My first Rag

Apr 26, 2018

Hi, I wrote my very first ragtime
(if you don't count the Schubert Impromptu Rag I did years ago)
and would like to know what you think about it.
I liked to try out some dissonances etc. so be aware of that.
Have fun anyways :D


Well, you've asked; so if I may say so, your piece sounds like what very often happens when a person with 'Jazz ear' ventures into a fundamentally different genre. 'Classicists' often have a similar problem - though they usually have enough 'theory' to avoid the worst pitfalls ;-) ! "Ragtime" - many people will certainly accept - is a 'broad church', in which the presence of Syncopation is 'the' (or at least 'a') defining feature. However - witness the founding style of Scott Joplin, and recognised principles such as 'the Ragtime Progression' - average listeners still expect a more-or-less clear sense of Key: requiring actual Cadences as 'punctuation,' and within which Dissonances offer an occasional, purposeful, contrast. Even the highly-chromatic 'Novelty' style (Zez Confrey, Arthur Schutt, etc.) is still careful to respect Key and Cadence ...
Ragtime is also typically constrained within an overall 'Sousa March'-like structure, using basic phrase-lengths of four-measure 'lines' that 'scan' in the same way as verse - and that can be 'counted' in regular even multiples. 'Originality' is fine; but to the extent that your piece departs from these basic norms, many Rag enthusiasts are bound to question its inclusion here - whether they take the trouble to comment or not. Anyway, you needn't listen to us (!) - the best advice is simply to listen to Sousa and Joplin - and perhaps you will think again ...
I did listen to Joplin (often), but I just wanted to do my very own type of "rag" and I believe that I did nearly everything in c-major keys, which are "spiced up" with dissonant and a little unstable chord progressions.
I wanted to confuse the listener a bit (To resemble the galloping as wild and unpredictable), when it comes to the rhythmic line using a confusing "out of bounds" rhythm in the melodic line and changing up the left hand at some parts.
(For example, see measures 18-19;32-33;34-35;36,
where 36 is normal again, while the other measures are breaking with the measuring of the piece)
At the same time, I wanted to have a certain structure within my piece,
as it is hear-able in the recurring theme that is played 3 times (with the repeat)
So it was this style I just wanted to do (see Liszt's "Wilde Jagd" for another rhythmically very confusing, rather classical piece).

You said "Originality" is fine, I would even go further and say "Originality" is one of the most important factors, as it is something that conveys a musical voice (That's just my opinion)

Anyways, thanks for writing a decent critic and for giving me the possibility to explain the ideas that are connected to my work a little bit further.

With kindest regards,
Robin Pannenberg
@Robin Pannenberg : I'm very much reminded of a long exchange I had during a previous life here [the relevant comments are now gone] with KevinJohnson3, whose scores are still on this Group (eg. 'The Downtown Rag' ) and which attracted some interest at the time. 
Be that as it may: from your response above, I now appreciate your desire and intention to communicate the things you mention during the course of the music. IMO, the chief difficulty for any 'listening stranger' is that - at the outset - they have absolutely 'no' information (except, perhaps, the title, and some previous experience of Ragtime) with which to orient themselves towards the music. Whilst you, the Composer, are in a privileged position - you already 'know everything' about it, especially the ways in which you intended it to be 'different' ;-). 
Without any introductory 'setting-up' scale or home-cadence, even score-readers will struggle to grasp any sense of key-context from which to appreciate your 'departures'. Or maybe worse - they will spend time trying to deduce 'the' Key(s) from the sequence of chords you supply - even if you didn't actually "intend" conventional use of Key or Chord-progression at all ...
To test my own idea, I just tried adding a rising Cmajor scale followed by II-V-I chords, to the beginning of your piece.  After that, I can just about get to the end of Measure 4 without making any contradictory assumption ! - however each one of those Sharps in 5 and 6 momentarily suggests a 'classical' modulation that is neither pursued, nor formally cancelled (though of course, any note from the whole Chromatic scale can be made 'legitimate' in any Key). Now to attempt the contrary - to dispel any initial expectation of key - let me replace my major scale and cadence with some introductory chromatic runs, instead - maybe starting and ending on C but with a deliberate 'break' in the centre. (I actually wrote |C C# D D#|E F F# G|F F# G G#|A A# B C| over 4 bars.) OK, the impression conveyed is now certainly different; and perhaps less disturbing ! - though of course, and now perhaps crucially, I'm no longer a 'stranger' to what follows. 
Consider how your music 'introduces itself' to a complete stranger - I guess that's my own message to you. As with public-speaking (job-interviews, or dates!) you don't always get a second-chance to make a first-impression ... :-) . Hope this is helpful and with best regards, "IAPL".
@IAPL The same problem (If I understood what you wanted to say) exists with many works that we aren't used to, 
we may not be able to really sort the sound into any specific "area".
That's why I'll definitely try to do something like some sort of introduction for my next piece and add the explanation (from the comment I've written before) into the description, so listeners (at least those who read it) will get a better understanding.

Thx for your helpful comment :D

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