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NightChants: American Indian Settings

The Song of Bekotsidi (Navajo) (ensemble)


The Creation of the Moon (Caxinua) (ensemble/text piece)


Whatever Place I Come on Trouble (Crow) (ensemble)


The Dead who Climb up to the Sky (Eskimo) (ensemble)

Score Sample

NightChant (Navajo) (Countertenor)


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The Song of Bekotsidi (Navajo)

NOTE: This is the song that was chanted by the god Bekotsidi to bless the animals that he was shaping during the Navajo genesis.

Now Bekotsidi that am I. For them I make.
Now child of Day Bearer am I. For them I make.
Now Day Bearer's beam of blue. For them I make.
Shines on my feet and your feet too. For them I make.
Horses of all kinds now increase. For them I make.
At my fingers' tips and yours. For them I make.
Beasts of all kinds now increase. For them I make.
The bluebirds now increase. For them I make.

Soft goods of all kinds now increase. For them I make.
Now with the pollen they increase. For them I make.
Increasing now, they will last forever. For them I make.
In old age wandering on the trail of beauty. For them I make.
To form them fair, for them I labor. For them I make.

Translation by Washington Matthews, 1980
The Oxford Book of Verse
Oxford University Press (permission granted)

The Creation of the Moon (Caxinua-Amazon)

The man cut his throat and left his head there.
The others went to get it.
When they got there they put the head in a sack.
Farther on the head fell out onto the ground.
They put the head back in the sack.
Farther on the head fell out again.
Around the first sack, they put a second one that was thicker.
But the head fell out just the same.
They left it in the middle of the road.
They went away.
They crossed the river.
But the head followed them.
They climbed up a tree full of fruit to see whether it would go past.
The head stopped at the foot of the tree and asked them for some fruit.
So then men shook the tree so that the fruit fell into the river.
The head said it couldn't get the fruit from there.
So the men threw the fruit a long way to make the head go a long way to get it so they could go.
While the head was getting the fruit the men got down from the tree and went on.
The head came back and looked that the tree and didn't see anybody so went on sailing down the road.
The men had stopped to wait to see whether the head would follow them.
They saw the head come rolling. They ran.
They got to their hut but they told the others that the head was rolling after them and to shut the door.
All the huts were closed tight.
When it got there the head commanded them to open the doors.
The owners would not open them because they were afraid.
So the head started to think what it would turn into.
If it turned into water they would drink it.
If it turned into earth they would walk on it.
If it turned into a house they would live in it.
If it turned into a steer they would kill it and eat it.
If it turned into a cow they would milk it.
If it turned into wheat they would eat it.
If it turned into a bean they would cook it.
If it turned into the sun when men were cold it would heat them.
If it turned into rain the grass would grow and the animals would crop it.
So it thought, and it said, "I will turn into the moon."
It called, "Open the doors, I want to get my things."
They would not open them.
The head cried. It called out, "At least give me two balls of twine."
They threw out the two balls of twine through a hole.
It took them and threw them into the sky.
It asked them to throw it a little stick, too, to roll the thread around so it could climb up. Then it said, "I can climb, I am going to the sky."
It started to climb. The men opened the doors right away.
The head went on climbing. The men shouted, "You going to the sky, head?"
It didn't answer.
As soon as it got to the Sun
It turned into the Moon.
Toward evening the Moon was white, it was beautiful.
And the men were surprised to see that the head had turned into the Moon.

Whatever Place I Come on Trouble (Crow)

Whatever place
I come on trouble
my death will not be there

I shall pass through

though there be many arrows
I shall reach
where I am going

as the heart of a man should be
mine is

The Dead Who Climb up to the Sky (Eskimo)

The dead who climb up to the sky
climb up steps
to the sky
up worn steps
all the dead who climb up to the sky
on worn steps
worn from the other side
worn from the inside
climb up to the sky

translations by W.S. Merwin, 1975
Selected Translations
Atheneum (permission granted)

NightChant (Navajo)

NOTE: NightChant "Yeibetchai" is the Navajo shaman's Incantation. This setting is a transcription based on an improvisation by David Echelard, a member of LISTEN.

Ohohoho hehehe heyaheya...
Eo lado eo lado eo lado nase...
Howani how owow owe...
Habi niy habi niye...
Ha'huizanaha sihiwanaha...


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