Rag no. 1 "The Chrome Rag"

1 part5 pages03:424 months ago151 views
Piano
After many drafts I've finally written my first good ragtime piece. (At least I hope it's good.) It's calles the chrome rag because I tried to use a lot of chromatic aproach tones to give it that ragtime flavor.

Irish Confetti (1918)

1 part3 pages02:293 days ago34 views
Piano
Here's another "ethnic novelty" piece from Cobb. Apparently "Irish confetti" also refers to bricks thrown during a fight, perhaps due to the early 20th century (and, to a lesser extent, current) stereotype of Irish people being constantly angry and often violent. This piece is notable for not having a trio -- there isn't even a key change anywhere, a structure almost unheard of in the music of the 1910's and 20's.

Here's How (1918)

1 part3 pages03:094 days ago31 views
Piano
I don't even know what the title of this piece means -- "Here's How" to do what? (Of course, it could be a recursive title -- "Here's How" to play "Here's How"...) Anyway, it's still a good piece regardless of title meaning (or lack thereof).

Cracked Ice Rag (1918)

1 part3 pages02:384 days ago53 views
Piano
If I had to guess, I really wouldn't think this was composed in 1918. It sounds like it came from 1915 at the latest. It is very interesting to see Cobb produce another piece in the "classic rag" style amidst all of the "ethnic novelty" pieces he began churning out almost non-stop all the way up until 1922; I wonder what prompted him to do it.

Tractor Rag

1 part3 pages02:544 days ago69 views
Piano
I finally managed to compose another original rag... In this case, it happened because I was walking outside and heard a tractor running, producing a hum that oscillated irregularly between two adjacent semitones. My mind interpreted it as a series of syncopated measures, and the rest was history. Note: I think I may have inadvertently "stolen" several of the themes in this piece from other places. I know the intro and the ending of the first strain both sound very reminiscent of "Souvenir de Porto Rico," but I have a feeling there are other spots where it happens. Please let me know if you recognize anything.

Calcutta (1918)

1 part3 pages02:055 days ago37 views
Piano
The year is 1918. WWI is in full swing, and the Allies are finally beginning to make headway against the Germans. The city of Boston is doing everything it can to support the war effort, and the local publishing house Walter Jacobs needs some patriotic songs to boost the American morale. They turn to their most reliable composer, George L. Cobb, for help... And he sends them a novelty foxtrot set in India. The really strange thing about this piece is that it seems to have been just one of many "ethnic" pieces Cobb put out in 1918 when his various publishers probably wanted him writing more "serious" music for the war. In the same year, he also wrote an "Irish" piece, a "Russian" piece, and a parody of Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, but he only penned a single war-related song, and even that was really just a perfunctory attempt at one sculpted out of what was at its core a love song. On the other hand, he did produce some of his best work during this period as well, so history seems to have vindicated his songwriting choices.

Some Shape (1917)

1 part3 pages03:097 days ago37 views
Piano
Cobb's final piece from 1917. This one is interesting in that it ends with a "pentatonic resolution" (jumping from the 6th to the 8th scale degree), rather than by approaching it stepwise or from the fifth. As far as I can tell, this is the first time Cobb ever does this; such "jazz-isms" reflect just how quickly the new style of Jazz was beginning to infiltrate all aspects of popular music.

The Nautical Toddle (1917)

1 part3 pages02:5410 days ago42 views
Piano
This is something of a strange one... I recognize the sailor's hornpipe in the first strain, but I get the feeling the "trio" is also supposed to be based on something -- I just don't know what. At any rate, "smashing" the hornpipe into a foxtrot worked unexpectedly well here, and the piece is good, if rather unusual in its form (especially at the end).

Levee Land (1917)

1 part3 pages03:0910 days ago33 views
Piano
This piece has the "distinction" of being one of only two instrumentals from 1917 that got its own individual release and wasn't just distributed as a cheap magazine infold. Many more of his songs that year got their own covers, but those that did were mostly wartime propaganda (the US entered WWI in April 1917) that needed to catch people's eye in order to have any chance at working as intended. Cobb put out five explicitly war-related songs during 1917 and 1918, as well as a few more generic "waiting for someone to come back" songs that could easily be interpreted in the context of American soldiers being stuck in Europe due to the war. However, he only produced a single instrumental for the war effort (and even claiming it to be "for the war effort" is something of a stretch): the "Nautical Toddle," a parody of the Sailor's Hornpipe.

Ladder of Love (1917)

1 part3 pages04:2511 days ago47 views
Piano
Another one of Cobb's many waltzes. Interestingly, it seems that (just like his "blues" pieces) he later tried to migrate all of his waltz composition over to "Leo Gordon," starting with the very next one he composed, the "Youth and You Waltz."

Thomas the Dank Engine

25 parts15 pages02:2912 days ago154 views
Flute, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Guitar, Piano, Organ, Percussion(9), Timpani, Other Woodwinds(2), Synthesizer, Violin, Cello, Bass

Hang-Over Blues (1917)

1 part3 pages02:5413 days ago57 views
Piano
Like the previous "Leo Gordon" piece, "Bone-Head Blues," this piece features some very strange harmonies. I do think they work better here, though, showing that Cobb was already beginning to develop his jazz skills all the way back at the beginning of jazz. Also noteworthy is that this is one of the only times a strain in one of Cobb's pieces isn't the "correct" number of measures long; the first strain and its reprises in this piece have two "extra," giving them 18 in total.

Bone-Head Blues (1917)

1 part3 pages03:1213 days ago57 views
Piano
Another "Leo Gordon" piece. It seems that Cobb tried to build up "Leo Gordon" as a well-known blues composer around this time, because he advertised the next piece he published under the pseudonym, also a "blues," as "by the composer of Bone-Head Blues." This also marks the first time Cobb used the word "jazz," which was by then starting to gain traction as the term for the latest style of popular music.

Blue Sunshine (1917)

1 part4 pages04:1214 days ago41 views
Piano
Starting off 1917, here's yet another very lengthy waltz. This piece is unusual in that the orchestral arrangement survives and is available to view online; I probably won't be transcribing it, but much can be learned about early 20th century orchestration techniques by comparing the two versions.

Red Rooster (1916)

1 part3 pages02:5114 days ago38 views
Piano
Cobb's final piece from 1916. It seems very similar to some of his early works, especially "Knock-Knees" (1914); I don't have much else to say about it except that it marks the beginning of a long string of one-steps continuing into the 1920's.