…And for the first time, I really listened to the second movement of the seventh symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven.
That’s not the truth, but it’s the way I felt after Will asked me to think about a perfume while listening to this piece. For the first time I listened to it, trying to understand what was it made of. I was looking for clues and ingredients more than an inspiration, and I didn’t want to listen to it with my feelings and imagination. I was looking for something tangible, almost physical.
I’m not a music critic or an expert, so forgive me if some of my concepts sound obvious, naïve, or even deeply wrong. But each musical thought is translated in the way I approached the construction of the formula. To me, it’s all about not the theme but the counter-theme and the rhythm. It’s probably this element that delivers that nostalgic feeling, or melody, or motion, and perhaps a bit of mystery.
I created a perfume structure around elements that tend to appear and disappear in a circular way. Some very familiar odors that contrast against darker and mysterious notes. A general idea of a hazy vision, slightly out of focus, overlapping fragrant themes in rhythmic, almost geometric way.
I see this piece as a sort of abstract art, wonderful beyond explanation. It is about melodic shapes, tunes and memories of tunes, about harmony and the effect that a new chord can create and build, about keys and the effect one key can have on another, about the relationship of wind to string to brass.
The individual elements and notes in the formula are not meant to showcase a singular character; rather, they interlock each other, creating a floating cloud where each element mirrors itself and its surroundings. Each note is meant to awaken the next while simultaneously obscuring it around the edges as parts of a larger series of events, like the progression of a symphony. However, I have tried hard to create a perfume that does not describe anything. Instead, it’s full of changes, large and small variations, contrasts, and arguments, and is built with humble materials used in intricately subtle ways.
The use of some very simple materials, such as those that I like to call the “group of herbs” (thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, mint, and lavender) is offset, challenged even, by exotic elements like vanilla, ylang ylang, vetiver, benzoin, and Himalayan cedarwood. The contrasting effect and endless variations are supported by lactonic elements, subtly playing a secretive game, whispering from below.
The whole musical arrangement is slightly unstable and its architecture shows how rhythm can be powerful and challenge any static ideal. To the ear, beneath the strings, the rhythm throbs and vibrates throughout the entire movement. This is translated almost literally in the perfume composition, a thrumming, reverberating, unstable rhythm of notes that I tried to crystallize from the first spray to the last remaining molecule on the skin.
The repetition of the same note and the way it’s fragmented emphasizes my idea of perception of time. Two different types of lavender, two types of vetiver, two types of benzoin, all of them similar but just different enough, meet to interact and move throughout the composition. The note movement, the way they interact and separate from each other, is not even circular but spherical. They extend outward in all directions, rising to crescendo.
The composition grows organically, interweaving elements that resurface as familiar notes with surprisingly new sounds. The notes of civet and the citrus (bergamot and petitgrain), together with geranium and boswellia, appear in the evolution as a pause meant to create ground, a rich loam where everything starts and ends like smoke from the rain upon the dry earth.
Antonio Gardoni is the founder, the brain, and the nose behind Bogue Profumo, where he explores his passion/obsession for odors, producing commercial niche fragrances sold internationally in select stores, and where he experiments with art projects connected to the world of smell.