Globally acclaimed artist and author Jackie Morris inspires us with an illustrated short story collection, The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow, inspired by music and musicians. This collection of interwoven illustrated stories for adults are also perfect to share with musically inclined children of all ages. Here Jackie shares her thoughts and then singer, composer and musician, Jon Boden also shares his.
Jackie Morris talks:
The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow is a book worked backwards. The illustrations were commissioned Christmas card designs for the charity Help Musicians, produced at a rate of one painting a year.
The brief was always the same: anything, so long as there were musical instruments or musicians in it. Even with the first card there was an unwritten narrative behind the image of three kings, three ships and a star.
After a few years the narrative widened; characters began to move between the paintings, sometimes missing for a year or two, but entering again into the next year’s card as if returning from a journey. As they gathered over the years, the stories flowed between the cards and the images became a window into a strange world.
Sometimes people would ask me if there was a story behind a piece of work, and what it was. I would reply, “you tell me.” My feeling was that the images all spoke a different story to different people.
Now, here, between the covers of this book there is a new gathering, of images and stories. The words tell only a small part of what can be found in the images. These stories ask more questions than they answer. Look at the paintings and find within them more answers. The book is a harbour in which to rest, a catalyst for the imagination, and the stories are a series of lullabies for grown-ups.
My hope is that the threads of stories will wrap around the dreams of others and spin fine gold threads to catch the imagination.
Jon Boden, Singer, Composer and Musician talks:
I first became aware of the beautiful imagination of Jackie Morris over ten years ago when I received a Christmas card with a panoramic vision of snow, patchwork balloons and music-making pilgrims entitled “Flight of Fancy”. The picture was so mysterious and enchanting that I immediately stuck it in a frame and placed it on our living room mantelpiece, and there it has remained ever since, centre-fold crease and all.
Morris’ sixteen-year “flight of fancy” in her work for Help Musicians UK (previously the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund) has been a slowly blossoming flower, each year yielding a tantalising glimpse into an enigmatic, free-flowing world with music at its heart. Each character, each landscape feels like the window into an unknowable story that is quietly carrying on its own time and space, untroubled by the inquisitive eyes of onlookers gazing up from beneath the mantelpiece. I must admit to a tinge of sadness every time I’ve immersed myself in these pictures, that the secrets of their private cosmos would never be revealed.
So thank goodness Jackie Morris has decided to throw open that window and invite us into the magical world of The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow.
The question of where folk tales have come from is one that has long occupied literary theorists and psychologists alike, but most agree that the strange, simple, twisted beauty of such stories must be a manifestation of the human subconscious itself. That being the case it follows that new fairy tales can only really be created if they are written sub-consciously. For most people that would presumably mean taking mind-altering drugs or hoping that a dream comes along at some point with narrative intact…
The brilliance of this book is that Morris has devised a far more interesting and fruitful method for tapping into the subconscious world of the folk tale. By letting her imagination run riot through her paintings over many years without any compulsion to provide a narrative context she has yielded the sign-posts for these stories. But since they have come bubbling up from her own sub-conscious it is only really possible for her to follow those markers and piece together the hidden stories of her own visual imaginings.
That she has managed to do so in such a compelling, lucid and bewitching way is not only immensely gratifying for readers and lovers of great illustrative art, but is also tremendously exciting for the future of artistic creation itself. Music, painting and words have long been close acquaintances, but in The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow Morris has discovered a way of bringing the three art forms together in a truly organic, intuitive amalgam.