Flexible Instrumentation & Fixed ElectronicsEasy5:00

Drawing Mars (Flex)


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“…inside Lowell’s head as he looks through his telescope, night after night, in the dark, all alone, as his mind maybe starts to wander…”

Listen to Drawing Mars (Flex)

Performed by Hartwick Wind Ensemble Tuesday Band

Conducted by Dr. Andrew Pease

Drawing Mars

Program Note

By Michael Markowski

In 6th grade, my entire class participated in a “wax museum” history project — a “night at the museum” at Crismon Elementary School in Mesa, Arizona. We all stood along the perimeter in the library, in front of bookcases, with a small construction paper circle on the floor in front of us. This was the “button” that, when stepped on, activated the speeches we had memorized, narrated in the voices of the historic figures we had chosen to embody. One of us dressed as Sacajawea, another as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. My costume was a simple turtleneck sweater. Long before Steve Jobs made turtlenecks trendy, there was Carl Sagan, and for one night, I became him.

Before I discovered my love for music, I loved space. In my bedroom, in the many craters of my popcorn ceiling, I stuck what must have been hundreds of tiny glow-in-the-dark stars. On hot, summer nights, a swirling galaxy would appear as I also peppered these stickers on the blades of my ceiling fan. On my desk next was a large plastic globe of the moon and, for a short-lived time in our living room, I had even constructed a homemade planetarium taped together from triangular pieces of heavy, black garbage bags and inflated by a table fan. Inside, equipped with a flashlight and a laser pointer, I talked to an imaginary audience about my favorite constellations and the planets of our solar system as they, too, glowed on the inside ceiling of this giant, dark plastic bubble. In the evenings, I spent hours looking at the surface of the moon, at Mars, at the rings of Saturn, at the moons orbiting Jupiter, at the Andromeda galaxy, at that fuzzy little nebula near Orion’s belt, all through an 8” diameter telescope in my backyard. I even remember trying to read a couple of Carl Sagan’s books, although in retrospect I was probably too young to really understand them. But after finding a few episodes of his show Cosmos, a TV program that made the wonders of the universe easily digestible, I was hooked. For a 7th grade English project, I even made a short film called Their First Encounter — my first attempt at writing and directing science-fiction, complete with fog, strobe lights, and tin foil costumes.

As my obsession grew, I eventually asked my mom to drive me two hours north to Flagstaff, Arizona where Lowell Observatory has stood at the top of Mars Hill Road for the last 100 years. Percival Lowell was born into a rich family in the mid 1800s, studied math at Harvard, travelled the world, but soon realized that the universe was calling to him. Out of his own pocket, he funded his own observatory.

Lowell was obsessed with the planet Mars. His colleague in Italy, a guy by the name of Giovanni Schiaparellli, had discovered strange lines all across the planet — lines that, in Italian, he called ‘canali’ (not to be confused with cannoli). In Italian, canali roughly translates to ‘channel-like landscapes’— like a riverbed — something naturally made — no big deal. But when Lowell translated the word, he called them ‘canals,’ which have a very different connotation. When we think of canals, as Lowell did, we probably think of something man-made, something that has been constructed with purpose and intention.

Lowell wanted to study these canals for himself, so night after night, he would look through his telescope up at Mars, then down at a piece of paper and draw the surface of the planet as he saw it. He did this for months and eventually developed a theory: he believed that Mars was a dying planet — that it was drying up — and in order to save their civilization, some kind of intelligent beings had constructed this incredible system of canals — some 30 miles wide — in an attempt to siphon melting water from the polar ice caps and funnel them down to the major metropolitan areas, the darker areas on the planet which he called oases.

The crazy thing about all this is that people believed him! Actually, there was really no reason to doubt him. He was well-educated, he had the best technology available for the times and one of the biggest telescopes in the world. He wrote three really convincing books arguing this theory, and in 1905, even The New York Times ran a full page article under the headline “THERE IS LIFE ON THE PLANET MARS: Prof. Percival Lowell, recognized as the greatest authority on the subject, declares there can be no doubt that living beings inhabit our neighbor world.” In fact, it would take another 50 years for scientists to get close enough to Mars to see in better detail that oh… there aren’t actually any Martian-made canals after all. Although we now know that the canals that Lowell saw were largely psychological tricks, his observations captured the imagination of the world and even inspired early 20th century science-fiction like H.G. Welles’s War of the Worlds and Edgar Rice Bourroughs’s many Mars-inspired books.

I don’t think the music in Drawing Mars tells a story about aliens invading Earth or of “first contact” or anything like that, but I do think it tries to get inside Lowell’s head as he looks through his telescope, night after night, in the dark, all alone, as his mind maybe starts to wander… and wonder… woah, what if I’m right? What if there is life on Mars?

Of course, we now know that Lowell’s imagination maybe got the best of him, but as Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

A Note About Divisi:

To maintain the richness of harmony in Drawing Mars, Parts 1, 2, and 3 include a substantial amount of divisi playing. While this arrangement is for a “four-part adaptable instrumentation,” to achieve a maximum effect, it should be played by no less than eight winds, brass, or string players (a minimum of two players for each part). Of course, there is no maximum to the total number of players and this arrangement could also be performed by a full ensemble. However, when assigning parts, please be sure to assign an equal number of players to the top and bottom notes to ensure a proper balance of this harmony. When parts divide into octaves (no harmony), the player may choose whichever octave is most comfortable to play on their instrument.

A Note About Percussion:

The percussion has been separated into two categories: essential and optional. For a maximum effect, this piece should be performed with no less than three percussion players. If more than three are available, you may choose to cover any or all of the remaining four optional percussion parts.

A Note About The Fixed Electronics:

During this time, many of us have been forced to rehearse with our musicians online and often in sync with a click track. The fixed electronics in this arrangement provide a built-in click track and something fun to play along with. In addition to the electronics, your ensemble will be accompanied by Grammy Award-winning vocalist Hila Plitmann as she sings along with you in a Morricone-esque vocalise. A rehearsal video for these fixed electronics can be found on YouTube. Here, you will have the option to rehearse with the electronics and a click track in addition to being able to slow down the audio and begin the track from rehearsal marks.

Helpful Videos

Introducing “Drawing Mars: Flex Edition”

“Drawing Mars: Flex Edition” Trailer

Rehearsal Video #1 (Electronics and Click Track)

Rehearsal Video #2 (Winds/Brass MIDI and Click Track)

Commissioned By

Patrick Marsh Middle School 7th Grade Band
Chris Gleason, Music Educator


Markowski Creative (ASCAP)


PART 1: Flute, Oboe, Violin, B-flat Clarinet, B-flat Soprano Saxophone, B-flat Trumpet
PART 2: Flute, Oboe, Violin, B-flat Clarinet, B-flat Trumpet, E-flat Alto Saxophone
PART 3: Viola, B-flat Clarinet, B-flat Trumpet, E-flat Alto Saxophone, B-flat Tenor Saxophone, Horn in F, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon
PART 4: Cello, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon, B-flat Bass Clarinet, E-flat Baritone Saxophone, Tuba, Double Bass

Percussion 1: Snare Drum
Percussion 2: Hi-Hat, Suspended Cymbal, Tam-Tam

Percussion 3: Vibraphone
Percussion 4: Marimba, Suspended Cymbal
Percussion 5: Temple Blocks, Crash Cymbal, Vibraslap
Percussion 6: Bass Drum


No known errata.

Year Completed

2019, Rev. 2021

Weight N/A
Dimensions N/A


Chamber Music, Orchestra, Other, Wind Ensemble