French composer's recording adventure ends in tragedy in the N.W.T.

A Canadian-born French composer has died on a field-recording trip in the Northwest Territories. Julien Gauthier was planning to compose music inspired by those recordings.

Julien Gauthier planned to compose music inspired by the sounds of the N.W.T.'s Mackenzie River

Julien Gauthier, a French and Canadian composer, dreamed of composing music inspired by field recordings made in the N.W.T. A tragic event on Aug. 15, cut his dream short, according to an update on Gauthier's fundraiser page. (Facebook: Remembering Julien Gauthier)

French composer Julien Gauthier crossed the ocean to paddle the mighty Mackenzie River and create music inspired by field recordings gathered along the way. 

A bear killed the Ottawa-born artist on Aug. 15 near Tulita, N.W.T — about halfway to his destination.

Gauthier died of multiple injuries from the bear attack, the Northwest Territories Coroner Service confirmed Wednesday afternoon. 

His travel companion, Camille Toscani​​​​​​, survived.

Gauthier's met researcher and photographer Toscani on the Antarctic Kerguelen Islands, his fundraising page states.

In 2016, he gathered recordings of penguins, seals and the winds of Kerguelen. They inspired his composition, Southern Symphony.

Gauthier and Toscani hatched a similar plan that brought them to the Northwest Territories this year.

On his Facebook page before the trip, Gauthier posted with excitement about his imminent departure. His friends wished him a safe trip. 

They planned to spend 30 days paddling 1,500 kilometres along the Mackenzie River from Fort Providence to Inuvik.

Gauthier was to record field sounds along the river. Toscani, a field scientist, would take the photographs. Gauthier had plans to collaborate with Parisian cellist Michèle Pierre on a composition inspired by the recordings.

According to Gauthier's fundraiser page, the 2016 recordings he gathered of penguins, seals and the winds of Kerguelen inspired his composition, Southern Symphony. (Brittany Symphony Orchestra)

News of his death made its way to Paris and to the Brittany Symphony Orchestra, where Gauthier was a resident composer working on a new symphony.

The orchestra's director, Marc Feldman made a tribute to Gauthier on Facebook.

"His work was faithful to his curious spirit, humble in front of the vast power and beauty of nature. He wanted to transmit through his music, to the public, his love and respect for nature," Feldman wrote.

'He was very attracted by faraway spaces'

In an interview today with CBC's As It Happens, Feldman remembered his late friend. 

"He was very attracted by faraway spaces and faraway places and isolation," said Feldman.

Gauthier wanted to connect with nature and the scientists studying the world today, he said. 

"It's funny. He's a very sociable guy, but when he wanted to write, he needed to get away, and I think that the Northwest Territories ... the Arctic Circle, was, for him, really one of the most remotest places in the world that he could go, and that's what he needed for inspiration." 

Toscani, an experienced biologist, tried her best to save him and she couldn't. Gauthier had been to remote parts of the world before, usually in the company of scientists, said Feldman.  

"He was very excited to do it, and I know that he prepared very, very well," he said. 

Composers who met Gauthier through the orchestra are looking to create a Julien Gauthier prize for young composers who would like to follow in his footsteps, writing about nature, ecology, science and adventure, said Feldman. 

Local authorities confirm identity

It took nearly a week for local authorities to confirm Gauthier as the man who died last week near Tulita. They are still investigating the incident. 

A call for help went out to RCMP from an area south of the community at 7:54 a.m. on Aug. 15. 

A woman reported her travelling companion missing after a bear encounter, stated RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon in a news release last week. Gauthier was recovered the following day, and police said evidence at the scene suggested a "bear encounter." 

Mounties said the woman contacted a second group of travellers who activated an emergency signal. 

Police dispatched a helicopter to the area.  

The N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources killed a black bear and a grizzly near Tulita last Friday.

The two animals will undergo necropsies to determine if they were involved with the fatal encounter, said a department spokesperson, in an email.

The results of the necropsy could be complete by the end of this week, a department spokesperson wrote.



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