Saturday, May 15, 2010


There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;

And as the mind is pitch’d the ear is pleased

With melting airs, or martial, brisk, or grave:

Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touch’d within us, and the heart replies.

William Cowper
from "The Task: Book VI, Winter Walk at Noon"

It is a music weekend for me, so my attention is drawn for the moment.

Intellectually and emotionally, I find sympathetic chords in the reception of music and perfume.  Overlays in language and expression when it comes to describing construction and reception.

All fascinating.

Tied in to that is a thought that was most recently expressed in comments to Denyse's second post on Gender and Perfume over at Grain de Musc.  The commenter observed how many language-stimulated/facile people were attracted to perfume...or at least, could be observed enjoying and discussing it over the blogs.  I agree, you can see plenty of literate folks who love language chiming in to the conversation.

But that is somewhat a factor of the medium, no?  We are not, after all, exchanging abstract videos or short musical compositions to express how we feel about the topic.  A thing which would be, I think rather cool.  But is time consuming, and would require devoting a lot more time on one "perfume" or aspect of perfume than quickly landing on and moving from topic to topic, creation to creation.

I'd love to hear/see it, though.

They say language is cumbersome, and is dying.  And yet it remains a useful medium.

I must go make my contribution within an orchestra voicing the expressions of Brahms and Dvorak.  The collection of us playing as one organism, laying out an overarching idea and subplots over a single thread in time, in various tonal expressions at any given moment of the performance.  Ideas and mood expressed through music as language.

I recently helped judge a round of a film competition, where we evaluated how "successful" were cinematic expressions of a set length and goal (narrative fiction).  So many choices the filmmaker has, in what is presented on the screen, from what view, for how long, with what type of performance, in what photographic style, with what sonic mix, etcetera etcetera etcetera.  Ideas and mood and story expressed through cinema as language.

There is a blog (Inspire!) devoted to representations of perfume in visual art.  No playing out over time in the way that the procession of words, or linkage of tones, or motion of pictures does.  But an expression in a language nonetheless.

And then there are all the similarities we find in other human activities, like cooking, which only sometimes get thought of as "expression."  And yet, sometimes I wonder...

Hope you are enjoying your weekend.  See you after the curtain.


flittersniffer said...

You play in an orchestra? And judged a film competition? To say nothing of your own facility with language. You kinaesthaesic polymath you! (Spelling of the "k" word is approximate.)

By a strange twist of fate, I won a creative writing prize aged 11 for writing a review of a concert given at our school by the Ulster Orchestra. I remember being concerned that such repeated bow action would result in some casualties amongst the string instruments, yet they remained miraculously whole at the end.

BitterGrace said...

Language is dying? Then what's this mad profusion of writing (unpaid!) on the Internet? I think the people who say language is dying are the same ones who want to see it embalmed.

Hope the concert was fun! I'd love to hear you sometime...

Rose said...

music is about using al your senses really- listening to you and others, touching the instrument and feelings the reverbarations, watching the conductor or your own hands, okay smell and taste perhaps not so much but it's a sensory experience- and a sort of sixth sense is involved in being rythmic, it's something you either have or don't.

Likewise perfume is a real all over sensory experience. I also think when you become more attuned to your sense of smell you start to realise just how much you can use it- which is sort of like having another sense- I always smell rain coming now and I do think animals can smell fear, I'm sure we could once.

Hope the musical weekend went well!

ScentScelf said...

I have been waiting for much of my life for someone to call me a polymath, ever since I read David Byrne referred to as such because he not only played music, he put grass on a suit. Or something like. It seemed so easy and fun a label to earn...and yet, nothing. Until now. :) :) :)

(Words I have heard are "distractable" and "undedicated" or, with a tilt of the head and slightly narrowed eyes, "interesting...")

Belated congratulations on your award! Ah, the Ulster Orchestra, no less. From the home of the man with the golden flute. But not to be distracted by him...the bows! Indeed, I often am fascinated by the choreography of their ups and their downs, tips and frogs, etcetera etcetera. I occasionally have had to fear for my own person when rehearsing with full orchestra in small spaces, but I have a defense weapon that strikes terror into every second violin in my perimeter: the piccolo.

BTW, thanks to one particular violinist in my group, there is a very bald horse out there enthusiastic sort with the bow, he is.

ScentScelf said...

Ah, funny and wise...yes, indeed, and those who wish to see it embalmed are often the very ones maiming it.

I always welcome more audience...especially when friendly. :)

ScentScelf said...

I wrote about it quite a while back, but yes, the combination of layers of reverberation and interaction is really quite remarkable...your own instrument...your section...the full ensemble...your connection with the conductor, and feeling the network of everybody connecting with each other and back to the conductor all at the same time...

I think that because there is so much going on, I generally don't miss being "scented" while in rehearsal or performance. If I do wear something, it's going to be very close (it can't interfere with my mates' experience), and have to do with matching mood. Tricky business, that, because one doesn't necessarily want to attach a scent to a piece. But if you do, with a particularly good performance, than you can re-wear in an attempt to conjure.

Voodoo, in other words. ;)

I think perfume, in the way it can play out over time and sound multiple "notes" and "[ac]chords" in the same (and overlapping, and adjoining) time/space, has a strong relationship with music. Interesting that one is taste-smell, with a sense of rhythm in how to play that out and variations in "dynamic" and how much space it fills; whereas the other is auditory with reverberations and rhythm in time/space, also with variations in dynamic and how much space it fills (depending on size of ensemble).

I can not only smell rain, I can feel it. (My head, unfortunately, is a human barometer; like other migraneurs, I can literally feel it coming.) Which, come to think of it, is eerily reminiscent of my attachment to scent and music...

...anyway, yes, the musical weekend went well. Thank you for the good wishes!

Lucy said...

Wonderful post, I love when people graciously show us the paths traveled to the point of reading what they have written just now...

All the arts require paying close attention to reality and that of course heightens sensory perception, so it is not surprising that many who are musicians or writers or artists of all kinds would appreciate perfume in all its guises.

ScentScelf said...

Thanks, Lucy.

I'm with you on the heightened senses...I also think there's something going on with our ability to construct metaphor, which we most commonly think of in traditional language, but which I think has equivalents in music, visual art, math, philosophy....

The impulse to take in and make sense, I guess. But that seems so trite a summary in comparison to the powerful "visions" that can come out of that.