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|Author:||All content written, coded, illustrated, maintained and posted by Bill Edwards|
All MIDI file contents and Wave Audio recordings are Copyright ©1998 through 2009 under the 1998 Electronic Copyright Laws by Bill Edwards and Siggnal Sounds. All Sheet Music and Album Cover images here have been restored or enhanced by Bill Edwards, and only the original sources are in the Public Domain (except where noted). Unauthorized duplication or distribution of these proprietary files or associated digital recordings is a violation of copyright and patent law. They are for personal use and enjoyment of individuals only, and may be used on other sites only upon request for permission to do so. This site has been optimized browsers released in 2006 or later with a recommended minimum 800x600 (SVGA) and optimal 1024x768 (XGA) monitor resolution.
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My Official Schedule has Moved to the Schedule/Booking Page.
UPDATES: Yeah, I know. I've been off the grid for a while on this section. I have been plugging away on two of my three planned books on ragtime, and that has turned into nearly a full-time endeavor with the research. Much of that is reflected in the rather substantial increase of composer biographies, plus additional updated information on existing ones, all starting at Male Composer Biographies. There are now around 150 biographies of composers and publishers, and an encyclopedia of them with more information, photographs and tidbits is in the works for 2010 or 2011 (there are around 30 composers left to research).
CONCERTS: It's RAGTIME SEASON again. I recently returned from the annual World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing in Peoria over held Memorial Day Weekend. This year not only marked the 35th annual gathering, but it was potentially the last year of the host and the guy who started it all, Ted Lemen. We had a great time at the Pere Marquette in Peoria, honoring Ted who has done so much for ragtime and old-time piano in this country and beyond through this competition. Also present was ringmaster Todd Robbins who provided us with an amazing Saturday evening show, myself starring in the role of the ferocious and tenacious Man Eating Chicken. If you have to ask, you obviously weren't there.
Not only that, there is a documentary being done on the affair featuring a few of the select pianists, including myself. The crew spent time at my home and work, as well as a couple of concerts, gathering hours of information even before they followed us around in Peoria. They are hoping for a theatrical release along the links of Spellbound, the Oscar™ winning documentary on spelling bees, but actually have enough footage to do a multi-part series for PBS as well. In any case, it is exciting exposure for us in the ragtime community.
Now comes the annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri the first full week of June from Wednesday to Sunday. This is always a great gathering with a number of free venues as well as very worthwhile concerts. This year, Frederick Hodges will be joining us for his first visit to the event, along with the cast of usual suspects from around the world. There will be some great seminars, and if you want to find out where ragtime went in the 1930s, come to my Friday morning seminar to find out in an entertaining fashion.
NEW CD Going back to the basics, I have assembled a great list of rags, all recorded on my glorious 9'3" Petrof grand, about which I'm very pleased. Titled RAGZ, it is available on my site at my CD/Music store. There are some MIDI previews below, but know that your computer sound card, no matter how good, will not interpret these the way they sound on my Petrof. Consider buying the CD not just to support the site costs but to truly enjoy these pieces as they were intended with the nuances of a real grand piano. This applies particularly to the rich Texas Fox Trot , the luscious Graceful Ghost, and the poignant Roberto Clemente. Please keep the letters coming since they are encouraging and also help steer my focus at times to address what is being asked for.
If you want to go to a place where ragtime is a passion and co-dependent addicts like to discuss all aspects of it, or you simply have a curiosity on the topic and want to ask questions of the experts, please go to the new Ragtime Group on Yahoo moderated by Brent Watkins, Bryan Wright and myself. It is called Elite Syncopations, found at http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/EliteSyncopations/ Joining is easy, and a necessity if you want to contribute. We have run this group with a high standard, keeping out spam and any offensive content, which means moderation, not censorship. Please come on along. Thanks.
|What's New! Latest Additions including the previous update.|
These are some alternate MIDI versions of the tracks I recorded for my most recent CD, RAGZ. While your sound card is not able to capture or reproduce the nuances of a full grand piano, it should at least give you a sneak peak of the audio tracks on what I consider to be one of my best CDs to date. Just a great collection RAGZ. More previews available in the Albums Section of the site.
|The Georgia Grind|
Ford T. Dabney - 1915: There are disagreements on whether ragtime piano pieces were intended for dancing by the general public (as opposed to stage performers), but that really should be evaluated on a piece by piece basis. In the case of The Georgia Grind, it was clearly intended for dancing, as the "grind" in the title refers to a type of dance of the day with a name that is actually a little more suggestive than the dance itself. It was considered to be a slow drag allowing couples to have a bit of a rest on their feet, slowly grinding (not necessarily against each other) as they move, during an evening of otherwise lively dancing. Dabney designed this piece with a light swing that is hard to avoid in performance, and adds to the grind action suggested by the title. The Georgia Grind is bookended by a matching introduction and coda, and the innovative trio uses a left hand thumb melody for contrast. I switch it in part to the upper octaves in the right hand on the repeat before reverting to the original. Currently this piece is largely associated often with the ragtime surgeon Dr. Steve Standiford of Philadelphia, who deftly performs it at most ragtime events that he attends.
