Mars, the opening movement of Holst's Planets Suite, begins with two surprises: the first is its time-signature of 5/4, so that the pulse and style are clearly suggestive of a march, yet the march itself is (intentionally) 'un-marchable' to those of us without 5 feet. The second, more subtle but distinctive feature is that all the string players are instructed to perform col legno from the outset. What does this instruction mean?
Similar to pizzicato ('plucking'), except the string is flicked with the fingernail
The strings are plucked with a plectrum or quill, rather than the bare fingertip
The bow is turned over and its wooden back is bounced off the string, instead of the 'hair' side of the bow being drawn across it as more usually
A mute is applied to the strings