The Language of Music is the Language of Perfume

Perfume uses much the same terminology as music. Making a scent is like composing a symphony of harmonies, cadenzas and stanzas. Even the ingredients are referred to as notes and accords, and the ‘noses’- those highly trained creators of the scents – work, just like composers, at keyboards or, as they are known in the trade, perfumer’s organs.

The perfumer’s organ has row upon row of flasks and phials arranged on shelves that fan out around the ‘nose’so that he has hundreds of fragrant ingredients at his fingertips, or more to the point, at the ends of his nostrils. For the perfumer, his nose is the means of control: he will compose his scents from his olfactory memories. He will imagine the perfume and then try to make it; just as a musician does not have to have an instrument at hand to compose,but simply writes down the notes from his memory bank of sounds, so it is with the perfumer. The final triumph is to conceive a perfume, mentally, and then to make a literal translation into tangible liquid form.

There are hundreds of raw materials and there are certain accords or harmonies that co-exist between them. For example, an accord might consist of lemons, which contrast with and enhance sandalwood; sandalwood, which contrasts with clove; and clove, which contrasts with orange, bringing you back to the citrus note.

Scents, like sounds, appear to influence the olfactory nerve. There is, as it were, an octave of odours just like the octaves in music: certain odours coincide, just as certain notes of music harmonize. For instance, almond, heliotrope, vanilla and clematis blend well together, each producing different degrees of a similar scent. Citron, lemon,orange peel and verbena form a higher octave of smells, which blend in a similar way.

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