Ford T. Dabney - 1910: Dabney was the son of a Washington D.C. undertaker, and as a prodigy in his youth served as a "court composer" to the President of Haiti from 1904 to 1906. Having experienced some of the indigenous island music during this time, he was well equipped to integrate it into popular music styles when he moved to New York around 1910 to break into publishing and performance. While he initially worked as a pharmacist, Dabney got Haytian Rag into print as a logical first choice, closely followed by Porto Rico, a piece which created a template for many composers of "Latin-tinged" music to follow over the next decade. While Panama penned by Will Tyers in 1911 was ultimately the bigger hit, Porto Rico remains fresh and charming, and worthy of repeated performances. The introduction suggests the moderate tempo taken, and the unusual low octave melody in the A section immediately sets a tone of contrast throughout. As written, however, it has a little less of the "island rhythm" than might be heard in later pieces. So part way into the B section of this performance, there is a shift into more of a habañera feel. On resuming the A section, a minor shift in syncopation creates a nice little choro. More liberties are taken on the flexible trio, including the addition of a minor rendition of that strain. The return to the A section starts with a fully expanded realization of the melodic line in higher octaves before returning to the final measures and the bookend coda.
|Music Box Rag|
Charles Luckeyth "Luckey" Roberts - 1914: From the time that Junk Man Rag was published it was clear that Roberts stood out from other composers. The first of the Harlem composers to be recognized, he often leaned towards innovative playing styles that were reflected in his published works as best as they could be notated. Music Box Rag has the swing rhythm clearly written out in a dotted pattern, so it is more than just a suggestion. It should be clearly noted that what was in print was likely only a suggestion of what Roberts played, but that helped make this piece marketable to the average music consumer, a female in her late teens or early twenties. While the A section has a cute little motif based on a triad that emulates to some degree a music box (and note that music boxes at that time were not necessarily tiny, since many were large beasts that played giant discs). On the repeats I have infused some novelty piano stylings with suggestions of stride. The B section and trio go far beyond the confines of the opening, and become quite ambitious at points. They feature lots of octave movement and some challenging left hand position switches, creating what amounts to early Harlem stride piece at times. I have, like most of my peers, thrown out the original ending which was a short version of the A theme in the new key, and returned to the original A section in increasingly higher octaves to what would seem like a logical conclusion, given the title. Just don't get all wound up about it.
|Texas Fox Trot|
David W. Guion - 1915/1917: Guion was one of those rarities like John S. Zamecnik or George L. Cobb; a classically trained composer - in this case learning in Europe under Leopold Godowski - who made a name in popular music forms starting in the ragtime genre. Born and raised on a Texas cattle ranch with black servants and cowboys all over the spread, Guion had a panopoly of musical influences to select from outside of the classics. He eventually made his name transcribing cowboy tunes (including the definitive Home on the Range) and negro spirituals. But this piece is indicative of a true fusion of Texas folk influence meeting sage classical ideals. Marked as moderato and keeping to relatively soft dynamics through much of the piece, the suggestion that it should be played carefully and poignantly becomes obvious. The beautiful opening minor section has elements of call and response within plus descending scalar patterns and a delicacy remiscent of Chopin. The B section is more authoritative with an opportunity for a nice building crescendo within. The trio explores a minor theme again with an emphasis on the chord progression this time. The repeat of the B section brings the piece to a lush crescendo before returning, even more softly this time, to the opening strain. Guion first copyrighted the piece in 1915 at age 22, finally getting it published two years later by M. Witmark publishing, giving it a good distribution base. It was recorded to piano roll in 1918 by composer/performer Muriel Pollock, but has only started to gain real popularity since the 1990s. Hopefully this rendition with a number of variations infused into it will help add to that.
