Lem notices and depicts an important truth – about dualism and polarity of the world. Much in The Mask seems to exist in duality, in an antagonistic relationship. Girl – Mantis, King – Dissident, dance – chase, creation – annihilation, day – night, love – hate. The Girl, having appeared at the ball, has a strong feeling that she will meet someone, she goes ahead, she does not know where she goes, but she knows that she will go to someone. She is looking for love. She has that pre-programmed potential and it is that potential that drives her. But she is strongly predisposed to hatred, which is also biding for the right object and the right time to reveal itself. In the first phase of the work (both the story and the composition), the object of love of the Girl is obvious – it is Arrhodes. Although the Girl herself thinks that this love is conventional and shallow, yet it is undeniable. The Girl seduces Arrhodes, and she succumbs to the emotion herself. She allows herself to play that game, without great fervour, but not without a certain degree of pleasure. The object of hatred is less obvious. Initially it seems that it will be the King and his power over the Girl. However, it turns out to be impossible, or at least impossible to be expressed; the Girl-Machine’s programme has a barrier there. So, the character’s hatred is directed against herself. And so, initially, it seems that the possibilities are also limited here. In the carriage, at a point of the utmost desperation, as she cannot come to terms with her own memories she throws herself onto the walls in the act of self-destruction, she is immediately stopped by a stab of a sedative injection (by the way, this is the second time we see a similar thing: a bit earlier the Girl also experiences some stabbing with a sharp object in her throat, though only in her imagination, when she is about to start talking to Arrhodes). But it turns out that self-destruction is only delayed. The hatred for herself is still smouldering and it explodes again at a better moment, in front of a mirror, when the Girl is transforming into the Mantis. This time, a sharp object that penetrates her body is held by her own hand – the lancet cuts her belly, opening the way out for the monster that hides within.
In phase two, the love-hate dynamics is more complex. At the beginning, the feelings of the heroine in the new form seem to be fully reversed. The Mantis is delighted with her reflection in the mirror and with the abilities of her new form. For a long while she cannot take her eyes away from the mirror, she looks at herself from all sides, she is walking around the room trying out the moves, and letting the victim escape. Hatred seems to be directed against the victim. “Love died”, says the Mantis, and only with a slight delay she starts the chase. However, even though as the newly hatched monster, she is ruthless in her actions and the chase is merciless, her feelings are far from being unambiguous. She still has that human element in her, she remembers her love for Arrhodes and while chasing after him, with a clearly set goal, she does not know it herself whether she wants – or should – or what she will actually do when she actually catches him. She is also not able to fully enjoy the love to herself that she has just gained. She feels great joy from her superhuman abilities, the horror that she incites gives her perverse pleasure, but at the same time she feels disgust and regret for her lost love and tenderness. The last scene will show the peak of both of these polar opposites – the Mantis will affectionately wrap its victim-lover in a deadly embrace.
This dualism demands (in any case, it demands it from me) musical reflection. This is done in different ways, starting from from the instrumentation. As I mentioned before, I divided the ensemble into two groups: the (almost) classical “Pierrot” and its “brass” version: flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and on the other hand saxophone, French horn, trumpet, trombone and drums, with a central link in the form of a soprano voice. There will be no clear division here between what is played by the woodwinds with piano and what is played by the brass with drums; from the beginning this relationship is confusing, like all the antagonisms in the story. But in a few moments this instrumental (a)symmetry will become more distinctive. The Mask is a story of transformation. The transformation takes place throughout the entire work – but it is also present at any its stage as a part of a bigger process. These individual moments escape perception, they cannot be fully described, in fact, they do not exist independently, only as “virtual” points on a continuous line. Like the differential function or the Schroedinger’s problem. Three moments in this piece, crucial in its contents, will be an attempt to do the impossible, full and maximal close-up to the asymptote, to take a look at the moment of crossing between the two non-existent points - then the divide of between the woodwinds and the brass will be more perceptible. And then, the texture will also get closer to a single melody for a little while. These moments are: the first meeting of the lovers, the scene with the lancet in front of the mirror, and the confession at the monastery. Somehow, I don’t know how yet, these three moments will be summed up in the finale, which is a multi-level fulfilment of all the heroine’s aspirations.
(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)