Was it the music of the tenderloin bawdy houses or the concert stage? Was it meant to be played exactly as written, or is improvisation permissible? The musicologists are still arguing though Waldo lately detects (and regrets) tendencies to ""imbue it [ragtime] with the most sterile qualities of classicism."" Waldo takes it historically, loves it for its ""iconoclasm,"" its hard-to-categorize meticulous syncopation. Everyone agrees that Scott Joplin was the composer and Maple Leaf Rag was the song that started the 1890s craze. The American Federation of Musicians may have sneered at the ""musical rot"" and denunciations of ""ragging"" good music (meaning European) never really let up, but after Joplin's success white musicians like Joseph Lamb began writing rags and Joplin's publisher admonished the public not to ""confound these numbers with the coon songs or imitations by the commercial composer."" Waldo describes the black and white society of Sedalia, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Mo., the birthplace of the true instrumental rags and whenever possible does so in the words of those--like Eubie Blake who supplies a foreword--who were there. It won't supersede Rudi Blesh's They All Played Ragtime, but it's a nice supplement. With a prodigious bibliography and discography.