Masks Composing at Home (Children) >

In this activity you are going to compose a piece of music for 1 performer that is a short drama between 3 characters inspired by Masks for solo flute by British composer Oliver Knussen

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In Lockdown, we have all become used to people wearing masks. Masks change how people look and can appear to give them a different character or hide what they are really thinking. Masks are used in theatre to transform people into different characters.

masks 1

Masks is also a piece of music for solo flute by the British composer Oliver Knussen. In the music, the solo flute player wears a mask and moves about the stage and becomes different characters.  The composer described it as "a dramatic miniature enacted by the flautist". He was exploring how you could create a drama with different characters when there was only one line of music played by one instrument. You can listen to the piece here:

Below is BCMG flautist Tony Robb playing two of the characters. Think of three words to describe each character.  Think about how each character might move and their personality.

The flute takes on different characters and changes character within the piece. Listen to Tony playing this section where it is as if two characters are having a conversation:

Here is the music score for this part. One character is the top line of the music and one the bottom line. You can see that each bit looks different. You can also see the instructions for the musician to face Right or Left:


Make a Mask

If you would like to make masks for your characters there are some great ideas HERE and  HERE using recycled materials. If you do this, make sure you can still play your instrument with your mask on!

For PRINTABLE version of this resource CLICK HERE

Your Turn!

In this activity you are going to compose a piece of music that is a short drama between 3 characters. You will be the only performer and therefore play the music for all three characters. 

Think about your characters:

  • How do they move?
  • What kind of personality do they have?
  • How are they feeling?

Sometimes it helps to develop a character by moving around the room in character - perhaps with a mask on. Now think about how you will represent the 3 characters musically in sound.

  • Will your music be fast or slow
  • What rhythms will you use?
  • Will it be loud or quiet?
  • What interesting ways of playing and sounds can you find on your instrument or sound makers?
  • How will the notes you choose give personality to your character?
  • Will the melody jump around from high to low or use notes which are close together?

Once you have done created the music for your 3 characters, draw your musical ideas on a piece of A4 paper (divided into 3 like below) to show the shapes of your musical ideas. Use one section for each character and a different colour for each character. This is a graphic score. Here's one created by Sukhpreet in one of BCMG's Music Maze workshops:

Sukhpreet part 1

  1. Make a second copy of your graphic score
  2. Cut one of the copies into 3 strips
  3. Put them in the order you would like to play them.This is the Part 1 of your piece and will introduce your 3 characters.
  4. Now cut the second copy into 3 strips and then each strip into 2 or 3 smaller pieces.
  5. Put the small bits in an order that you like. You might just like the way it sounds or to help you decide on the order you might imagine a drama, conversation or story happening between the three characters. This is the second part of your musical graphic score. 

Below is Part 2 of the Sukhpreet's piece. In this one, Sukhpreet has decided to cut up her strips into fairly equal bits. You don't have to do this - some could be short and some long. Also you can arrange them like this on a piece of paper or put them in a long line

Sukhpreet part 2

Finally, decide on how you will perform your piece. You could....

  • Move to different parts of the room
  • Face different ways
  • Make different gestures or facial expressions,
  • Wear different masks show which character you are at any point during the music. Now perform your final piece - Part 1 and then Part 2.

Please send any music you create to