Gil Lieby - 1966: Born Gilbert Lieberknecht in the south of the Bay Area in California, Gil Lieby was part of a musical family. Both of his parents played the zither and other assorted instruments. After his mother died when he was 14, Gil and his father Henry moved to Omaha where he stayed for the rest of his life. He discovered ragtime during the mid 1950s and the honky-tonk piano craze, and after hearing Bob Darch play ragtime live decided to play and write his own works. When the second ragtime revival was just gaining some footing in the mid 1960s, Gil wrote this triumphant and vivacious piece to commemorate the famous Goldenrod Showboat built in 1909, which had been restored in the early 1960s through the efforts of Trebor Tichenor, Dave Jasen and others. It was seen on the Mississippi River around the St. Louis area for many years, hosting ragtime festivals and always featuring good times and good music, which is reflected in this rag. While this performance if fairly respective of the score, I do throw in one key change suggested by Marty Mincer, one of the first to record this piece on a CD commissioned by the composer. Incidentally, this was, according to some reliable sources, the very boat that inspired Edna Ferber to write her novel Showboat, which became the famous Jerome Kern musical in the 1920s. After three decades in St. Louis the Goldenrod was moved to the Missouri River in 1990 and renovated once again. It was also registered as a National Historic Landmark. Sadly, as of 2008, the year that Gil passed away, the Goldenrod was sitting on the Illinois River with its future in doubt, perhaps to be burned to its hull. Continued court battles keep the status of this ship up in the air, and unless some other concern purchases it this piece of American and Ragtime music history may disappear. Hopefully through the efforts of Gil and others it will still be long remembered.
Copyright ©1966/1988 by Gilbert Lieberknecht. Permission for this recording granted by the late composer.
THIS AND THAT
Some fun and challenging pieces I recently did in preparation for the 2008 World Championship of Old-Time Piano Playing and for the Joplin Festival in Sedalia. More themed stuff later in the summer.
|Bluin' the Black Keys|
Arthur Schutt - 1926: While Schutt was not a prolific composer, he was still an extraordinary and challenging one. He was known more for his awesome technique on records, which brought new life to the pieces of Phil Ohman, Roy Bargy and other contemporaries. This piece and Ghost of the Piano from the previous year remain his best known, and Bluin' perhaps his most feared. Starting out with an intimidating set of long reaching left hand chords it doesn't let up for at least three minutes. When dissected, this piece, like most novelties, is made up largely of patterns. Executing those patterns is still a challenge, but adding some variations here and there to tune it to a particular player's style does help, as I've done on the repeats for both the A and B sections. Going into the trio, both the player and listener are delighted and challenged by a series of whole tone chords and scales. Then the real fireworks begin in the 32 bar trio. I worked with this piece for a couple of years before my arm was broken in 2002, but took it up again in 2008 and found it to be a little less scary, so have run with it. Or at least sauntered. It is also now in the live repertoire, so one can hear it at one of my concerts or festival appearances, but no guarantees on whether me or the piano come out alive!
Copyright ©1926/1954 by Robbins Music Corporation.
|Tishomingo Blues Lyrics|
Spencer Williams - 1917: When Williams was just starting to garner some attention as a composer and performer, he came out with this fine piece which has since become a standard. Tishomingo refers to a county in Mississippi, an area where much of the delta blues style originated. Originally the province of the Chickasaw tribe, it was formed in 1870 and was one of the centers of black settlements in post-slavery days. While this is not a blues in the traditional 12-bar format, it still has the same bluesey tone within its 32 bar chorus, a common format in the 1910s and 1920s for many songs with "blues" in the title. Williams manages a wistful feeling and longing for home, later found in the 1926 hit Deep Henderson by Fred Rose. This piece will also be familiar to listeners of A Prairie Home Companion, as host Garrison Keillor has long used the piece off and on with a modified lyric to open the show. There are hints of pianist Marvin Ash within this performance, which includes the seldom-heard verse.
