Guy Robert’s observations about musical/harmonic analogies in perfumery hit me right where I live. I have long wanted to draw an articulate comparison between what in music is called the “harmonic series” (//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music) and the layers, overtones and “lead notes” of scent.

How often have I mistaken one thing for another when using my nose as the 1st sense because I was getting the very leading edge of a scent, which would soon reveal its full identity as the “lower harmonics” came into the mix. Distance, time and air act to pull scent apart into constituent and often surprisingly deceptive components!

Are these analogous to harmonic “overtones”?

If, on my guitar, I pluck the open A string, there lives inside that seemingly single note a series of overtones that climb in an orderly mathematical way up several octaves, presumably eventually out of hearing range. I can illustrate this by lightly touching the string at 1/2 its length to play the 1st octave above the string’s native frequency. Then I go up another 5th, then a 4th to the second octave, then up an increasingly narrowing series of steps that become quickly unplayable, but which have sonic equivalents in the unfretted original note. It is a fascinating thing to ponder. If you are ever able to hear an electronically generated note that is stripped of its overtones, you will instantly understand this phenomenon: it will sound creepily “dead”, mechanical and ugly.

Often times if I turn my head to a certain angle against a note thus played, I will hear the octave or the fifth, not the note being played! Just as a scent carried far enough away from its origin might reveal a whiff of a constituent odor — often surprising in its “counterpoint” to the whole fragrance.

I find there are many analogues amongst nature and high art. I find the parallels between music and perfumery especially compelling.

Many thanks for this forum!