Spring is upon us and London-based illustrator Tom Gauld’s latest cover for The New Yorker is sure to put a spring in your step. “Soundtrack to Spring”, the first musical cover published by the magazine, quite literally plays music on The New Yorker’s website when a cursor is placed over the speech bubbles. Everything from bird song, to headphone-music and the satisfying notes from a door bell.
“I can remember very clearly when the idea came to me,” Tom tells The New Yorker. “I was sitting in my daughter’s violin lesson, listening to her play, when I noticed that there were birds singing in the trees outside. It made for a very pleasant moment, and I thought it would be interesting to try and capture it in a cartoon by using musical notes within speech bubbles.”
There is more to the cover than meets the eye and ear. Tom also intended the cover to inspire city-dwellers to shift away from their attitude to their surroundings: “People often talk of how noisy big cities are, but they usually mean unpleasant, disturbing noises,” Tom explains. “I wanted this image to be about some of the nicer sounds you hear, especially in the springtime.”
While in the early sketching stages of the cover Tom had but a vague sense of the music he wanted to feature on the cover, using “placeholder nonsense” in the speech bubbles as a work in progress measure. “If, like me, you’re musically illiterate, then the notes give a suggestion of what’s going on sonically,” he tells The New Yorker. “But I also wanted the scores to make sense to those who can read music.”
Tom worked with veteran chorister Fergus McIntosh on the musical repertoire which includes Vivaldi’s Spring; Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring; Beethoven’s Spring Sonata; a charming folk song One Morning in Spring; and birdsong from the American robin, a sign of spring for many a New York resident due to their yearly springtime migration.