On Thu, 25 Oct 2007, Bill Edwards wrote:
}On Oct 24, 7:49 pm, Dr H <***@efn.org> may have carefully typed
}> Why is so little of Eubie Blake's music published? That he was a seminal
}> figure in the history of ragtime is acknowledged by virtually every history
}> of ragtime I've ever read. Practically everyone who's made commercial
}> recordings of ragtime piano has recorded some of his rags (and often
}> the 'Charleston Rag'). Add to that the fact that he lived longer than
}> any other ragtime pianist from the original ragtime era, and continued
}> performing into his 90s (whichever birthdate is correct), and it would
}> seem that his music should be better represented in print than just
}> about anyone else.
}I am not the person to give you a definitive answer. Much of the
}knowledge I have collected is through the efforts of others, which I
}then place in a central repository (my brain or my website) and
}perhaps 20% of what I have written about is original research. Based
}on my experience I can surmise or suppose, but please take it only as
}that since there may be someone here with a more coherent answer.
}1. Originals: Many of Eubies ragtime pieces from the era and beyond
}may have been or were written to manuscript, but either not submitted
}or rejected. [...]
Thanks, Bill. Much of what you say here (and below) makes sense for why
Eubie might not have been published much in the original heyday of ragtime.
I was thinking more in terms of why he wasn't published much later on.
As far as I can tell there have been at least three or four "ragtime
revivals" since the original era petered out in the 20s:
the late 40s/early 50s (the "They All Played Ragtime" era);
the late 50s/early 60s (Max Morath; the "honky tonk" piano craze)
the early 70s (when "The Sting" suddenly got "The Entertainer"
on the pop music charts)
the late 70s/early 80s (Rifkin; Bolcolm; Albright)
In fact, with so many revivals I've often wondered whether it's proper
to call them "revivals" at all -- seems like ragtime never really went
away; it just took a vacation during the big band era.
Anyway, one result of all the revivals seems to have been that a lot of
ragtime music got republished (or in some cases published for the first
time) -- the Dover books are one example. Tichenor's "Ragtime Rarities"
brought some pretty obscure composers into print. Seems like /someone/
would have tried to get more of Eubie's stuff published.
} As with many ragtime publishers, the folks he submitted
}it to may have wanted a dumbed-down version (which they essentially
}got with Chevy Chase and Fizz Water). I can't say whether he was
}reluctant to do so or just didn't get around to it, or just didn't
}care to submit some material. Joe Lamb fought hard to keep the trio/D
}section of Excelsior in Gb in spite of Stark's protestations, and
}sometimes the fight is worthwhile, but sometimes... such seems the
}fate of Frog Legs by James Scott which may have been subject to a key
}change in trio/D [unsubstantiated].
As far as rags being "dumbed down," yeah, I know that happened (and
still happens with a lot of mucic; not just rags). But a lot of the
ragtime pieces reprinted in the last few decades seem to have been
published at least partially for purposes of historical preservation,
and even though they may not be "ur-text" editions, I don't think
dumbing-down would have been employed as much as it might have been
when the music was originally composed.
(My own feeling on that is, you print what the composer wrote. If
a performer can't stretch a 12th, or whatever, then it's up to the
performer to arrange the piece in a way in which they can play it,
while hopefully retaining as much of the original character as
possible. But I digress...)
}2. Non-Rags: Many of Eubie's songs are indeed available, albeit
}largely in fake books or collections of choruses any more. In some
}cases, such as the incomparable Memories of You, many seek out an
}instrumental version similar to one of his performances, but are
}thwarted because unless someone else has transcribed one, they aren't
}around. Adam Swanson dealt with this by transcribing and re-organizing
}one of Eubie's performances of I'm Just Wild About Harry. But for the
}most part, the songs remain songs, not instrumental transcriptions
}(that I have run across, and somebody here may have better
Now that you mention it, I have seen some of the non-rag stuff.
Of course I'm more interested in the rags.
}3. Later pieces: Starting as early as 1917 with the roll of Charleston/
}Sounds of Africa, a number of Eubie's pieces existed as performances
}only in some medium, but not on paper. Until Waldo transcribed some
}rolls and performances in the early 1970s, one had to surmise for
}themselves how to capture it, and even what's on paper may miss some
}nuances out of necessity, although Terry's work was considerable. When
}writing large spanning pieces for normal spanning hands, some
}compromises must be made.
I understand that piano rolls were frequently "embellished" with
additional parts added to the basic piano performance. Transcriptions
of some of these embellished rolls would have been literally impossible
for a single player to perform in real time. But Eubie was a monster
player (I had the good fortune to see him once) and his rolls surely
wouldn't have needed such "enhancements".
That said, some things can only be played in original form by people
with certain physical equipment, sure. There are left hand parts in
Brahms that span 12ths, too. (FWIW, I have large hands; I can span
some 12ths, though not really comfortably. Most 11ths are easy though,
10ths, even with inner notes, are a breeze.)
}That given, the vast majority of Eubie's output was published after 1922, and
}is therefore still in copyright,
My information may be dated on this, but I thought that prior to 1978
copyright was in effect for 28 years, and renewable only once. Since
1978 the term is the composer's lifetime plus 70 years, but that wouldn't
have affected much of Eubie's output. Seems like pretty much anything
he wrote prior to 1950 would be out of copyright by now.
}whereas all but one of Joplin's pieces is out of copyright,
Is this still the case? I remember seeing the original "Collected
Piano Works" edition which didn't include "Searchlight Rag" and the
"Rose Leaf Rag," because accorgin to the preface they were still
under copyright and the copyright holder wouldn't give permission for
inclusion. But that copyright expired and the edition I purchased
a few years later did contain these rags. That gave me the impression
that all of Joplin was now out of copyright.
}as with James Scott. Joe Lamb is a mixed proposition, but thanks to Sue
}Keller and Pat Lamb, much of his work remains in print.
}So the problem becomes that of copyright royalties and dealing with
}publishers/estates/etc. Again, I don't know for sure why Waldo's book,
}Sincerely Eubie (not the one you mentioned based on the musical Wild
}about Eubie or other such shows), is not currently in print. I can
}surmise that the market is limited at this point, even though from the
}inside around us rag musician types it seems paramount and enormous.
I suppose so. I would dearly like to find a copy of Waldo's book, though.
}It was harder, but not impossible, for young blacks to get published
}as Eubie was making his name. Luckey Roberts managed to eclipse him in
}the 1910s, but Eubie more than made up for that starting with Shuffle
}Along. It comes down to, in the end, what is in copyright, what was
}published before coypright, what was viable to put in print and when,
}and how much market there is now.
}I know of five Eubie rag pieces that would be available - Chevy Chase,
}Fizz Water, Bugle Call Rag, Novelty Rag, Classic Rag - but that would
}hardly make for a folio.
}Hope that clarifies further. Please, anybody, offer enhancements or
}Finest, Bill E.
Yes, very informative, thanks.
Perhaps it's time for a Eubie Blake revival? ;-)