In Mask, musical layers are covered and revealed. Overtone ‘masks’ in the soundtrack transform the colour of the notes in the instrumental ensemble, shifting the sound texture. The acoustic material played by the ensemble is manipulated and snipped apart in the soundtrack. The musical layers within the ensemble and soundtrack overlap one another; sudden interruptions rip a hole in the texture, revealing previously concealed layers.

A percussionist obsessively pulls gaffer tape from a table surface, causing the ensemble to react with manic outbursts. As an old-fashioned metronome, operated by the percussionist, gradually becomes muffled, the soundtrack slowly robs the ensemble’s sound of its overtones.


Mask is commissioned by Kunststiftung NRW, Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst and Casa da Música, Porto.

press quotes

Balanced between experimentation and the senses

— La Libre

Passionate music

“Passionate music of Michel van der Aa”
— De Standaard

Effective new piece by Michel van der Aa

“…an electronic layer flows along with the sound of the ensemble, creating strange mixtures…an effective piece that, thanks to a buildup of small climaxes, moves towards a supreme moment, followed, like a coda, by a series of gradually thinning chords with dazzling harmonic spectra.”
— De Volkskrant

Remarkably individual, purely emotional quality

“With ‘Mask’ Michel van der Aa once again proves his craftsmanship… Van der Aa succeeds in imbuing his music with a remarkably individual, purely emotional quality…clarity of form, maximum use of a small amount of material, mastery of form and a keen sense of timing and effect: these are all present and accounted for.”
— De Telegraaf


for ensemble and soundtrack

1 flute
1 clarinet in B flat
1 trumpet in C
1 horn in F
1 tenor trombone

1 percussion

Strings (1,1,1,1,1)

Soundtrack (1 player)
(doubleA player software, from laptop)


Duration 14'
First performance 11 February 2007, musikFabrik, cond. Peter Rundel
Commissioned by Kunststiftung NRW, Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst and Casa da Música, Porto
Published by Boosey & Hawkes



ASKO|Schönberg, Otto Tausk – conductor


Last performance:

  • 07 February 2020
    Manson Ensemble conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth
    Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London, United Kingdom

Upcoming performances:

  • 09 May 2020
    Insomnio ensemble, cond. Ulrich Pöhl
    Tonhalle, Dusseldorf, Germany