Headwaters – Music of the Peel River Watershed

By Matthew Lien 2014
© Whispering Willows Records

It seemed impossible! In 24 hours, I had gone from Beijing, China (on the smoggiest day in recorded history) to the pristine headwaters of the Peel River Watershed in Canada’s Yukon.

The floatplane touching down on McClusky Lake—and the immediate greeting by a mother moose and her two calves—seemed both surreal and exceedingly vivid. In the cities where most of us live, we just don’t see colours, animals, mountains, waters and skies like these.

And that’s why we came. My fellow artists and I hoped to convey the essence and magnificence of Canada’s Peel River Watershed through music, sound and imagery, so that others could experience and treasure this wilderness.

Despite overwhelming opposition from a vast majority of Yukon communities and indigenous groups, the current Yukon government has indicated that extensive mining, oil and gas and other industrial development may soon occur within the Peel River Watershed. This knowledge further fuelled our commitment.

Three weeks, 550 kilometers of paddling and countless memorable experiences later, I had a notebook full of lyrics and compositions, several hours of digital 3D recordings, and a head full of music. This was already a satisfying accomplishment, but the bigger challenge lay ahead: All this music and sound was to be combined with the stunning imagery of photographer Peter Mather and visual artist Stephanie Ryan, as our collective experience was transformed into a series of multimedia concerts.

Weeks of studio preparation and intensive collaborative rehearsals with some of North America’s finest musicians resulted in sold-out concerts, where we had successfully shared both the majesty and the fragility of the Peel River’s wilderness—truly one of Earth’s few remaining sacred spaces.

Job well done! Time to sit back and relax! Right?

Not so fast…

The overwhelming audience response and desire to share this music of the Peel River Watershed led us to recognize our greater responsibility to a wider audience. We all agreed that the music we had created was worthy of being professionally recorded and published as a CD.

But we cannot do this without you.

Please help us meet the final challenge of our long journey. Together we can spread this musical message of preserving wilderness and culture!

Information about the musicians involved, song demos, and a video of “Dragon at the Stony Gates” are all found below.

We thank you for taking the time to read this, and for your interest in the Peel River Watershed. But in truth, reading about wilderness is not enough: honouring wilderness requires full-on engagement.

So grab your paddle (metaphorically speaking), and let’s run these final rapids together!