The Terra Verde Corner

What is Terra Verde?
by Scott Kirby

Por Que Terra Verde? || Terra Verde Music || The Terra Verde Awakening
What is Terra Verde? || Why Terra Verde? || The Secrets of Terra Verde

This article was taken from a post to the newsgroup by Scott Kirby - a composer and performer of Terra Verde music.

Scott Kirby This is an attempt to set the record straight about Terra Verde in general...

First of all, with all of the misconceptions and inquisition surrounding the new term, I feel it necessary to describe the origins and intent of "Terra Verde". David Thomas Roberts coined this Latin phrase (meaning "green earth") to serve as a means to identify the growing number of compositions, mostly by contemporary ragtime writers, which fall outside the legitimate boundaries of Ragtime. The "identity conflict" provoked by many from the Ragtime community who respond to such works (Hal Isbitz's tangos, David Thomas Roberts' "New Orleans Streets", etc.) by complaining that "they're not Ragtime" required that we made a home for these pieces - not by "labeling" them, but simply by giving them a place in a larger family of American musical styles. Many ask if works such as "Roberto Clemente" and "Belle of Louisville" are also Terra Verde. Certainly much New Ragtime may fall under the umbrella of the exclusively contemporary Terra Verde. However, since these works already have a solid identity as New Ragtime, the focus of Terra Verde is reserved for Ragtime-related pieces which cannot justifiably be included in the domain of Ragtime of any type.

The characteristics of Terra Verde are as follows: primarily syncopated, primarily composed, contemporary works with strong ties both to folk genres of the New World and to 19th century Romantic music of the Old World. Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Ernesto Nazareth, and Scott Joplin are all true ancestors of Terra Verde, but the term is only for *new* music (roughly 20-30 years old.)

Before moving on, I would like to address the increasingly common question: "Does Terra Verde belong at a Ragtime festival?" Three points should be made in considering this.

  1. In organizing a festival one must choose between presenting solely Ragtime, or offering this music in its broader historical context, that is, showing its origins, development, and related styles.

  2. If one chooses the former approach, it will make history; no "Ragtime festival" I have ever been to *or* heard about has *only* featured Ragtime. At any given Ragtime festival, one may hear cakewalks, marches, waltzes, vaudeville songs, parlor songs, jazz, stride, blues, boogie, tango, etc. Let's be consistent and honest about this matter.

  3. A firm musical case may be made that Terra Verde belongs at a Ragtime event as much or even more than most of these styles. Being essentially composed (as opposed to improvised) and harmonically developed, Terra Verde shares a common bond with Classic Ragtime that would exclude blues, boogie, stride, and jazz. Also, Terra Verde, unlike these other genres, is a living music and one which is just now finding its place, while at the same time recognizing the importance of the traditions from which it grows. (More on this discussion will appear in my upcoming article "The Future of Ragtime.")

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