Swipesy Cakewalk

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by Scott Joplin and Arthur Marshall
Swipesy Cake Walk Scott Joplin Arthur Marshall.jpg
Cover of the sheet music, 1900
Genre Ragtime
Form Cakewalk
Published 1900 (1900)
Publisher John Stark & Son
Instrument: Piano Solo

The "Swipesy Cakewalk" is a ragtime composition written in 1900 by a musical duo consisting of the notable ragtime master Scott Joplin, who composed the trio, and the young composer Arthur Marshall, who composed the rest of the piece. "Swipesy" uses the simple syncopations of a cakewalk - the first beat being a sixteenth, eighth, sixteenth note division, and the second beat an even eighth note division. The style follows the AA BB A CC DD musical form common for both cakewalks and rags, particularly after the earlier publication of Joplin's hit Maple Leaf Rag. Only the C section, composed by Joplin, departs from the cakewalk rhythm and is more pure ragtime. The composition was written in the late 1890s when Joplin was living with the Marshall family, and was teaching Arthur (1881 - 1968), composition.

"Swipesy" begins with a four-measure introduction in B-flat major (two flats). It modulates to E-flat major (three flats) for the trio (C) section, returning to B-flat for the final (D) section. It is thought that Joplin wrote the trio and Marshall wrote the A, B and D strains.[1]

A popular legend says that the title was suggested by John Stillwell Stark, one of Joplin's original publishers, when "Swipesy" was first being considered for publication.[2] The photograph which was to appear on the cover of the new (and unnamed) composition featured a young Sedalia newsboy[3] with a shy expression on his face. Stark allegedly remarked that the boy's countenance seemed to suggest that he had just "swiped" something from a cookie jar. "Lets call [the tune] 'Swipesy'," said Stark, and thus the title was decided. Marshall gave another explanation of the title's origin during a 1960 interview: he and Joplin had just delivered the music to Stark's office when two newspaper boys began quarreling outside, one swiped a newspaper from the other, and Stark, upon observing this, suggested that they name the work "Swipesy".[1]

The copyright for this piece was registered on July 21, 1900.[3]


  1. ^ a b Berlin, Edward A. (1994). King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-19-510108-1. 
  2. ^ Hinson, Maurice. At the Piano with Scott Joplin.(1990) Van Nuys, California: Alfred Publishing Co.
  3. ^ a b Jasen, David A.; Trebor Jay Tichenor (1978). Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc. pp. 107–108. ISBN 0-486-25922-6. 

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