Asaskian, your reply was wonderful I really do hope you restore it. I was in the middle of a reply but it was unfocused and I scrapped it. I'll probably write a more interesting and expository reply later but the basic summary of my point is that as I've spent more time w/ the hobby I've actually gone back to embracing my subjectivity. It is like the old zen idea of white belt -> black belt -> white belt. After you've got some mastery of the 'objective elements' of it all, go back to the beginner's mind. Put the white belt back on. It'll let you sniff things anew.
Click to view my swap thread (L'Occitane and Tam Dao products going):
It is probably difficult not be subjective when examining and judging a scent. Based on all experiences beforehand in the path of discovery of perfumes, the opinion is just as good, or as poor, as past experiences permit.
Add to this inexperience the extra buzz that advertising purposely radiates to influence the consumer. Add to this dilemma of feeling inadequate when relying on what is presented by a House, for example, Montale.
I am pasting a link to a current thread about Montale's problems, and how some people feel deceived. They feel deceived because they made a personal intimate connection to a brand.
If they had been able to judge only objectively what is inside the bottle, they would not now feel deceived. That other lively discussion would not take place.
I am not saying that from a "high horse" because I myself was also taken by the marriage between French glamour and the oriental ouds. I was taken aback by this latest drama.
It has opened my eyes and put me back down to earth. Now I just try, and I have said that repeatedly, that I will remain unperturbed and, if I like the scent, will continue to order those metal bottles with those well-made scents from LuckyScent, much like shopping in a supermarket, and buying a sack of potatoes.
Last edited by Guest05; 22nd March 2012 at 02:55 AM.
First of all, Ursula, I didn't quite mean to chew you out. Sorry if it came across that way. I agree with both you and Asaskian about the value of a naive response. Not only can they inspire us to look at a scent differently, but I suspect, if ignored, they can snowball into a formidable force for change against an established way of evaluating fragrances. (Actually, I think this is already happening with some of the indie houses that are springing up.) Having said that, it is not without merit to say that objectively there can be good perfumers and bad perfumers as well as good perfumes and bad perfumes. We feel very passionately about these words, though, so what if we substitute "poet" for "perfumer" and "poetry" for "perfume".
Is the following at all controversial?
The passing of time has a way of elevating some poetry and leaving other poetry behind. We celebrate some poets and forget about others. This is not to say that every literary critic agrees on what is good and what is bad or that some poets haven't been unfairly overlooked. But some sort of mysterious consensus does evolve over time about which poetry will stay with us and which will be left behind, about who was influential and important and who was derivative and uninspired. Sometimes the values used to judge poetry do not even seem fair and whole new movements rise up and strike down the established ways of thinking. But were it not for some way of making these distinctions, we would be awash in bad poetry and, as an art form, poetry would be lost.
I totally hear you and agree with you. I just don't think we can value every response equally or we would risk being awash in bad perfume!
Last edited by Guest05; 22nd March 2012 at 02:54 AM.
Even the most dedicated perfumers still have to "pay the rent". Perhaps some among them make concessions as to their renditions of beauty and of what sells. We, the consumers, whether educated in perfume appreciation or not, are elemental in deciding which scents sell, by choosing them ...
So, we can say that only the nose decides, unhampered whether for example the house Montale falsified the truth (see that other thread, Montale-Company-Disbanded) or whether we buy whatever is dished out in front of us, amplified by advertising.
Among the scents ... some are advertised, other fly under the radar ... whether they be mediocre or excellent, by a process of elimination, some will eventually become classics, by word of mouth.
Word of mouth is discussions in such a Forum as here with like spirits.
Very very interesting thread!
I recently wrote a review of Mukhallat Dahn Al Oudh Moattaq by Ajmal.
I have a bottle of it (gifted from a generous Basenoter) and had never heard of it before, had never tried real Arabian ouds before, didn't know anything about the brand. It's so hard to write a positive review and be completely uninfluenced by others. I kept needing some kind of approval saying that my nose was right and this is a good fragrance! Actually, a great fragrance!
I guess it comes in time, it's all about confidence. One person's trash is another's masterpiece.
Sorry if I repeat myself... like everyone else, I'm guided by my nose and my personal tastes when it comes to the fragrances I choose to wear. I'm not looking for ice cold, logical answers to this question. Fragrance is art and all that ultimately matters, as with any art, is our personal relationship to it. The only time I intellectualize about a fragrance choice is when I have to calculate the difference between my bank account and my next purchase.
