One of the wonderful delights of "The Sting" -- beyond the chemistry between the Two Major Stars and all the twisty-turny stings the movie played on the audience itself -- was that it re-introduced so many of us to the music of Scott Joplin.
Of course his re-discovery so delighted us that for a time we found ourselves awash in, which is to say drowning in, his music. I never got tired of it, but I could see how those who said at the time they'd had enough of it had a reasonable point. But eventually that tide receded, his music sought and found its own level in the culture, and so now we are back to the happy circumstance of being able to be surprised and delighted whenever we come across his stuff again.
This morning there was a report on "Morning Edition" about Scott, and about a new novel by Tananarive Due called Joplin's Ghost. Apparently there are those who believe that Joplin's house in St. Louis is haunted by the composer himself. If so, in my opinion at least, he should get busy with some automatic writing or something and give us some more of his stuff.
I don't much believe in ghosts, except as very powerful metaphors, but it turns out that in some sense it may be true that the spectral presence of ol' Scott is actually with us.
As you no doubt know, piano rolls were made by a musician sitting down at a special piano, playing a piece of music, and small holes being punched into a roll of paper as the keys were struck. When the roll is played back through a player piano, we get to hear an exact replica of the original performance.
At that NPR page, you can find a link to a recording of a piano roll of the always resplendant "Maple Leaf Rag" that dates from 1916. I'm no judge of these things but I'm told the actual playing of the piece is poor. Which may turn out to be something of a godsend in that it has led some people to think that the creator of the piano roll was none other than Joplin himself. It turns out, you see, that ol' Scott was a much better composer than he was a piano player, and that fact along with some additional evidence has got some experts thinking that, well, there is a ghost of Joplin (of at least the piano roll variety) still moving among us.
Not being a musician, I don't really have the vocabulary to describe what always pleases me so much about Joplin's music. I have to fall back on foggy notions such as: "I like the rise and the fall of it" or "I like the up and down of it".
Yeah, I like the way it moves all over and around you. I like the way it tickles. It's especially welcome on a very pretty morning in Spring.
So go ahead. Go see Scott. And tell him "Good Morning" for me.