Gladiolus Rag (Joplin) – Musical Languages Moment

MITA Marketing Director Stefan Scherer-Emunds examines the impact of a three-note chromatic passage from Scott Joplin’s “Gladiolus Rag.” Get the free MITA Sampler to check out the Interactive Score to “Gladiolus Rag” in action.

Video Transcript

Hello, and welcome to a MITA Musical Languages Moment! Today, we’re gonna be talking about Scott Joplin’s “Gladiolus Rag.” One of the most compelling things about Joplin is the way he combines rich, Romantic-era, Schubertian harmonies with what were, at the time, innovative syncopated rhythms.

Now, this rag has four sections, and I’ve got my MITA Interactive Score open to the A-strain. I wanna just focus on one little moment from the A-strain, which is this descending chromatic line from F to F-flat to E-flat. Let’s listen from the beginning and hear what that sounds like. I’m gonna use the space bar to pause it here, and let’s just listen to that one measure one more time. We can hold shift and click to hear only that measure.

What Joplin has done here is given us a minor sub-dominant, and the result of injecting this little bit of chromaticism into what’s otherwise a mostly diatonic passage is this beautiful sense of Romantic longing.

I’m going to turn on the comments on, and we can see from these little red arrows here that our descending three-note chromatic line happens four times in the A-strain. 1-2-3-4. Let’s listen to the whole thing now so you can get a sense of what that sounds like in the context of the piece.

Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to like the video, subscribe to our channel, and check out the free MITA Sampler to experience the Interactive Score to “Gladiolus Rag” in action.


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