BOOKS: American Schubert

A scholar has written the first real biography and appreciation of Scott Joplin, one of this country's unheralded musical giants

Is there an American composer more important, more familiar and yet more obscure than Scott Joplin? His signature tune, The Maple Leaf Rag (1899), was the first piece of sheet music in America to sell a million copies, and after the 1973 release of the film The Sting and its accompanying soundtrack, his rag The Entertainer was heard constantly all over the country. And yet this genius, whose ambition it was to merge white European classical forms with black American rhythms and harmonies, has remained a shadowy historical figure, a mysterious creature of the late 19th century urban demimonde.

For years...

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