First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone. Hope your 2018 is filled with discovery and joy!
Going back 100 years, 1917 approximately marks the end of the ragtime era and the beginning of the jazz era. On April, 1, 1917, Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime”, died at the age of 48, having written dozens of published ragtime piano pieces, a ragtime ballet, and two operas, “A Guest of Honor”, confiscated in 1903 as collateral for non-payment of bills and lost forever, and “Treemonisha”, praised as, “…an entirely new form of operatic art” by American Musician and Art Journal in 1911, then neglected for decades, and then finally receiving a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976.
It’s hard to accurately assess Joplin’s influence on music, but one could make the case he was the most influential single composer of the last 150 years. Stride, Jazz, Swing, Boogie Woogie, Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, Rock, Progressive Rock, and Hip Hop all have the equivalent of genetic markers that go back to ragtime, of which, Joplin was the most important voice. It’s not clear that without Joplin, serious ragtime composers like James Scott and Joseph Lamb would have ever had a voice, or if ragtime would have achieved enough momentum to have any popularity or influence.
In other classical music, we have new operas from Sergei Prokofiev (The Gambler) , Giacomo Puccini (La rondine), and Richard Strauss (Die Frau ohne Schatten [Woman Without a Shadow].) Carlos Chávez composes his first Piano Sonata (Sonata fantasia), Claude Debussy his Violin Sonata in G minor, Alexander Glazunov his second Piano Concerto in B, Op. 100, Charles Ives his Three Places in New England , Maurice Ravel the often played piano work, Le tombeau de Couperin, Ottorino Respighi his Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1 , Igor Stravinsky his symphonic poem, Le chant du rossignol and his “etude” for pianola, Karol Szymanowski his third piano sonata and his String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Heitor Villa-Lobos starts on his second symphony and completes his 4th String Quartet, and Sergei Prokofiev his Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 19, Visions fugitives), two piano sonatas (Piano Sonata No. 3 and Piano Sonata No. 4) and his landmark neo-classical Symphony No. 1
Musicians born in 1917 include:
Ella Fitzgerald, jazz vocalist (d. 1996)
Lou Harrison, composer (d. 2003)
John Lee Hooker, blues singer, songwriter and guitarist (d. 2001)
Buddy Rich, jazz drummer (d. 1987)
Thelonious Monk, composer and jazz pianist (d. 1982)
Dizzy Gillespie, composer and jazz trumpeter (d. 1993)