All this debate leaves me wondering if the truth isn't nearer that
whatever inspired Gottschalk was the same thing that, later, inspired
It seems to me patronising, at best, to infer that Joplin must have
been influenced by (for which read 'copied') someone else. The fact is
that many Ragtime composers started up round the same time, in the late
1890s, and their shared cultural backgrounds, the 'zeitgeist', would
have given them all similar influences. Yet Joplin's stuff stands way
out from most of the rest: it did so at the time, and does so far more
prominently now. That surely suggests the dominant component was pure
Joplin, whatever triggered his compositions.
The general trend in music was for the vernacular to inspire the
conservatory-trained intellectual - all the way from Bach to the
present day. Chopin's Polonaises and Mazurkas were at some distant
point peasant dances, and Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies were (despite
the name) Gypsy dances, and so on. For Joplin to have been influenced
by Gottschalk would appear to be a turn-around of the norm.
The remarkable thing about the Ragtime boom was the way that vernacular
composers dominated: I suppose it was somehow related to the start of
the leisure culture and 'pop' music following the industrial revolution
(candidates will debate this point in 1500 words, please).
Seeing this is a mechanical music forum, the interesting point is the
way in which the player piano fueled and spread this new music. They
both appeared at exactly the same time, after all. Who knows, if
ragtime had not happened, the player piano may never have reached the
popular ear, and likewise, without the player piano perhaps Ragtime
would never have taken off!