This post continues with assessing the factual accuracy of the perfume references in the script of the German TV show Parfum, made for Netflix. Each episode of the series begins with a statement about perfume and how we perceive it. The statements, within the parameters of the plot about desire and murder, are generally in line with how perfume and the sense of smell actually work. In the previous posts, I discussed the script references to Ambra (ambergris) and Skatol (skatole). This post continues with Synthese (the synthesis or composition of a perfume).
“Some substances you can mix without anything happening.
And then there are substances that really react when they clash.
After chemical synthesis, it is impossible to extract the substances in their original state through physical methods.” (Extract from the script of Parfum)
The trick to composing perfumes is to know when and how synthesis will occur. Quite correctly, the perfumer acts as an organic chemist when they combine ingredients to form the overall “profile” of a fragrance. This synthesis does not refer to the creation or discovery of new components but to the combination of those, which creates something completely new and indivisible. One way of visualizing this process is by “hearing” and “seeing” the smells.
In Paris, at 3-5 Square de l’Opéra Louis Jouvet, Paris, there is Fragonard’s Nouveau Musée du Parfum (New Museum of Perfume), one of nine museums dedicated to perfume. They have another two museums in Paris, one in Eze, and three in Grasse. The New Museum of Perfume, which is a marvellous piece of super-modern architecture in a centuries-old building, opened in December 2016. There you can literally smell the history and highlights of perfume. In particular, you can experience how perfumes are synthesized or composed by watching and listening to Jason Bruges’ “Scent Constellation”. If you can’t get to a laboratory or you have no opportunity to compose a poem, a painting or a piece of music yourself, this would be the next best way to experience the process of artistic composition in perfume.
“Scent Constellation is a permanent installation at the New Museum of Perfume (formerly called Le Grand Musée du Parfum) in Paris, is a dynamic, spatial, multi sensorial art piece that simultaneously represents the perfumer’s organ and visualises the process of creating a scent. Five perfume typologies are characterised; Eau de Cologne, Oriental, Fougères, Floral, and Chypre, each type is interpreted by a moving constellation of light in a mesmerising cloud between the prismatic nodes. The formulaic relationship between the perfumer’s assistant, the perfumer and up to 200 raw ingredients are represented by a web of crisp lines of light and a corresponding soundscape. The generative light and sound symphony creates a poetic visual metaphor for the process of imagining new perfumes. An algorithm generates a network of traced lines of light, which scribe via prisms to create crystalline-like facets, that represent the mathematical relationships between the ingredients. The soundscape is created from a library of sounds developed in response to the scent families, and representative of the stability and duration of the raw materials as they are mixed for the final perfume composition.” (Source: Jason Bruges Studio)
“The alchemy of perfume mixing through the layering of essences is brought to life via the Perfume Organ by Jason Bruges where each perfume ingredient is represented by a musical note and a ray of light, evoking the lower, middle and upper fragrance notes perfumers use to compose a perfume.” (Vasilis Lagios, Sensory Revelations: Le Grand Musée Du Parfum, Paris, designfather.com)
“Experiencing Jason Bruges’ installation at Le Grand Musèe du Parfum, spectators see a ‘perfumer’s organ’ depicted by 200 optical prisms directly linking to 200 sounds [designed by Daniel Sonabend] representing a fragrant palette of raw ingredients, from bergamot oil to synthetic musk and violet leaf. These musical notes react in the way a traditional perfume pyramid does: top notes fleetingly present, heart notes lingering longer and base notes providing a lasting emotion. The ingredient sounds are then ingeniously ‘mixed’ together, creating 5 different perfume music compositions: Eau de Cologne, Oriental, Fougère, Floral and Chypre. ‘In the museum, these olfactory mini-symphonies are harmoniously played out with light as each ingredient from the fragrance formula is triggered by a laser beam hitting the prism, then bouncing into and illuminating a glass flacon centre piece, bottling the final creation. A poetic audio-visual metaphor for the process of imagining new perfumes.’” (Source: Suzy Nightingale, Daniel Sonabend’s 5 musical fragrances, perfumesociety.org/scent-constellation/)
(Here you can listen to the five musical interpretations of Daniel Sonabend’s Scent Constellation.)