The Glow Worm
(Das Glühwürmchen) The Glow Worm
(Shorter Version) Lyrics
Paul Lincke (M), Heinz Bolten-Backers (German Lyrics) and Lilla Cayley Robinson (English Lyrics) - 1902/1920: I will be the first to say that this piece has never been at the top of or even on any list of my favorites, even though I (as many of my generation and before) have known it since I was - well, I can't even remember when I didn't know it. However, following a surprising number of requests over the years I finally got up early one day and dug into the worm finding some pleasant surprises. For starters, it is not just a simple little song. First included in the opera Lysistrata by the German team of Lincke and Bolten-Brackers, the original publication was actually a fairly complex intermezzo or idyl (tone poem), and without the lyrics it is quite classical in nature. It is perhaps the simplicity amidst the complexity that makes this piece so appealing to so many, and why it was recorded and performed so often throughout the 20th century, including schools (like my own Millikin Junior High) around the world. In 1920 it was incorporated into the Broadway show The Girl Behind the Counter with new English lyrics by Robinson. Since then, favorite versions include those by The Mills Brothers as arranged by Johnny Mercer (who retooled the piece with additional new lyrics), Bette Midler, and the hard-to-avoid Spike Jones and His City Slickers. In keeping with the intent of the composer and respecting the work that went into the arrangement, the first nearly five minutes of the performance are more or less as represented on the printed page. The recap to the end, however, is more in keeping with stride and ragtime takes of it, including a slight nod to Jo Ann Castle's 1960s single of the piece. Also, just so you know, the little incandescant wigglers are actually bioluminscent insects, not larvae, which come in a variety of hues. The females glow in order to attract males, and the males glow in order to detract predators. As the worm turns, I came away from recording this piece with a glowing feeling for sure.
|Hungarian Dance #5|
Johannes Brahms - 1872: Brahms? One of the three Bs? In a ragtime page? Actually, some of the material he wrote translated to or in some cases was a precursor of syncopated styles that would appear within a half century of this piece. Even some of the ragtime era waltzes like Scott Joplin's Bethena had some elements of Brahms' famed waltzes in them. The Hungarian Dances were a set of 21 pieces calling on existing Hungarian folk strains and published for piano 4 hands, later followed by the first 10 of arranged them for solo piano. They were quite popular in their day and provided a decent continuing income for Brahms during his lifetime. This particular one has long endured as the most popular and recognizable of the dances, used in popular media like cartoons, movies, and even video games during the past century, often to suggest an Eastern European setting. Anton Dvořák orchestrated this dance as well. Translation into ragtime just requires a little massaging and infusing a few syncopations. This particular rendition was inspired by Lou Busch from his album Joe "Fingers" Carr Plays the Classics in 1954, and is an expansion of his take on the piece that actually follows the original dance more closely than his track. Unlike other classically-based rags like Russian Rag and Hungarian Rag, this amounts to more of an arrangement than a new composition, but is in the Contemporary section due to the unique nature of the arrangement. There are many familiar novelty patterns throughout, and some Zez Confrey style bass in the third section, padded with a couple of extra measures to even things out. The introduction and transitions are added for separation of ideas, and the ending flourish also calls on Busch for flashy purposes only. When performing this at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts I asked if there were any Hungarian dancers in the audience. Surprise! There were - and from Europe at that. But no dancing was forthcoming. You are, of course, allowed to strut your stuff at home in front of the computer. Just make sure your webcam is not broadasing live!
Arrangement Copyright ©2008 by Bill Edwards and Siggnal Sounds.
|Everybody Loves My Baby Lyrics|
Spencer Williams and Jack Palmer - 1924: This was the first of a pair of "baby" songs by Williams that culminated in I Found a New Baby two years later. Williams was doing very well in the 1920s with consistent hits, some in league with Clarence Williams (no known relation), and succeeding as a publisher as well, something a black person was less likely to have done prior to 1900 due to cultural restraints. This piece is cleverly worded by Palmer, allowing for any race to sing it effectively (another fine selling point), and it includes contemporary slang like "sweet patootie" It is clearly intended to be sung by a male. The minor verse, done here in more of a blues style in the beginning, leads into a chorus that spends equal time in the minor and major modes. After the bluesy chorus the tempo picks up for a rollicking stride rendition of the tune. There are nods in here to ragtime friends Jeff Barnhart (who does a fine rendition of the piece) and Brian Holland (from his arrangement of the follow-up song). Comparisons of Everybody Loves My Baby and I Found a New Baby (the price of everybody wanting one's baby) will show that the chorus of each is mostly the same save for the 8 bar bridge. If it ain't broke, why fix it.
Copyright ©1924/1952 by Warner Music.
Need A Little More Ragtime In Your Life?
"Perfessor" Bill can be available in your area for a concert. I have a variety of one-man shows that cover the ragtime music era using humor, education, and entertaining tunes and songs. I am also often available for special shows at schools for all age groups, and seminars on the topics of Ragtime performance, composition, playing style, economics, early popular music styles, and American music history, all in conjunction with a concert appearance. In addition, I perform a stunning a two-piano ragtime show with fellow ragtime artist and humorist Marty Mincer, and we are collectively known as The All American Ragtime Boys. For more information on any of the shows that you may want to pass on to a local arts council, college or theater owner, you may view or download my Ragtime Show Information Packet below. You can also e-mail me any time at .
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