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U.S. popular music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries distinguished by its heavily syncopated rhythm. Ragtime found its characteristic expression in formally structured piano compositions, the accented left-hand beat opposed in the right hand by a fast, bouncing melody that gave the music its powerful forward impetus. (The term probably derives from ragged time, a description of syncopation.) Ragtime compositions typically featured three or four discrete 16-bar strains performed at a moderate tempo. The most celebrated ragtime composer was Scott Joplin. The rhythm and structure of ragtime were important influences on the development of jazz.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ragtime, visit Britannica.com.