Is There Life On Mars?

by John Riggio/Teresa Jennings

In this timely piece, John and Teresa have teamed up once again and ask the all-important question, "Is there life on Mars?" Classroom teachers will appreciate this across the curriculum focus on a scientific subject, so be sure to let them know you have this in your repertoire. With all the recent attention paid to the exploration of Mars, you can emphasize the value of music in bringing the subject more alive for the students.

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun in our solar system. Nicknamed "The Red Planet," it has long been the subject of curiosity for its earth neighbors. The question of the existence of life on Mars, either in the past or present, is especially on our minds. Movies, books, even a famous radio tale of a Martian landing all testify to our fascination with the possibility. Toward the discovery of information, unmanned missions to Mars are in the works with the ultimate goal of sending manned missions in the not-too-distant future. There is much information available for your students on this subject, especially through the Internet.

In this song, there is an air of mystery and majesty combined with ethereal, out-of-this-worldly synths and sound effects. The melody of the chorus is very repetitious, and the divisi during the last part of it each time is optional. We suggest letting older students sing the divisi if necessary. It makes the chorus sound way cool.

The chanted rap is also quite simple. In fact, it may be just the thing for some of those older boys you've been trying to inspire. You might even get them to recognize rhythms and dynamics while they're chanting. It begins by itself the second time at measure 37, and continues underneath the melody at measure 45. Keep it subdued here for the best effect.

The melody (part 1) at measure 45 both times is somewhat unusual, but actually quite lovely in a modal sort of way. You can hear how it conjures images of the intrigue of this distant planet. We recommend going over it on a keyboard with your singers separately to learn, or just have them sing along with the recording till they get it. Again, older students will have less difficulty than younger ones.

If you are at all familiar with the classic symphonic works of Gustav Holst, you may recognize a hint of reference to his "Mars." If your students have studied this piece, ask them if they can identify where this occurs.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.