Perfume & Music composition

Viti Vinci 20/05/2021

Like music, perfume colours our sense of space and time, and is essentially an abstract art. These invisible, sensual elements that are elusive to the physical grasp can embody divine experiences visible to our spiritual eyes such as love, drama, ecstasy. Although we map fragrances to our noses and olfactory systems, and music to our ears and heart (beat and rhythm); both body parts contain a multitude of delicate bones and connective tissues that make up our understanding of the sensory world. Furthermore, the ways in which perfume is conjured is not radically different to how music is composed. Perhaps we can say that they are more similar than we think, and bear an uncanny resemblance to one another.

Cast your mind back to an apothecary in the 17th century, where perfumer and chemist G. W. Septimus Piesse created an olfactory guide for the public in which he devised a comparative scale of 46 different aromas called the “Gamut of Odors.” He introduced the idea of thinking about fragrances in terms of musical notes. He scaled scents such as jasmine and rose as C notes, and ambergris as the F note. The deeper the smell, the lower the note. Although classifying fragrances to specific notes wasn’t widely accepted, he created a new language in which to talk about perfume by using notes and accords. Subconsciously, we are drawn to using common language to unite perfume and music.

A fragrance can be loud, or soft; it can be exciting, or relaxing. A composition can appear to be simple, unfolding its complexities to us over time. Comparisons can be drawn between lighter fragrances and chimes; heart notes such as florals and soulful guitars and voices; heavier base notes and percussion and bass. Much like a master musician can effortlessly compose a complex range of sounds into a harmony, a perfumer uses their intuitive talent to bottle a range of ingredients into one cohesive scent experience.

Imagine an orchestra of seasoned musicians, guided by a composer who lives and breathes the cohesion of a large group of sounds. He hamonises the sensuality of the composition with as many or as little notes as it takes to achieve the desired vision. A single chord in music makes a sound, but blended with a few more keys or notes or tones can form a melody, similarly to an accord in a fragrance which is another harmonious blend we fuse together with our senses. Considering that most perfumes contain anything from thirty to two hundred ingredients, this accord, or harmony, is powerful on its own and hides the individual components under this artistic and sensual veil.

The perfumer traverses the world and all its elements from their laboratory, surrounded by hundreds of plant matter and essences from around the planet that they will synchronise. Like a magician, the perfumer transposes the memories of millions of people they haven’t physically met into a luxurious and mysterious bottle. The fragrance of magnolia can evoke the memory of a tropical forest or flowers after the rain, or a walk along the coast with a childhood sweetheart marking the first time you felt physical love. They know that the initial impression, or the top notes should be exciting, robust and usually containing flowers or herbs to titillate our senses before being anchored by an earthy or musky fixative derived from a root, resin, or oak moss.

Music and fragrance have long been linked by their abstract design, united by the language used to describe their creations. Plenty of perfumers and musical artists have derived inspiration from their similarities. Does any perfume make you think of a piece of music, or vice versa?

To me, music and perfume are very much related because they use a common medium: the air. You hear music when the vibration of the sound in the air hits your ears, the same way that perfume needs the movement of air to come to your nose. Both mediums are invisible, compared to painting or literature. This is why they are so deep in our soul, in a way. – Francis Kurkdjian

Volver al listado