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Ragtime means "ragged time". It is syncopated dance- and popular music. "Syncopated" means, that the rhythmic structure of a composition is changed and like this, tension is created in the musical context. With that, the natural structure of "heaviness" and "lightness" within a bar is reversed. By a syncope, the accent is moved from a "heavy" part of a bar to a "light" part.

The history of Ragtime begins in the last third of the 19th century in the South of the USA. The origins lay in the Cakewalk dance. The Cakewalk was created by the African American slaves as a parody of the social dances of the white slave owners. One of these social dances was the French Quadrille, which was popular in the Creolic South. There were contests, in which white slave owners bid, whose slaves were the best dancers. At these contests, a couple, which could swing their hips particularly well and waggish, to the sound of a banjo which was reminiscent of African polymetrical music, could win a freshly baked corn cake.

In the travelling varietés, the Minstrel Shows, the Cakewalk was a special attraction which turned into the big dancing finale, in which black or black-faced actors danced.

When the travelling shows became increasingly replaced by built theatres after 1880, the Cakewalk became a popular dance in the metropoles.

The development from Cakewalk to Ragtime was caused countless pianos sold and delivered into the Far West. Every saloon, every bar, every brothel had a piano, at which mostly black musicians played for little money or food and lodge.

The Ragtime came to existance, when polymetric rhythms were transferred to the piano and became integrated into the classical styles of piano playing.

Ragtime replaced the musical tastes of the Victorian era. It became a more Northern counterpart, marked by European music, to the Blues-influenced piano style.

Ragtime is completely composed, there is no improvisation in that style. The Ragtime is reflecting the American spirit. It is powerful music with a good deal of optimism. Both black and white composers could contribute to it.

At first, Ragtime was played in red-light districts. The girls stripped to the sounds and rhythms of that music.

But Ragtime had a harder time to be accepted by the establishment. There were fights between acceptance and prejudices. Some Sheriffs are said to have tried to stop the spreading of Ragtime with the police and the army. Some people also stated that Ragtime was an invention of the devil, because its exponents were only playing in ill-reputed areas and places.

Some of that was caused by the fact, that Ragtime musicians were mostly African Americans, or some poor whites, who would only be hired in low-class bordellos, saloons and bars.

The big breakthrough for Ragtime came in St. Louis in 1904. In 1900, the legendary Ragtime pianist Scott Joplin had moved from the Missouri valley, the former main area of Ragtime, to St. Louis, to compose and to give lessons.

Joplin’s compositions were published by a friend, the white music publisher John Stillwell. By that, the Missouri valley became the hot spot for the young Ragtime scene. In Sedalia, Scott Joplin had many young musicians around him, whom he sponsored, like he had been sponsored by a white music teacher, when he was a young musician.

In St. Louis, Joplin met fellow Ragtime pianist James Scott, and the Ragtime scene became big there. In 1904, the World Fair, the Olympic Games and the National Convent of the Democratic Party were held in St. Louis, and the city and its musical scene came into the focus of the public interest. By that, Ragtime became nationally known and turned into a popular dance.