From the creative mind of Scott Joplin:
Today, Joplin is fondly remembered for his brilliant ragtime compositions. A fervent believer in (and example of) education as a path to progress, what he would have preferred to be known for was opera! He wrote several and went broke staging an early one (when one of the players absconded with the box-office receipts,* stranding cast, crew and composer -- the opera had been making money); his last opera was written racing against time while he was slowly dying. (Unlike his generally-upbeat opera and popular music, his own life was as wrenching as Greek tragedy). In his lifetime, he was well-known but only his earliest published ragtime work, Maple Leaf Rag, was a huge success, bringing in a small but steady income.
For an example of Mr. Joplin away from ragtime, at this link you'll find The Great Crush Collision March, a kind of musical description of William Crush's staged wreck of a pair of (uncrewed) steam trains in September 1896. A better score for a silent film of such an event would be hard to imagine -- but this was written to stand alone; the first public screening of a projected film in the United States was in April of that year.
(Tam points out Joplin would not be nearly so well known today were it not for the film The Sting. 'Strewth but I would have anyway; my parents record collection include a sampling of ragtime with no few Joplin tunes among them and I remember being delighted to find out there was a movie filled with that kind of music.)
* Possibly the score as well -- there's not a scrap left of Guest of Honor.
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