After reading Joplin’s Ghost, my interest was peaked about the life of Scott Joplin. Since Tananarive Due used actual historical data to craft her novel, I selected King of Ragtime by historian Edward A. Berlin who she referenced and characterized in Joplin’s Ghost.
Berlin has a great balance of story and technical information that appeal to both the musician and lay reader like myself with no-to-little knowledge of musical technicalities. Joplin’s embrace and passion for being an artist pitted against the racial struggles of the times and woven through by the threads of his personal relationships in business, family, friends, and love really fascinated me. Also, I learned that he was considered the King of Ragtime WRITERS. Due to his passion for scripting his music and his popularity and name recognition, publishers made money from his Rags. It was only when Joplin reached to grow as an artist with selecting complex African American syncopation to transpose into operatic/classical form was he met my marketing and cultural naysayers. He was pigeon-holed as determined by White socio-economic power structure. For that, I grieved because not much has changed in 100 years.
I plan to do a quilt to speak to my new found impression of Joplin alongside another quilt inspired by Oliver Lewis, the first winner of the Kentucky Derby. The times in which both men lived and worked overlaps. I haven’t worked out a design yet,…wanting it only to hint at representational imagery and keeping with my love of mystical abstraction.
The one thing that I kept looking for is some reference of Scott Joplin appearing in Louisville, but Berlin doesn’t reference any. However, one of Joplin’s brothers, Robert Joplin managed a club here for 2 months before being let go. I’m going to start with research at the Filson Historical Society when weather permits to see if there is any record of Scott Joplin performing here. With him being based in St. Louis, I can’t imagine that he never ventured here. From there, I will delve into UofL’s records. Something interesting is bound to turn up!