Yukon musician Matthew Lien has been inspired by natural soundscapes and landscapes for as long as he has been making music.
He currently lives in Taiwan, but will return to the Yukon in February to perform a concert inspired by a trip he took down the Wind River in the Peel watershed this past summer.
Lien collects natural sounds from the environment, like rushing rapids or migrating caribou, and composes them into symphonies of natural and produced sound.
The Yukon Wildlands Concert will feature Lien and a full band of musicians performing in front of photographs and video footage taken on two recent trips to the Peel watershed.
Peter Mather was the photographer on those trips.
The first trip, in 2011, took him down the Snake River. The hikes were great, but the photography was challenging, he said.
“I had to get up really early and stay up really late just trying to get some good photos,” said Mather.
The 2012 trip down the Wind River was mercifully easier.
“It was a little bit less work because I just had stuff coming out at me all the time.”
The team was just setting up camp after being dropped off by the floatplane, when someone spotted a moose and two calves on the shore of the lake.
“We went down to the edge of the lake and we just kind of sat and waited to see how close this moose would come to us.
“And you don’t expect it to come too close, but it was coming closer and closer, and it had two calves too, so you expect it to be nervous but she just kept coming closer and closer and eventually we made some noise so she knew that we were there, but she kept coming anyhow.
“She ended up walking right along the shoreline in front of us, probably 12 feet away.”
The moose family stayed close for the two days they were camped on that spot, never appearing to be bothered by their presence.
Mathers actually has Lien to thank for his eventual career choice in wilderness photography.
He was a university student in Edmonton when he first saw Lien perform. It was a multimedia show based on Lien’s experiences in the Yukon wilderness.
“Seeing that first concert in Edmonton was what inspired me to pursue environmental photography.”
After university, Mather worked for a year in Old Crow as a teacher.
There, he worked with Lien as well as Ken Madsen to help form the Caribou Commons Project, which aimed to protect the calving ground of the Porcupine caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Lien formed a band called Wildlands and they released a CD, Caribou Commons, in 1999.
The group toured around the world, bringing the sights and sounds of the Arctic to people who would never get a chance to visit.
In 2005 he released a second CD inspired by the project called Arctic Refuge.
The upcoming concert at the Yukon Arts Centre will be both a homecoming for Lien and a sort of revival of the Yukon Wildlands Project.
The show will feature music by Lien, photography by Mather, video by Brendan Preston and watercolour by Stephanie Ryan, all based on the two Peel trips.
There will be a reception for an opening of Ryan’s work following the concert.
She hopes that the show will give people a sense of what it’s like to visit the Peel watershed, and that the experience will move others, like it has moved her.
“I know when I look at Peter’s photos and some of the video that was taken, I am moved to tears. It’s so beautiful.”
She hopes her paintings will give people a sense of that feeling.
“I want people to care about this place, even if they haven’t been there.”
Although debate over the Peel land-use plan has become quite heated in the territory, the artists plan to leave politics at the door.
“We’re not going to talk a lot about protection and the political side of things,” said Mather. We just want to give people a perspective on the Peel so they can see what it’s like and make some decisions.”
For them, it’s about showing people what it’s like to be there rather than telling them what to think about it.
And as a bonus, one lucky concert goer will win a chance to actually see it. Widrig Outfitters has donated a three-day horseback trip in the Peel, which will be given away by draw at the event.
The concert will be held on Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Tickets are currently available for purchase at www.yukontickets.com. The cost is $25 for adults, and $15 for children ages 12 and under.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at