Scott Joplin: The Entertainer
Scott Joplin is remembered for being one of the most memorable ragtime composers of the turn-of-the-century during his lifetime (1868-1917). After Joplin’s death in 1917, ragtime music came out of the ‘mainstream’ line and started to form into the likes of jazz, big band swing and the blues. Joplin’s music went out of fashion, with only a small number of ragtime aficionados keeping his music alive. It wasn’t until some groundbreaking recordings done in the 1970s that Joplin’s music found a new lease of life. A number of his piano rags and his opera Treemonisha have become some of the most recognisable music of the genre.
The Entertainer is one of Joplin’s most successful and popular rags that he ever wrote. Composed in 1902, this classic piano rag is subtitled as ‘A Ragtime Two-Step’, which reflects a popular dance of the time that the music would be played for. After the unison opening from both hands, The Entertainer begins to unfold its joyous and memorable tune. The piece starts in C major, but does begin to move around, landing in F major in the central section, before finishing back in the home key at the end.
The bouncing bassline supports the sparkling melody which repeats nuggets of the tunes until it strings together the tune that we all know and love. The melody bounces between octaves quickly, with the bassline keeping the tempo steady throughout. After a quick snapshot of all the melodies that have built up in The Entertainer, the rag ends delicately back in the home key.
The Entertainer has been used in a number of different ways in the popular media – from TV adverts to films and skits, Scott Joplin’s famous rag is still very popular today.
Ⓒ Alex Burns