By Mr. C. Ware.
Strange as it may seem, a photograph frequently reproduced in ragtime history books and commonly labeled as "Scott Joplin's Piano" appears to have revealed a heretofore unheard piece of the American composer's music.
Picturing a typical turn of the century upright piano in a corner of what was ostensibly the composer's apartment, the photograph clearly shows three pieces of sheet music upon the instrument, one the first published page of "Solace", and the other two handwritten -- and unfamiliar -- manuscript scores.
Reginald R. Robinson, a 26 year-old ragtime composer and performer from Chicago, was the first person to notice what seems now to be a ridiculously simple oversight on the part of ragtime enthusiasts for decades. "I just realized that the picture was clear enough that you could almost see the notes, and maybe even be able to read them" being his unassuming explanation for the important discovery,
The photograph is part of a collection donated to Fisk University by ragtime pianist Brun Campbell in 1948 as a part of his efforts to memorialize Scott Joplin, a "campaign" which began with articles published in the periodical The Record Changer the previous year. As an archivist, however, Mr. Campbell's methods were inconsistent and fuzzy, and more questions than answers arise from even the most cursory investigation of the items on deposit there.
The oft-reproduced Joplin portrait.