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White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic. 
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Post White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic.
Dear "Ragtime" Fans,

I have never seen this musical, and I've only heard a few songs from it, but I've noticed that the songs that are sung by Caucasian characters seem to be boring and static, while those that are sung by African American characters are more exciting, emotional, and dramatic.

Did the creators of the musical really want to make the White third of their musical thoroughly boring, or did they purposely make the Caucasian characters' songs more boring, so that they would symbolize the mindless folly of Caucasian society?

I really enjoy the songs that are sung by African American characters, and the title number is cool, but I wish that the songs that were sung by Caucasians were more exciting, because I think that if their excitement quotient was amped up a bit, the entire musical would become more animated and exciting.

Thank you in advance for your replies.
:?:

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Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:58 pm
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Post Re: White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic.
Which songs have you heard? You say you've only heard a "few", and as someone who has heard the whole cast recording many times (OBC), I've never felt this.

Goodbye, My Love is a semi-emotional goodbye Mother sings as Father is leaving on a journey.

Journey On, which is sung by Father and Mother, as well as Tateh, the immigrant, is about Father's departure from and Tateh's arrival to America. You should be able to feel the excitement in the air from both men, and the mixed emotions (excitement, fear, and some sorrow) from Mother.

The Crime of the Century (if you consider Evelyn to be white... she was born in America, so not technically an immigrant, but she was of Scots-Irish ancestry) is the exciting (if done right) testimony Evelyn gives at her husband's murder trial.

What Kind of Woman is when Mother discovers the baby (Sarah and Coalhouse's son) in her garden, and then says that she will take responsibility for both mother and child. It is definitely full of emotion, as she wonders what kind of woman would bury a baby and what kind of woman she herself has become by allowing Father to think, decide, dream, etc. for her.

Nothing Like the City is sung by both Mother and her son (whites) and Tateh and his daughter (immigrants). I'll give you that it isn't very exciting or emotional. It's basically showing the first meeting of the future family, and helping Tateh and Little Girl realize they are no longer in the crowded city, but the safe New Rochelle.

New Music is sung by both whites (Mother, Father, Younger Brother) and African Americans (Sarah, Coalhouse). The part of the song sung by whites is Father coming home to find things have changed and both Father and Mother are beginning to wonder if they're even in love any more. (At least that's my interpretation. I haven't seen the show either, and I don't care for this song very much so I've only listened to it a couple of times.)

What a Game is where Father takes his son to a baseball game, expecting it to be civilized, only to find that ti's actually very rowdy. I'd call it an exciting song. (Although again, I don't personally care for it, so I've only listened to it a couple of times.)

Atlantic City is sung both by whites and celebrities (if you consider Evelyn to be white, then the song is predominantly white). It's definitely an exciting song about the wonderful and new things that can be found in Atlantic City, and how the family is discovering them when they temporarily move there to try to keep the baby.

Our Children is sung by both Mother and Tateh. Both people are seeing their children play together without worrying about color or class. They are realizing this is how the future could be for adults as well, and wanting that change to happen.

He Wanted to Say manages to hit all three of the groups, but in the song Younger Brother is showing that he now realizes America is not the perfect place he once thought it was. He begins the show in search of something, and he now realizes, but is having trouble saying, that he wants justice.

Back to Before is Mother's realization that she is no longer the woman she was at the beginning of the show. She used to be content to allow her husband to think and dream for her, but she has realized that she is an individual with thoughts and dreams of her own, and now that she's changed she can never go back to the simple-minded woman she once was.

While Father is definitely a static character, almost every song Mother is in fits one of the three categories you use to describe the African American songs: exciting, emotional, or dramatic. In my opinion, Mother shows more change than any other character in the show (and is therefore the least static character in the show). Younger Brother is also a very dynamic character, beginning as the stereotypical twenty-something who looks at the world through rose-tinted glasses and feels entitled to whatever he wants, and ending as a man who sees injustices in the world and wants to do something to change them, despite the fact that they benefit him. Evelyn (personally I consider her to be white) is static, but she is definitely exciting. Edgar and Grandfather broaden their horizons a bit as well.

So after all of that, I'll summarize by saying that I disagree with you that the white third of the musical is boring. There are definitely moments in the show that are there to symbolize the "mindless folly of Caucasian society" (especially in the Prologue), but overall, I definitely don't find the characters of Mother and Younger Brother (who are two of the three lead white roles) to be exciting, emotional, dramatic, and definitely dynamic characters.


Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:57 am
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Post Re: White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic.
See the show!

The songs serve to advance the story line and to set the mood. Early in the show the songs are upbeat reflecting the optimism felt by the characters. As the show progresses, and some tragedies ensue, the music becomes darker. This is one of the best shows I have ever seen when it comes to integrating the songs with the mood of the characters and with the storyline.

In general I tend to give less credence to critiques that only address part of a work. A theatrical show is intended to be experienced in the entire context of the work - not merely by listening to a random song.

If you want to critique a song on it's own merits that is fine, but a show should not be critiqued out of context.

