“If you play this piece fast, I will hunt you down.”

I think that would have been the last step in Scott Joplin’s progressively more and more impatient tempo markings.

The reason I’m thinking of this is because my head has finally and inevitably been hijacked by a ragtime demon that insists on playing rags in my brain 24/7. It was bound to happen. This is the piano style that my dad got obsessed by after “The Sting” came out, and we listened to it constantly when I was a kid, especially after he found out that Joplin had written an opera. I love this stuff, and it means my childhood and time spent with my dad, and I was bound to finally get taken over with it. I thought it would come as a result of a few Haendel arias, but it seems to have sprung up of its own accord. (I’m still planning on doing the Haendel arias in ragtime style, though.)

Fun, but tiring.

And as someone who likes ragtime and tends to dislike stride — “I played the whole piece in 14 seconds! I r smrt and gud peeAAAAAAAAnist!” — I’m cringing at the thought of how these pieces could conceivably be brutalized by playing them at the typical egotistical breakneck speed of stride, which is how Joplin’s music was mangled by East coast pianists within his lifetime. (Fast boogie? Fine with me. Fast stride? Please, you’re just playing ragtime at the wrong tempo.)

I may have to use Joplinesque tempo markings on my own pieces. “Play this piece at a leisurely speed, or I will trank you personally.”

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