Dragtime: The Root & Future of Modern Harmony

by Diggs Duke

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about

Sounds contain information, most of which is received in support of a grand idea. But, with certain music, the important information is contained within the passing notes that we overlook. This is the case with Ragtime. This particular project is put together from digitized piano rolls taken from the public domain. An intense ritard has been placed over the rolls and they have been edited down to their most dramatic parts. For, the information within these rolls preserves a very unique understanding of Western harmony.

Although the common narrative will tell us that this music has been evolved since its day, the 'gospel' or 'jazz' harmony that is consistently referenced as an improvement on ragtime concepts is simply a variation of a theme invented by these great composers. While most of the more evolved understandings of western harmony, such as Schoenberg's twelve-tone theory, seek to escape traditional Euro-classical doctrine, Ragtime makes do within those confines as only the lost tribes could.

What you will hear in this project is that this style of music is an elaboration on Euro-American 'classics.' It is the simple difference between “Oh, When The Saints Go Marching In' and 'O Wen De Saints Go Marchin In.' It is through the simplification of the language and the music, through it's dismantling and reassembling, that these new styles have been born and conceptually advanced.

The difference between the classics being played classically and being ragged is just that subtle, and the result of the piano rolls being slowed to a tortoise pace shows this. It sounds at times like a classical symphony, since the tempo removes most of the rhythmic elements of the music. Yet, many of the harmonies and melodies offered are completely unique conceptually and structurally, coming from the intense emotional experience of the lost tribes here in Babylon (a.k.a. USA). Ragtime is still the root and future of what is arguablly the most expressive harmonic concept of western harmony in existence. This is why this great collection carries its title and why so many other styles have come about in its shadow. In the current day, we have the opportunity to digitally reconstruct the piano rolls and present them in different sound configurations, as we have done here. The result is beautiful and mysterious.

credits

released March 30, 2017

#1 written by Eubie Blake
#2 written by Scott Joplin
#3 written by Fats Waller, Andy Razaf
#4 written by Layton and Creamer
#5 written by James P. Johnson

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