O, Colored Earth

Text:     Steve Heitzeg

A simple song for peace and justice composed in 1993.


Black white red brown                   Only hope,

yellow birth,                      only dreams

blue and green,                         can erase

o, colored earth                        the tears and screams.


Sister Rain,                            O, I shall sing

Brother Stone,                     and I shall work

bring us back                      for peace on earth

to our true home.                       until all are free.


What can I,                             Turtle and wolf,

a single soul,                     leopard and deer,

do for those                            water and land-

I don't even know?                 all lives are equal.

Birds and trees,

O, I shall sing                         people and plants,

and I shall work                        dolphin and whale-

for peace on earth                      all lives are equal.

until all are free.                     Butterflies,


Peace and love,                        

love and peace,                         all lives are equal.

peace and love-                         all lives

the earth is waiting.

Love and peace,                         Sister Rain,

peace and love,                         Brother Stone,

love and peace-                         bring us back

help one another.                       to our true home.

Peace and love,

love and peace,                         Thousands of lives,

the earth is waiting.                   thousands of lives,

peace and love                     thousands of lives-

each life is sacred.

No more war.                       Thousands of lives,

No more fear.                      thousands of lives,

May hunger soon                         thousands of lives-

disappear.                              each life is sacred.

Thousands of lives,

No more doubt.                     thousands of lives,

No more lies.                      thousands of lives-

Only truth                              each life is sacred.

shall free the cries.                        sacred lives.


Endangered (Written in Honor of All Turtles and Tortoises on Earth)


I.   Our Ancestors' Voices

II.  Beauty Lives

III. The Senseless Destruction by Human Beings Begins

IV.  The 28 Species of Endangered Turtles and Tortoises

V.   Lament for the Earth

VI.  In Tortoise Time

VII. Ghosts of the Galapagos

VIII.     Hope Emerging, Truth Enduring

IX.  Our Ancestors' Voices and Our Voices Become One





Endangered is a one-movement work in nine sections that symbolically represents the situation of turtles and tortoises past, present and future.  I integrated the names of the 28 species of turtles and tortoises that are listed in the Federal Endangered Species List into the score.  The cello seemed an appropriate instrument for such a work, with the solitary tone of the instrument reflecting the rich, individualistic spirit of these remarkable beings--also, the physical appearance of the cello is not unlike the Galapagos Tortoise.  The work closes with the cellist humming while playing harmonics.


The unifying theme of Endangered is respect for all living beings.  My reasons for composing a work in honor of turtles and tortoises are as follows:

1)The turtle is an ancient symbol for Mother Earth; time; immortality; the all-sustaining; 'the turtle carries the earth on her back'; Turtle Island.

2)Turtles and tortoises are some of the oldest living beings on earth and the destruction of these beings is unnecessary, disrespectful and inhumane.

3)People need to realize that we are all one.  Humans can surely learn from the way of life of turtles and tortoises.

4)Turtles, and all the earth, are music for all of us to listen to.  It is through this work that I hope to awaken this ideal.


Hurt Not the Earth for voice and piano

Text:  "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, neither the trees"

The Revelation of John- 7:3


Webassin (from Ojibwe: "I am carried away by the wind") for voice and cello Text: Steve Heitzeg


I have lost a friend to the wind

that blows to no end

Each life is like the wind,

each breeze says 'Heart, you will mend'


How can we be so cruel?

For animals are true

And yet we deny their very lives


anima     anima     'Touch me not'

anima     awessi    anima


I have found a friend in the wind

that blows now and then


Webassin is an elegy for disappearing and displaced lives (plant, animal, insect and all




istimbe (the Dakota word for 'sleep') for voice, piano and gourd rattle

Text: the word istimbe


Pipestone Peace Pipe for solo flute, ocarina and stone


I.   Pipestone: Jeffers Petroglyphs

A movement exploring the mystery of prairie wind and these ancient 'pictures in rock' near the sacred pipestone site in southern Minnesota.  The notation for this movement is non-traditional in that it is patterned after petroglyph designs.  The performer begins the piece by rubbing stone on an ocarina.  Throughout the movement the performer plays both a traditional flute as well as an ocarina, in order

to evoke the sounds of earlier indigenous wood flutes and stone pipes.


