Masks is inspired by a type of Chinese opera called Chuanju, which comes from the Sichuan region in southwest China. In Chuanju, each character has his or her own type of face makeup. For example, semi-transparent makeup is often used for females and young men, while yingyang makeup splits a face into two different colors. One special technique called bianlian involves a character who wears silk masks representing different made-up faces. The actor rapidly tears off the masks one by one, displaying an evolution of emotions. The colors commonly used on bianlian masks and their character attributes are white (mischievous), black (fair), red (loyal), blue and green (brutal), yellow (delicate), and gold (supernatural). Multiple colors are often combined in one mask to convey complex characters. Masks reflects different colors in its four sections: 1) white and gold, 2) semitransparent and blue, 3) black and red, and 4) semi-transparent. The basic pitch material consists of a six-note mode. This mode is extended to five other modes by starting each mode in a different position while keeping the first note on the same pitch. Each section includes the combination of two or three modes, thus reflecting the changing characters used in bianlian. The first section uses the two modes with the greatest contrast in pitches, evoking all the hidden masks at the beginning of bianlian. As the music progresses, other modes that share pitches increasingly begin to blend together, as if masks are gradually being taken off to reveal the faces underneath.
Table of Contents
Abstract -- Instrumentation -- Notation -- Music -- Vita