The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #65553   Message #1081659
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
29-Dec-03 - 02:13 PM
Thread Name: What makes a tune a Rag?
Subject: RE: What makes a tune a Rag?
Rag in the sense of teasing or playing about with words goes back to the 18th c. and rag in the sense of a comic show to the 19th c.

MTed, If you could find a copy of the minstrel audition notice that mentions rag, please do; it would be the earliest printed reference with rag mentioned in a purely musical sense, although rag was used to refer to the comical programs put on by students in the 19th c. It suggests improvisation, which extends the teasing definition and might have led to application of the word to the later, more formal ragtime compositions. Speculation, of course, but the notice would be a contribution toward narrowing down the origins of the term.
The musical routines of the minstrel shows do seem to be a likely source of ragtime.
(Another question is the association with the two-step- so popular around 1900-WW1, blamed on Sousa and his Washington Post March of 1891).