Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Philip Lambert

Subject Categories

American Studies | Music


albright; bolcom; joplin; kurtz; pann; rochberg


The works from ragtime's revival era, including those by William Albright, William Bolcom, Eugene Kurtz, George Rochberg, and more recently Carter Pann, stand as some of the finest examples of ragtime composition. Yet these works were not generative of the ragtime age, but followed a lengthy drought of compositional interest in the ragtime style. Instead, they were the result of the amalgamation of formal and idiomatic gestures common to the ragtime style and of serious and extensive training in classical styles. In an effort to determine what distinguishes these works by the classical composers of the ragtime revival from the works of ragtime's Big Three (Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and James Scott), this document explores seven representative pieces by the aforementioned composers in both analytical and historical contexts.

Over the past forty years, articles devoted to ragtime, written by serious scholars with formal training in music theory or music history, demonstrate serious, albeit narrowly focused, efforts to study ragtime (primarily classic ragtime) in an intensive manner. This contrasts with enthusiastic ragtime aficionados, whose articles tend toward biography and superficial description of the music. Their work is as invaluable as it is staggeringly voluminous, but avoids the deeper problems of contextualizing ragtime against then-contemporary genres, understanding compositional shifts in possible correlation to its discrete (and continually evolving) audiences, and exploring the trajectory of the prioritizing of the elements of ragtime by active composers. By exploring audience taste, compositional elements, and historical context of the ragtime style over the past twelve decades, this study offers insight on what motivates composers to make the minute compositional decisions which, in accumulation, speak both to the genre in which they are writing and to their sovereignty as original thinkers in music.