Michel van der Aa / Works / 


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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.


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

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

Passionate music

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

Balanced between experimentation and the senses

— La Libre



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)




First performance

11 February 2007
WDR studio, Köln, Germany

Commissioned by

Kunststiftung NRW, Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst and Casa da Música, Porto


Boosey & Hawkes


ASKO|Schönberg, Otto Tausk – conductor


Upcoming performance

10 May 2024


New York Philharmonic, Kwamé Ryan

Lincoln Center (Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall), New York, U.S.A.

Last performance

21 November 2023


Zemlinsky Chamber Orchestra. Fergus McAlpine, conductor.

Geertekerk, Utrecht, Netherlands

All performances of Mask


24 August 2009

World premiere of “Mask”

MusikFabrik MusikFabrik and the ASKO Ensemble performed the European premieres of Mask, a new work for ensemble and soundtrack. The work was commissioned by Kunststiftung NRW, Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst and Casa da Música, Porto. 

In Mask, musical layers are covered and revealed. Over...

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22 August 2009

‘Mask’ performances across Europe, USA and Japan

Ensemble Modern Following successful performances in Cologne, Venice, Brussels, Sardinia, Valencia, Porto and Amsterdam in 2006, Mask continues to be programmed by prominent European ensembles and concert halls. Ensemble Modern successfully performed the work in Frankfurt on 2 April. Future perfor...

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