe] and his antisemetic views [see, for example, Sarah Kirby, "Cosmopolitanism and Race in Percy Grainger’s American 'Delius Campaign'" (Fall 2017) Current Musicology 25]. Given more time, Grainger is one composer whose works and life I would like to research further, including his gathering of English folks songs on wax cylinders and his free music machines.

For recordings of Grainger's work, see:
For more information on Grainger, see the following resources:

f) Arthur Honegger
[toc] [top]

Arthur Honegger (10 March 1892 – 27 November 1955) was a European composer, born in France to Swiss parents, who lived in Paris. The following of his compositions are regarded by many as being infuenced by African-American ragtime:

In Pacific 231, for example, Honegger is thought to have created the sound of a steam locomotive gaining power despite Honegger's notion that he wrote it as an exercise in building momentum while the tempo of the piece slows, a noted in the Wikipedia article ahout this composition:

First page of Pacific 231 sheet music

Arthur Honegger, Pacific 231 (1923) (depiction of a steam locomotive).

[view sheet music] [listen to performance by Utah Symphony] [review of premiere] [top]

Another Honegger composition influenced by ragtime is the following piece:

First page of music for Concertino for
                          Piano and Orchestra, H.55 (1924) (Honegger)

Arthur Honegger, Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, H.55 (1924).

[view sheet music] [listen to a performance by Jean-Yves Thibaudet] [top]

The following compositions consists of three pieces: Prélude, Hommage à Ravel, and Danse:

First page of music for Trois Pieces

Arthur Honegger,
3 Pieces, H.23 (1921).

[view sheet music] [listen to performance] [top]

g) Charles Ives
[toc] [top]

Charles Ives (20 October 1874 – 18 May 1954) was an American composer born in Danbury, Connecticut and later affiliated with Yale University.

His early compositions are noted for their incorporation of ragtime motifes, including the following pieces: The foregoing does not do justice to Charles Ives and his music and the influence of ragtime on his music; as such, I would hope to update this section in the future. In the meantime, the following resources provide more detailed commentary on Charles Ives:
  • Burkholder, J. Peter, ed. Charles Ives and His World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996 [publisher's website].
  • Swafford, Jan. Charles Ives — A Life with Music. W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.

h) Darius Milhaud
[toc] [top]

Darius Milhaud (4 September 1892 – 22 June 1974) was a French composer and conductor who incorporated ragtime and jazz into some of his compositions, including the following pieces:

Cover page for sheet music for Le boeuf
                          sur le toit (Darius Milhaud)

Darius Milhaud,