Last week, the IFM (Institut Français de la Mode) hosted a conference on music and fragrance and olfacto-auditory works of art, presented by Marie-Annouk Sarkissian, musicologist at Université Paris IV, where she explores this type of aesthetic relations. During the presentation, 2 creations were presented.
The first is an "olfacto-auditory work of art" from 1989, a meeting between the perfumer Martin Gras and musician Louis Dunoyer de Segonzac, preceded by a "poem" about fragrances. This event was recorded on video tape and the perfume was now recreated by Givaudan. In fact it is a short piece of music composed after a perfume. Though this was presented in the 1989 movie as the first example of an olfacto-auditory work of art, this totally untrue from an historic point of view. The first examples go back to the 1940's USA, and even before, as I showed on this blog several years ago. But speaking of this creation, I was immediately impressed by the high quality of the perfume composed by Martin Gras (I believe he was at Dragoco). It is a creation from a different time, with a quality and refinement you will hardly find today. It shows an aesthetic vision that belongs to an era where composition and classic values had a high respect among perfumers. This creation evoked immediately the style of Ernest Beaux and the coriander aldehydic note mixed with a fresh bergamot top and something recalling basil made me think of a forgotten interpretation of Chanel No5 with a small fougère facet. But, unlike the contemporary version it was not the ylang-ylang nor the sweet coumarine that set the tone, but the smooth facet of jasmine absolute combined with the creamy vanilla, benzoin and a delicate carnation. The aldehydes were there, also a tender plum note and of course the peach-sandalwood accord over sensual powdery musks as found in No5 EDT. Extremely feminine, this Ernest Beaux touch came later because the top note was rather different, playing on a different chord (also fresh aldehydic), angular and sharp, opposed to the smooth drydown.
The second perfume was a creation of Guillaume Flavigny who transposed into scents a work of the musician Laurent Assoulen, called Résonance, presented in 2008 during a scented jazz concert. He captured with an unmistakable tenderness the nostalgic mood of the Cminor improvisation in a woody composition dominated by cedar, sandalwood, cold spices and musk. Woods, amber, a delicate fruity tobacco notes and an almost invisible sweetness create the illusion of a very fragile "Black Orchid" accord seen through the woody spiciness of Givenchy pour homme, all with a subtle suede note. This is contrasted with a very cold accord that suggests salty water, rain and tears and of course the modern metallic freshness found in Burberry Brit. It is a very beautiful interpretation of a modern masculine theme set in a tender universe, quite far from virile versions of the same woods, ending with a very elegant mossy vetiver note under an amber veil.
Unfortunately, the direct link between music and perfume was not presented, nor explained. It would have been interesting to see how a musical theme found its application in a perfume or how an idea inside a fragrance became "musical". These explanations are technical but their presence is vital in an art context. I'm one of those who firmly believes that the relation between music and perfume is something more than putting a nice fragrance in a room while composing or turning on the iPod while smelling blotters and writing a formula. Over the years I wrote many articles about this type of approaches and how music or other arts can inspire creative thinking in fragrance. One needs method, order, vision, explanation, demonstration and criticism. Otherwise the relation between fragrance and other arts is pure coincidence or an anecdote and this has little value for a true creator.
For this reason, every time an olfacto-auditory work of art is presented to the public (even by a musicologist) it should be accompanied by the "manual" - how did they work and why did they find this solution as the best expression, what did they borrow from each artistic field?
We should not take a backing / accompaniment for an authentic crossover and vice versa. This is a risk when the key of understanding is missing in an aesthetic exploration. What makes the performative experience valuable is the choice of a specific scent made by the artist and not the presence of any type of odor. An artist doesn't need a perfumer to scent a studio when he has Sephora near. The presence of a perfumer is something unique but this has to be explained in the context of pure creation that involves both an aesthetic and technical approach.
Did you enjoy my article? Sign up for updates about new fragrances, reviews of artistic perfumes and exceptional vintage masterpieces. I would be very happy if you would consider joining 1000 Fragrances, throughRSS feed,GoogleFriend connect, Facebook (more personal), or any other way that appeals to you.
Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art