Joplin & Co.

Now available for pre-order, Marilyn Nonken‘s next album, Syncopated Musings: Rags, Concert Waltzes, and Novelties for the Pianoforte by Scott Joplin and His Collaborators, is a collection of less-familiar music by the self-described “King of Ragtime” and several of his friends and colleagues. Divine Art Records will release Syncopated Musings on February 11, 2022, and it’ll be available on both CD and in a variety of downloadable formats.

Yours truly wrote the liner notes. “Why ragtime? Why now?” you may ask. Well, I answer, “Far more than a nostalgic throwback to a ‘simpler’ time … these explorations and the continued excavations of the form confirm ragtime as a soundworld all its own – a soundworld that remains remarkably contemporary.” Allow me to go on:

The early 20th century culture in which this music was composed seems surprisingly similar to the culture of the early 21st. A society tearing itself apart in the effort to navigate tensions created by white responses to the increasingly important roles of Black and immigrant Americans in urban and rural cultures; the threat of health crises like the frequent and devastating yellow fever outbreaks and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918; even the geopolitical consequences of America’s increasingly isolationist and nationalist foreign policies – this was the background to ragtime’s emergence, and it remains the background to 21st century interpretations of this uniquely American music. Those anxieties are ours, demanding our individual responses. Syncopation, perhaps the most obvious quality of ragtime, exploits rhythmic irregularity and imbalance, seeking but never finding final resolution, perhaps an uncanny reflection of our own personal and cultural predicament. They may also be the key to ragtime’s continuing appeal and its imaginative reinterpretation.

Divine Art provides a sample of Syncopated Musings below. You can pre-order the album itself here.