Maple Leaf Rag

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Scott Joplin. In the video clip above we can hear Joplin performing his incredibly successful composition “Maple Leaf Rag” through one of the Pianola rolls he cut in 1916 and 1917. The Allmusic Guide profile of Joplin captures the vicissitudes of his reputation:

“Maple Leaf Rag” remained a constant in popular music throughout the Jazz Age, but the better part of Joplin’s work remained unknown until the “ragtime revival” of the early ’70s, during which “Scott Joplin” became a household name and [his opera] Treemonishia was finally staged by the Houston Grand Opera. Although primary sources on Joplin’s music were still extant as late as the late ’40s, today not a single manuscript page in Joplin’s hand still exists and only three photographs of him have survived, along with precious few first-hand quotations. Joplin died in a mental facility convinced that he had failed in his mission to achieve success as an African-American composer of serious music. Were he alive today, Joplin would be astounded to learn that, a century after his work was first printed, he is the most successful African-American composer of serious music that ever lived


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