Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The King of Ragtime

I am a huge Scott Joplin fan.  He is one of Scowl-Face's musical heroes. That may be the first time ol' Scowlly and I have shared something in common.

If you have never heard of the King of Ragtime, and if you have preschoolers or early elementary school children, then you should all read (or readaloud) Scott Joplin: King of Ragtime, by Mary Ann Hoffman (Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2010).  The book is one of the Inspiring Lives children's series.  Since we just bought a copy at the 2011 ILF Conference, it hasn't been cataloged yet, but search the Evergreen Indiana online catalog to see when it'll be available.

Click the Image to Play Our Book Trailer

My introduction to Scott Joplin was in a previous life, when I was hanging around the neighborhoods of St. Louis, Missouri, around the turn of the 20th century.  I lived much as I do now--visiting several "guest homes," panhandling free suppers from the public (right now, library patrons), and dumpster-diving--but I always had good meals at one particular house.

Scott Joplin House, St. Louis, Missouri

I used to be invited inside to listen to the latest ragtime compositions.  I even got to play the piano using the classic feline four-paw trounce technique, which, in some ways, sounded a bit like barrelhouse piano. (Usually, this display of feline musical talents was accompanied by being led to the kitchen for a saucer of milk.)  (By the way, I looked a little like the cat at the end of our book trailer in that particular previous life.) Those were exciting times, when the air was filled with innovative, invigorating syncopations.

Scott Joplin House, Early 1900s

Scowl-Face, who discovers interesting things decades after the fact, learned about Ragtime generally, and Scott Joplin particularly, when he heard The Entertainer (1902) played on AM radio in 1973, when the motion picture The Sting (1973) filled theaters. Joplin's music, conducted and arranged by Marvin Hamlisch, was used in the soundtrack.  Hamlisch did a fine job adapting Joplin's various compositions to fit the movie, but you should listen to Scott Joplin Piano Rags, by Joshua Rifkin on piano. Nobody plays Joplin like Rifkin.  We have one of Rifkin's Joplin music CDs in the Evergreen Indiana online catalog.

Grown-up readers and young adults interested in learning more about Scott Joplin should find this biography by Edward A. Berlin (available in the Evergreen Indiana online catalog) to be both interesting and informative, although it has been criticized as being speculative when details about Joplin's life have been historically sketchy.

For myself, I have only fond memories of the King of Ragtime.  He shared many a tin of meat and saucer of milk with moi in my former days as a St. Louis kitty-about-town over a hundred years ago.  If you had been walking along the street, you'd have heard some mighty sweet piano-playing from Scott Joplin's home.  You might even have heard my stylings on the ebony and ivory keys.

Four-Pawed Piano Playing is a Gas; Can You Dig It?

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Biographical News Beat

P.S.  For this version of the "Maple Leaf Rag" (1899), Scott Joplin played the piano to create the "master" for the piano roll from which this recording was made.  Enjoy!

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