Scott Joplin (between July 1867 and January 1868 ? April 1, 1917) was an African-American composer and pianist, born near Texarkana, Texas, into the first post-slavery generation. He achieved fame for his unique ragtime compositions, and was dubbed the 'King of Ragtime.' During his brief career, he wrote forty-four original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the 'Maple Leaf Rag', became ragtime's first and most influential hit, and remained so for a century.
He was blessed with an amazing ability to improvise at the piano, and was able to enlarge his talents with the music he heard around him, which was rich with the sounds of gospel hymns and spirituals, dance music, plantation songs, syncopated rhythms, blues, and choruses. After he studied music with several local teachers, his talent was noticed by a German immigrant music teacher, Julius Weiss, who chose to give the 11-year-old boy lessons free of charge. He was taught music theory, keyboard technique, and an appreciation of various European music styles, such as folk and opera. As an adult, Joplin also studied at an all-black college in Sedalia, Missouri.
'He composed music unlike any ever before written,' according to Joplin biographer Edward Berlin. Eventually, 'the piano-playing public clamored for his music; newspapers and magazines proclaimed his genius; musicians examined his scores with open admiration.' Ragtime historian Susan Curtis noted that 'when Joplin syncopated his way into the hearts of millions of Americans at the turn of the century, he helped revolutionize American music and culture.'
Before his early death at age 48, Joplin worked on his second opera Treemonisha. This was written, according to opera historian Elise Kirk, to be a 'timeless story' about a young black 'heroine of the spirit who leads her people from superstition and darkness to salvation and enlightenment.' It was a failure in its first concert performance in 1915, but was rediscovered and premiered in 1972.
Joplin's music returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album of Joplin's rags recorded by Joshua Rifkin followed by the Academy award-winning movie The Sting which featured several of his compositions, such as 'The Entertainer'. In 1976 Joplin was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize. (Hide extended text) ... (Read all)
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