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Viewed as the "King of Ragtime," Scott Joplin was the foremost composer of the genre in the early 20th century, known for works like "The Maple Leaf Rag" and "The Entertainer."
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Joplin also aspired to produce long-form works. He published the ballet Rag Time Dance in 1902 and created his first opera, A Guest of Honor, for a Midwestern tour in 1903. The production was shut down due partially to the theft of box-office receipts, with Joplin ultimately dealing with great financial losses.
By 1907, Joplin had settled in New York to work on securing funding for another opera he had created, Treemonisha,
a multi-genre theatrical project which told the story of a rural African-American community near Texarkana. A precursor to George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Treemonisha was presented in 1915 as a scaled-down production with voice and piano, but would not receive a full-stage treatment for years to come.
Joplin continued to work on various musical forms and formed his own publishing company with his third wife, Lottie, in 1913. By 1916, he had started to succumb to the ravages of syphilis, which he was thought to have contracted years earlier, and was later hospitalized and institutionalized. Joplin died on April 1, 1917.
Ragtime would enjoy a resurgence during the 1940s, and then in the '70s became a hugely popular classical genre that also entered the U.S. consciousness via film—"The Entertainer" became the theme song for The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Joplin's Treemonisha was also fully staged in 1975 on Broadway. The following year, Joplin received a special posthumous Pulitzer Prize, honoring the man who shaped a genre that influenced decades of music.
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With its roots in the blues, jazz has been referred to as America's classical music, yet has also become a major global phenomenon, branching off into a variety of forms. Earlier pioneers like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton paved the way for the swinging big-band sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In contrast, contemporaries Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk developed bebop, with its speedy, dissonant harmonies and improvisations. And Miles Davis heralded the birth of cool jazz, modal jazz and fusion at different points in his career. Famous jazz instrumentalists have tended to be male, yet women have been at the forefront of the genre when it comes to vocalization, from the brassy blues of Bessie Smith to the haunting eclecticism of Nina Simone.
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