Philippe MICHEL, The rhythms of Ragtime: an analysis

Ragtime must be considered as the first music born from the mixture of Occidental and African cultures. Rhythm is what bestows this music its force and its identity. The most representative rhythmic figure is that which has been called "Scotch snap", most probably of African origin despite its name, for which "Black snap" would be more appropriate. Syncope, the "primary rag", so characteristic of ragtime, derives from it. Another characteristic formula, the "secondary rag", consists in the superposition of a melody in groups of three sixteenth notes on another in eighth notes, producing a polyrhythmy of obvious African origin. After 1911 appear also the dotted rhythms. All these "exotic", novel rhythmic figures have had an influence on many composers of learned music and, above all, appeared as symbols of freedom and of the first truly American music.