The "art-canons" of Ragtime (from 'Etude' magazine, June 1899) ...

Sep 5, 2018

Controversy regarding "artistic integrity" in popular Music is nothing new! But here is a surprisingly 'early' scholarly article from 1899, giving conditional acceptance to the better class of Ragtime - and offering advice to Composers that seems just as pertinent to-day [the language is of its time, where 'he' is not specific; and I have abridged a little]:

"A Ragtime piece, to be clever, witty, piquant, amusing, must have thoughts which find their appropriate, best expression through Syncopation. The art-canons, of universal relevance, which should govern the musician when he is composing Ragtime pieces are that:
(1) he should 'know' what his music is to express; and
(2) he should 'believe' that what his music is to express, can be 'best' expressed by the use of Ragtime.
'If he is governed by these principles, his Ragtime music will be truly aesthetic.' If not, his ...work... might become instances of ... tonal stupidity, or be considered ethically as tonal viciousness - the attempt to make music attractive at the expense of the Truth."

Attempt at Italian translation (apologies Luca ! - I cannot type accents here):
"Una composizione Ragtime, per essere intelligente, spiritosa, piccante, divertente, deve avere pensieri che trovino appropriata, la migliore espressione attraverso la sincopazione. I canone artistici, di applicazione universale, che dovrebbero governare il musicista quando sta componendo musica Ragtime, sono che,
(1) dovrebbe 'sapere' che cosa deve esprimere la sua musica;
(2) dovrebbe 'credere' che cio che la sua musica deve esprimere puo essere meglio espresso dall'uso del Ragtime.
'Se e governato da questi canoni, la sua musica Ragtime sara davvero estetica.' Altrimento, il suo lavoro puo diventare un esempio di stupidita tonale, o apparire eticamente come violenza tonale - il tentivo di rendere la musica attraente a scapito della Verita."

Original article as quoted in 'Jazz in Print', Karl Koenig, 2002, can be found on Google Books by searching for [jazz in print ragtime etude 1899] and reading from Page 51].


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