With an hour to kill and a technicolour-coded map of treasures to discover, I headed to a small wing of the V&A to see the exhibited works from the museum's annual illustration awards.
Laëtitia Devernay picked up the Book Illustration Award and was later nominated the overall winner off the competition, for her series of illustrations titled 'The Conductor'.
In ‘The Conductor’, her first book, Devernay weaves a wordless story of a fantastical conductor who summons leaves from the trees, directing them to take flight as a flock of birds that swoops in formation above his head. In explaining how she created it she says,
'I haven’t represented a piece in particular but an air in general. A swarm of birds announces the moves of violins, a unique row in a desert sky represents an oboe soloist…an entire symphony…then, silence, while the small conductor takes a bow. It’s a story that can be read over and over, as in nature, everything changes, but the cycle continues.’
To me anyway, these images speak right to a feeling so familiar in orchestral playing. It's that moment when you know what's coming, what you're building up to. You can feel the music inside you, and everything around you is locked into the conductor's baton, which will in a few moments turn your internal anticipation into an audible reality. The expectation is all-consuming and thrilling; like riding a wave. (I imagine. I've never ridden a wave in my life.) But it's that feeling, not the sounds themselves, that Devernay gets so right in this series: you don't need to know what exactly she's drawing about because you can feel it in the swooping leaves, the soaring lines, their pitter patter fall.
And if you don't know what on earth I'm talking about, have a little listen to this, the finale from Sibelius 2, from 5.30...