Using music in mask theatre
Since full mask theatre has no dialogue, its aural world is immediately different to a spoken theatre piece; anything put in place of the dialogue takes on more significance. When you use music for your own mask productions, putting care and attention into your music choices will make a huge difference.
Why use music?
Music and sound reinforce, underpin or counteract the action on stage it can tell you where and when the action is taking place, what a character is feeling, the pace of the action, whether there is danger round the corner. But if you don’t think clearly about the music and sound you are using, you can confuse your audience, and even tell an entirely different story to the one you intended.
How does choice of music effect the performance?
Mood: different styles of music and sounds have particular moods which you can use to your advantage – try different pieces out for yourself under scenes and see what each makes you feel.
Time and place: most audiences have a very good understanding of ‘period’ music: Rock and Roll says 1950s, Punk or Abba the1970s… and what about sound? Will a recording of a train station help establish your scene?
Character traits or feelings: you'll recognise this from film, where the soundtrack tells the audience that the character is scared, or happy, or contemplative, even if nothing is given away visually. You can also mirror film techniques by playing music that tells the audience what is coming – think of the shower scene in Psycho.
Creating pace: think of a car chase on TV, or a gentle stroll by a lake in a costume drama: the music will mirror the pace of the action, and the sound will be heightened – screeching tyres, or gently birdsong.
Do I have to use music?
No of course not, but if you decide not to use it don’t forget that also will communicate something! Silence can be used to great effect to heighten moments, or underpin emotions. If you use music with words, those words will also tell a story which the audience will pay attention to – so make sure it's the one you want to tell.