David Thomas Roberts’ peripatetic nocturnal contemplation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the late 1970’s inspired some of his most touching works, including Poplarville (1979). The rising melodic phrase in measures 9-11 of the A section is one of the most poignant passages in Roberts’ entire oeuvre. Roberts has always been carefully intentional in his choice of keys. The mauve bittersweetness of Poplarville’s A and B sections is due in part to their D minor/F major tonality. The restatement of the subdued C section (in B-flat major) becomes exultant after a habanera-like bridge (in G minor).
The piece’s parent folio Ragtime Compositions Volume 2—containing pieces like The Early Life of Larry Hoffer, For Kansas City, and Mississippi Brown Eyes—is one of the most formidable collections of Ragtime music available and receives my emphatic recommendation; it and Roberts’ other work can be purchased at dtrstore.com.