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Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:34 am
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Post Re: White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic.
Set_Buildin_Dad wrote:
See the show!

The songs serve to advance the story line and to set the mood. Early in the show the songs are upbeat reflecting the optimism felt by the characters. As the show progresses, and some tragedies ensue, the music becomes darker. This is one of the best shows I have ever seen when it comes to integrating the songs with the mood of the characters and with the storyline.

In general I tend to give less credence to critiques that only address part of a work. A theatrical show is intended to be experienced in the entire context of the work - not merely by listening to a random song.

If you want to critique a song on it's own merits that is fine, but a show should not be critiqued out of context.


I definitely agree that you need to see a show before you can fully judge it. I haven't had a chance to see Ragtime, but would give my right arm to do so - I love the what I've heard and seen (on YouTube) that much. However, with Ragtime, I feel that you can pick up the things you said - upbeat optimistic songs that lead to darker music as tragedies ensue - from listening to the cast recording in its entirety. (Again, clearly not as good as seeing the full show live, but the only option for someone like me who lives in an area where we don't have the people to put on a show like Ragtime.)


Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:51 am
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Post Re: White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic.
I'm auditioning for this show in a week and hoping to be cast as Tateh.

But on this topic....Duchess....you clearly know nothing about the show to give it such a flat and frankly semi-racist critque.

All the races in the show shine is various ways.

Whites
Mother has such a huge arc in this musical with some great songs and moments.

Goodbye My Love shows Mothers love for her Father.
Crime of the Century is such a fun song and shows how even back then Media was rampant as it is today.
What Kind of Woman? shows Mother's anger at Father and the start of her new life.
Henry Ford is another fun song that tells how with a great idea a man can become a success and change the entire world and not just America.
Nothing Like the City establishes Mother's first meeting with Tateh
New Music shows that Mother has become the women she was destine to become and that Father cannot bare to see the changes.
The Night that Goldman Spoke A Union Sqaure is such great song that establishes the character that Younger Brother is.
What A Game! is a very funny song that shows that Father's world is changing beyond his wife and family.
Our Children shows how Mother has grown and fallen out of love with Father.
Back to Before shows how far Mother has come and that truly she does not want to ever go back to before.

Blacks

Gettin' Ready Rag is a love letter to the rag song from the south that black people created and loved.
Your Daddy's Son is the most emotional, heart-breaking and strongest songs in the show (And of course Audra sang it the best!)
New Music shows Coalhouse's determination to win Sarah back and how music can truly change people.
Wheels of a Dream shows Coalhouse's dreams and passion for Sarah and his new-found life in a country where he feels he is now equal.
Justice/President shows how both Coalhouse and Sarah think. Coalhouse's ideal that America will give him justice and Sarah's belief that she can get the justice for Coalhouse with the help of the President.
Till We Reach That Day is the start of what kind of Coalhouse is going to become and is not just a song for the black people in the but for all the characters.
Coalhouse's Soliloquy shows his spiral into madness.
Sarah Brown Eyes shows that though Coalhouse is starting to go mad the man everyone once new is still inside fighting.
Look What You've Done is a song of two men who are two sides of the same coin of getting Justice. Coalhouse through violence and Booker through civility and teachings.
Make Them Hear You is the true Black Anthem in the entire musical and a beautiful song.

Immigrants

Journey On shows the contrast between Father and Tateh and how each other thinks.
A Shtetl is Amereke is the Anthem for all the Immigrants.
Success shows what Tateh truly thinks America is as a country and a new life for him and the Little Girl
Lawrence, Massachusetts shows the rioting and at the end Tateh's hatered of America.
Gliding shows his tender side and his love for his daughter and even his love for his wife. And by the end his love for America once again.
Buffalo Nickel Photoplay Inc. shows what Tateh always dreamed. Keeping his Little Girl happy and safe. It also shows that with a little work anyone can become a Success.

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Wed May 11, 2011 11:35 am
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Post Re: White= Boring, while Black= Exciting and Dramatic.
I think part of the issue may be your own "musical prejudice"....the songs are accurate to social class, culture, and expression of each group of characters. During this period of history Ragtime influenced every group like all great music does, but each group interpreted Ragtime music differently. So, in my opinion if you think the "white" Ragtime songs are more boring than the "black" Ragtime numbers--I do not believe that is an issue with the composition--I think that it means you have less experience with the more "upper class" versions/interpretations of Ragtime. However, each group has some GREAT numbers (as the others have listed in this post).

I actually think "Journey On" and "Back to Before" are two of the best songs in this show and both of them are "white" numbers...but they are just as good in my opinion as "Wheels of a Dream" and "Your Daddy's Son". So, i think it has more to do with taste in music and that comes from experience. The more you step out of your comfort zone and listen to music from various groups/interpretations, the more you will appreciate the genius of a musical like Ragtime.

...but that's just my opinion....OH and like everyone else has said--you need to SEE the show to truly grasp the epicness of the music.


Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:30 pm
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