Swipesy – Scott Joplin

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The “Swipesy Cakewalk” is a ragtime composition written in 1900 by a musical duo consisting of the notable ragtime master Scott Joplin and the young composer Arthur Marshall. “Swipesy” uses the simple syncopations of a cakewalk – the first beat being a sixteenth, eighth, sixteenth note division, and the second beat an even eighth note division. The style follows the AA BB A CC DD musical form common for both cakewalks and rags, particularly after the earlier publication of Joplin’s hit Maple Leaf Rag. Only the C section, composed by Joplin, departs from the cakewalk rhythm and is more pure ragtime.

The composition was written in the late 1890s when Joplin was living with the Marshall family, and was teaching Arthur (1881 – 1968), composition.Swipesy” begins with a four-measure introduction in B-flat major (two flats). It modulates to E-flat major (three flats) for the trio (C) section, returning to B-flat for the final (D) section. It is thought that Joplin wrote the trio and Marshall wrote the A, B and D strains.A popular legend says that the title was suggested by John Stillwell Stark, one of Joplin’s original publishers, when “Swipesy” was first being considered for publication. The photograph which was to appear on the cover of the new (and unnamed) composition featured a young Sedalia newsboy with a shy expression on his face. Stark allegedly remarked that the boy’s countenance seemed to suggest that he had just “swiped” something from a cookie jar. “Lets call [the tune] ‘Swipesy’,” said Stark, and thus the title was decided. Marshall gave another explanation of the title’s origin during a 1960 interview: he and Joplin had just delivered the music to Stark’s office when two newspaper boys began quarreling outside, one swiped a newspaper from the other, and Stark, upon observing this, suggested that they name the work “Swipesy”.The copyright for this piece was registered on July 21, 1900.

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