General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Can you describe in words, using musical terminology if you know it, exactly what makes Scott Joplin's music so distinctive and recognizable?

Asked by Jeruba (51895points) 1 month ago

Same Q for Tchaikovsky’s orchestral pieces, especially symphonies and ballet.

Same Q for Bach. Same for Gershwin.

I can hear the distinctive characteristics, recognize the composer often within one or two bars, even if I don’t know the particular piece. Sometimes I can name the piece from just two successive notes occurring anywhere in it, just from tuning in randomly on the radio.

But I don’t have the technical knowledge of music to describe what I hear. If you do, please use musical terminology for the sake of precision. I will look up everything I don’t understand.

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7 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Scott Joplin’s music syncopated, percussive, lyrical and descriptive. Piano is prime instrument.

seawulf575's avatar

Scott Joplin used syncopated rhythms which is a defining characteristic of rag music.

Bach was big in establishing Baroque music. To me it was always identifiable by the set of the key. I always thought those using that style of music had a musical key that was kept consistent through the entire piece. It didn’t often jump from one key to another.

Tchaikovsky was interesting. I always felt he used music to identify feelings and emotions, but since he was Russian, he wrote a lot of things that were closer to Russian feelings and emotions. You can hear it in some of his ballets but also into his concertos and other writings.

Gershwin was sort of like Tchaikovsky, but he was American. His emotions were not the same as the Russian feelings. In American In Paris or in Rhapsody in Blue his music tells a story. It lets the listener “see” what he is writing about.

janbb's avatar

Syncopation. The music pops and engenders joy.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” – Martin Mull

I can’t entirely agree, but I do think it beautifully illustrates how music is an abstract thing, wholly made by human artifice. It’s not an expression of some previously existing reality, like math or realistic painting and sculpture.

Though I have read that instrumental music imitates speech, and its rhythm and meter and flow mimic speech, with the concrete language deleted.

YARNLADY's avatar

I think it is more familiarity of the different artists.

Strauss's avatar

Hmmm…still thinking about the answer! Great Question!

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