Saturday, May 24, 2008

Of Breadth, Depth, Illusion, Reality, Chaos and Where They All Meet…


*, originally uploaded by futureancient.

A nose approaches a field of wild flowers. The air is intoxicated with the scent of myriad different species in various stages of bloom – fresh buds, flowers in full bloom, petals dying and rotting in the warm sun… You know the scent comes from the flowers, but yet if you were to go blindfolded into the field you won’t be able to tell exactly which flower is responsible to what part of the overall “wild flowers” scent. They all play like a large orchestra tuning its instrument in no particular direction or rhythm. This is reality.

Take No. 5 on the other hand, worn on a woman’s skin: it starts out certain way, and develops into different things, revealing an internal structure or hierarchy that exists all at once in one olfactory source – the perfume. Or a wine or tea for that matter, with all their different layers of top, heart and base, revealing depth in various stages of the experience. These can be likened to the orchestra already playing in perfect sync, accompanying the Mezzo-Soprano diva at any given moment.
But is there anything out there in nature, completely non man-made, that has a hierarchical olfactory existence such as perfume?

I have to confess - all the Jean-Claude Elena talk yesterday neatly got me to almost lose sleep as I was contemplating those two principles that seem to pull modern perfumery into two different directions: expansion, diffusion and breadth versus hierarchy/structure, evolution and depth. These two concepts are what Octavian Sever Coifan refers to as the principles of Musk and Amber.

I noticed that I have difficult time understanding or fully grasping certain modern perfumes. I only now noticed why: these are made to evolve differently. Although I may be able to detect one note or another in composition such as Narcisso Rodriguez, Agent Provocateur and Osmanthe Yunnan – I can’t say I perceive them as clearly as in, say, the classic Carons and Guerlains. These perfumes are fickle like the scent of an ocean breeze or a field of wild flowers. It’s almost as if their source has blurred (even though I know they are on my skin when I wear them). They are even more ephemeral the scent is to begin with. It’s hard to tell when they move from one phase to another. It’s hard to tell if the dry down is still apparent or if the perfume left the skin hours ago. They exisit in a different dimension altogether...

The classic orientals, chypres and fougeres, however, have a well-kept structure that reveals itself as you go along. They are still abstract and intangible (as fragrance always is); but it’s easier to see what’s going on at any given time. There is a flow and it’s heading forward at all times. Where as in the other genre, there is constant movement to all direction in an attempt to diffuse and disperse the molecules, almost as if attempting to hide their source.

I found it particularly fascinating that these perfumes that are more abstract and conceptual and follow the “musk” principle (i.e. Jean-Claude Elena’s) actually behave a lot more like scents do in nature; where as perfumes following the “amber” principle are in fact restricting the scents and coaxing them into pre-established forms.

It is interesting to note that the latest attempts to modernize the genre of chypre have mostly focused on rearing these compositions into the “musk” direction. I was nearly awe-struck last night when I re-applied Terre d’Hermes and noticed that what made it smell familiar to me is its resemblance to Agent Provocateur of all things!
And no, it is not just a question of vetiver, it’s the usage of synthetic musk that create that there-but-not-quite-with-you feel that I find to underline all musk-oriented fragrances. To illustrate my point, think of what happened in 31, Rue Cambon where iris and pepper were used to create the illusion of chypre, and how little it has to do with Miss Dior and how much more it has to do with scents such as Osmanthe Yunnan or Terre d’Hermes.
A nose approaches a field of wild flowers. The air is intoxicated with the scent of myriad different species in various stages of bloom – fresh buds, flowers in full bloom, petals dying and rotting in the warm sun… You know the scent comes from the flowers, but yet if you were to go blindfolded into the field you won’t be able to tell exactly which flower is responsible to what part of the overall “wild flowers” scent. They all play like a large orchestra tuning its instrument in no particular direction or rhythm. This is reality.

Take No. 5 on the other hand, worn on a woman’s skin: it starts out certain way, and develops into different things, revealing an internal structure or hierarchy that exists all at once in one olfactory source – the perfume. Or a wine or tea for that matter, with all their different layers of top, heart and base, revealing depth in various stages of the experience. These can be likened to the orchestra already playing in perfect sync, accompanying the Mezzo-Soprano diva at any given moment.
But is there anything out there in nature, completely non man-made, that has a hierarchical olfactory existence such as perfume?

I have to confess - all the Jean-Claude Elena talk yesterday neatly got me to almost lose sleep as I was contemplating those two principles that seem to pull modern perfumery into two different directions: expansion, diffusion and breadth versus hierarchy/structure, evolution and depth. These two concepts are what Octavian Sever Coifan refers to as the principles of Musk and Amber.

I noticed that I have difficult time understanding or fully grasping certain modern perfumes. I only now noticed why: these are made to evolve differently. Although I may be able to detect one note or another in composition such as Narcisso Rodriguez, Agent Provocateur and Osmanthe Yunnan – I can’t say I perceive them as clearly as in, say, the classic Carons and Guerlains. These perfumes are fickle like the scent of an ocean breeze or a field of wild flowers. It’s almost as if their source has blurred (even though I know they are on my skin when I wear them). They are even more ephemeral the scent is to begin with. It’s hard to tell when they move from one phase to another. It’s hard to tell if the dry down is still apparent or if the perfume left the skin hours ago. They exisit in a different dimension altogether...

The classic orientals, chypres and fougeres, however, have a well-kept structure that reveals itself as you go along. They are still abstract and intangible (as fragrance always is); but it’s easier to see what’s going on at any given time. There is a flow and it’s heading forward at all times. Where as in the other genre, there is constant movement to all direction in an attempt to diffuse and disperse the molecules, almost as if attempting to hide their source.

I found it particularly fascinating that these perfumes that are more abstract and conceptual and follow the “musk” principle (i.e. Jean-Claude Elena’s) actually behave a lot more like scents do in nature; where as perfumes following the “amber” principle are in fact restricting the scents and coaxing them into pre-established forms.

It is interesting to note that the latest attempts to modernize the genre of chypre have mostly focused on rearing these compositions into the “musk” direction. I was nearly awe-struck last night when I re-applied Terre d’Hermes and noticed that what made it smell familiar to me is its resemblance to Agent Provocateur of all things!
And no, it is not just a question of vetiver, it’s the usage of synthetic musk that create that there-but-not-quite-with-you feel that I find to underline all musk-oriented fragrances. To illustrate my point, think of what happened in 31, Rue Cambon where iris and pepper were used to create the illusion of chypre, and how little it has to do with Miss Dior and how much more it has to do with scents such as Osmanthe Yunnan or Terre d’Hermes.

Labels: , ,

2 Comments:

At May 26, 2008 1:50 PM, Anonymous pavlova said...

Very elucidating post and i love the photo!!

 
At June 05, 2008 11:06 AM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Thanks, Pavlova! I'm glad you liked it :)

 

Post a Comment

<< Home