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2 minutes reading time (437 words)

Pupil Saver: The Song of Twilight

The Song of Twilight," by Japanese composer Yoshinao Nakada (Frederick Harris Celebration Series: Piano Repertoire, Level 3), is an accessible and motivating piece for the late-elementary pianist. When I prepared students for the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program, many students chose this piece as their finale because of its soaring melody and reflective character. Test

Nakada (1923–2000) made a significant contribution to the piano pedagogy field; his compositions were recognized and discussed in pedagogy textbooks by James Bastien, Maurice Hinson, and Jane Magrath.1 Most of his compositions were written for children; hence, they were short, with simple motivic ideas, and avoided overstretching of the hands. Furthermore, Nakada integrated Japanese musical styles with the western harmonic language, introducing young pianists to an unfamiliar sonority.2

"The Song of Twilight" is in ABA form. The A section consists of two phrases of four measures each and is in A-major tonality, and the bottom notes of the left-hand chords outline the descending scale in A major. The first phrase ends with a half cadence, as seen in measures 1-4. 

The second phrase concludes with a perfect authentic cadence. The primary challenge throughout lies in the balance between the melody and the pulsing chordal accompaniment. To achieve a singing quality in the right hand, finger legato is necessary. However, keeping the arm and forearm light is crucial, too. Students also should practice blocking the left-hand chords before attempting to use the pedal.

When using an A-major pentatonic scale (right-hand melody A, B, C-sharp, E, and F-sharp) with a traditional Western harmonic structure (V-I) in the left hand, a meditative twilight atmosphere is created, as seen in measures 5-8. 

When the A section repeats, students can create a darker tone contrast by experimenting with pianissimo.

The B section is four measures long and is in the relative minor of F-sharp. The right hand is in a higher register, and the mood is more mournful. An unresolved feeling comes from a lack of the leading tone (E-sharp) and the use of second-inversion tonic chord (F-sharp minor) in the left hand. At measures 9-12, this section ends abruptly with staccato notes. 

This piece requires sensitive touch, smooth pedaling, and acute listening for balance and direction. Practicing these skills in a piece of music rather than in an exercise will definitely keep the student's interest. Furthermore, learning this gem gives students an opportunity to broaden their understanding and appreciation of different cultures by introducing a composer of a different heritage. Highly recommended. 

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Closer Look May/June 2017: New Ways with Bach
News and Notes: May/June 2017
 

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