Sunday, October 2, 2011

Aromatic Symphony

Musical Staff
The musical language lends numerous expressions and phrases to the art of perfumery. Some of its terminology helps us to understand how perfumes are composed from conception to conclusion.

Charles Piesse, a French perfumer from the 19th century, was one of the first to equate music to perfume.  He devised a system to identify perfume ingredients by classifying fragrances according to musical notes. Piesse relates odors to the octaves of the musical scale and theorized that scents influence olfactory nerves in the same manner that sounds influence the auditory nerves. Although his method of classification ultimately failed, musical expressions continue to be a mainstay in the art of perfumery.

Just as a musician harmonizes notes to create chords, a perfumer must be proficient in harmonizing scents into fragrant combinations. Thus, the creation of perfume should be pleasing to both the mind and senses. The experience should emulate the composition of an intricate piece of music. For example, a three-part fugue with the olfactory notes being the key signature, the usage of notes identifying the individual elements of the arrangement – as well as describing the perfume and how it smells as it evaporates from the skin. Therefore, it is imperative that the perfumer has vast knowledge of raw materials, and a clear understanding of how they evolve and change. 

Perfume organ by Taco Ekkel

The process is initiated with the master seated at the fragrance organ, his surroundings being an array of aromatics. There, the inhalation of exotic scents, along with the distinguishing of olfactory notes, takes place.  Imagine this phase as the prelude, an extravaganza of brilliant notes coming together in unison.  Bear in mind that notes show more than the aspect of the perfume’s range, they also can represent a particular quality or tone that reflects the mood of the composition.

The first movement begins with what is referred to as top notes. Typically citrus odors, bright and bursting with freshness and, on occasion, is considered sharp. Although quite expressive, they seem to maintain lightness, as well as lending to the initial impression of the composition. They are also the most volatile of the notes, being the first to evaporate. The dissipation of the top notes quickly transitions us into the second movement or middle notes. 
Gem from my rose bush

Middle notes are predominately floral aromas, and as they unfold they exhibit the true heart of the composition, adding fullness, roundness, and complexity. Middle notes, can be either heady and exotic or delicate and subdued. They emerge as the perfume warms on the skin, escorting us gracefully into the third movement or the base notes. 

Base notes -- originating from woods, resins, and spices -- are rich, warm and exotic. They are viscous, having a consistency between solid and liquid. And they also have a dual function and are held in high esteem for their fixative qualities. That anchors the composition, completing the structural unity necessary to achieve harmony while, at the same time, adding longevity. The base notes emerge slowly, almost as if the movement is marked adagio, bringing the symphony to its entirety. Base notes are the last to surface but have the longest duration, or in musical terms sustainability. Base notes leave their clinging impression behind by embracing us for hours, thus completing the fragrance evolution.

Resins W. Djatmiko

Not every symphony will be vivacious or sparkle with brilliance. Depending on the composer, the concert may be inferior, lacking life, or absent of character, with tonality being non-existent. On the other hand, a symphony composed by a true virtuoso will be exquisite, giving an accurate exposition on his thematic idea. Every note being smooth and harmonic as they progressively transition from one phase to another, accompanying us gracefully through the fragrance evolution.

My vintage Youth Dew

An aromatic symphony is a classical perfume, bearing semblance to a beautiful musical composition, one of consonance, as simple notes mingle and produce harmonious blends.  

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