II.  Peace (for the Peacemakers)

An adagio for peace and for those who believe in peace.


III. Pipe: Dance of the Healing Breath

A dance for the living and in celebration of life.


Raven and Crow: Medicine Birds for chamber ensemble (woodwind player, two percussionists and piano)


Ravens and crows are found all over the world--and they are everywhere in mythology, too.  The Algonquins would not hurt or kill crows as crows had originally brought humans the gifts of seed corn and beans.  In ancient Ireland, a raven's croaking was believed to predict death and the future.  To the Bella Bella, Haida, Kwaikiutl, Tlingit and Tsimishian of the Pacific Northwest and the Koyukon

in Alaska, Raven created the moon, the stars, the sun, the earth and humans.   yenne, Kiowa,Lakota, Paiute and other indigenous nations of North America.  To the Hopis, the Mother of All Kachinas is Angwusi Navasi, Crow Mother.  Ravens and crows are medicine (an Algonquin word meaning 'sacred power') birds, shamanic birds of healing, mysterious messengers between the living and spirit worlds, comical corvids,

tricksters, the wise winged-ones.


I.   The Mask We Call Ourselves

The mystery of being, of self.  We need to, once again, become Raven, Crow, Fish, Leaf, Lake.  Each percussionist plays a Yupik frame drum while holding it in front of her/his face--the drum becomes the mask.  Throughout this movement each percussionist speaks, whispers and shouts the following words that reflect ravens'and crows' roles in society:


Quigok (raven in Yurok); crow; as the crow flies; before the raven calls; Angwusi(crow in Hopi); Adoko (raven in Hopi); Munin (memory) and Hugin (thought)—in Nordic legend, the pair of ravens perched on the shoulders of Odin; nevermore (after Poe's poem The Raven); Little Crow (the Dakota chief); Jim Crow (a term used used to describe the post-civil war laws, which mandated racial segregation).  The pianist plays rapid glissandos inside the piano and plays a crow call.  This,

combined with the woodwind player's snapping and shaking of a towel, is the rush of wings.  The movement closes with the tempo marking 'Ravenous!'


II.  The Painting of the Birds (Why Raven is Black)

One form of the tale is that Loon and Raven agree to paint each other, but Loon blackens Raven all over (with a substance related to fire: soot, ash, charcoal or lamp oil) because Raven is too impatient.  Several North American tales claim the transformation of color involves either fire or the sun.  The emphasis in this movement is on the changing from Tempo I (Raven) to Tempo II (Loon).  A loon call

and the changing tempos depict the dialogues between Raven and Loon as they paint each other. 


III. Raven Unravels the Night Sky and Frees the Stars

This movement is a free-form fugue built on a twelve-tone row (for the twelve moons and totems) which begins on the pitch A (for avian).  There is a prayer-like interlude for piano, jing cymbals and pitched gong before the movement closes with the star-like and distant night sky theme.


IV.  Heckle and Jeckle, 'Eat Crow' and Crow's Feet

A scherzo in tribute to the trickster image of Raven and Crow, and to the TV cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle, the talking magpies, I remember from childhood.


V.   Crow Cadenzas and Prayer Council

Just the voices of crows and the sound of corn and corn husks.  The performers sit in a circle, make wing-like gestures with their arms, shake corn rattles (three ears of corn with husks) and play crow calls. Crow Cadenzas and Prayer Council is my deepest apology to all living spirits whose lives are taken each day.


VI.  Canoe of Life

We are all in the canoe together--all species, all beings, one journey.  This movement is inspired by Roy DeForest's moving painting Canoe of Fate and Bill Reid's visionary sculpture The Black Canoe.  The lyrical lines of the clarinet are meant to glide over the piano's 'paddling' gesture just as a canoe or kayak glides over the ocean, a lake or a river.  Fluid, watery, flowing (like a raven or crow flying very high,

tipping in and then out of the wind's currents), this movement is a meditation.  For it, I have constructed wind chimes from fallen birch bark branches and pine cones to symbolize the birch bark canoe--a silent music over the water to which we all return.