But if we consider perfume as a form of art then, as Asaskian says, there is the implication that perfumes have met some sort of collective standard as art. Yes, there have been movements in the arts which challenge accepted standards or try to create art that stands alone without form. Most notably this ocurred through a good portion of the 20th century. And you can see the continuing influence of those avant garde movements in the posts for this thread. We have a need for the mystery of intuition and raw emotion unfettered by convention. We crave novelty. But when it comes to recognized forms that are used in literature, visual art, cinema, poetry and music all have criteria that are fairly easy to grasp. For example, just about anyone can understand and take part in a discussion of how structure and character work to create the emotional impact of a novel. A decent high school education will suffice. Now, the novel may not speak to you, you may not even like the novel, but you can recognize the creative genius of the author.
Many of you have mentioned Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's books which I've read. But coming to fragrances as a musician I found Jean-Claude Ellena's book, Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent to be informative and educational without all the hyperbole. I think his approach of linking creative movements in perfume to the widely recognized movements in other arts is a good way to set the stage for clearer discussion and criticism. His suggested categories: Baroque, Classical, Abstract, Figurative, Narrative and Minimalist. Hopefully I haven't kicked the JCE hornet's nest...
Finally, it's interesting to find that perfume criticism seems to be in it's early stages. It's exciting to know that BN is playing a part in the overall discussion that will become the standard.
Asaskian, thanks for bringing up Bjork and Jaqueline du Pre, two of my favorite performers. Bjork is the perfect example of a performer who I love purely on a raw, emotional level. The Icelandic version of Tom Waits. And just thinking about du Pre's Elgar brings tears to my eyes. I'm sure one day I'll remember a particular perfume so fondly.
Last edited by Symphonies; 21st March 2012 at 11:45 AM.
As I waited my turn today in the Apple store, I thought that my laptop dying, before I could post further on this thread, was some kind of terrible injustice. Now, however, I know that it is a blessing. I type this now on my horrorshow backup machine - unworthy of doing my daily work, let alone responding to these great posts. But trust that when I get my "instrument" back, I will play sweetly in response to all your wonderful thoughts. Thus, the promise that this thread *must* continue into next week - a blessing indeed.
Thank you, all.
Wow. One of the more compelling threads I've seen here in a long while. Particularly like the comparisons to other art forms/styles, though it again questions the objectivity in evaluating abstract art forms. If this thread goes on the way I hope it will, it deserves a sticky, perhaps under a collective 'Ruminations of fragrance geeks' thread that post links to similarly thought-provoking discussions on BN.
This a very interesting topic and not one where I think there will be a 'resolution' to the question, as such, which is fine. Personally I look for an 'informed' opinion or review as opposed to an 'objective' one as a rule when it comes to art.
One would hope that an informed review would draw on objective facts as far as available information and technology allow. It's possible to analyze ingredients to a reasonably specific extent and that can be helpful. Provenance can be determined and can certainly have a bearing on how one might assess a piece, including (amongst other things), when it was created, where it was created and the canon of work of the actual perfumer. Then there are other less obvious factors that can help such as prevailing market trends, the style of the house, the positioning in the market - price point, target demographic, marketing budget and 'the brief' and subsequent research and budget - i.e. how many cooks (really) and what did the perfumer have to work with. And if the perfume has been around a while you can also throw in units sold and whether it influenced a new trend etc. etc.
If you want to dig a bit all the above are quantifiable, verifiable 'facts'. But really, I would just call them collectively "context".
Knowing the context of a piece of work can help in offering an informed review, and commenting on the quality of the perfume given the context, but save a point by point list of these items, which would be a dry thing, not a review, a review by nature requires opinion, in my view.
Maybe this is all just splitting hairs, playing with semantics - I dunno. Personally I respond to intangible things with perfume, as with music. I have spent 30 years of my life in recording studios and I think I can unravel a recording of a piece of music with probably much the same finesse as some here might be able to analyse a perfume, but at what point do you cross the line from an objective analysis to a subjective opinion? I think the two go hand in hand.
There are plenty of hits out there in different genres with bum notes, bad time - stuff recorded on lousy gear with el cheapo instruments that are towering masterpieces because something happened.
For example (and I tend to go with movies as an example because it's where I'm more comfortable), you ask 100 people if they think Citizen Kane is a good movie. Of those who say yes, how many of them are applying any recognizable criteria that could be considered robust by people who consider themselves experts?
Your point about cultivation of the human mind in regard to a specific art form taking a long time strikes me as questionable. Does it really? Can a human mind really not comprehend or appreciate a piece of art independently, without this "cultivation" that you say requires a generation or a century or more? Did you really need the books to get those Chardin paintings? Or did you mean that it takes a long time for enough people to say loudly enough that something is good or bad and have that accepted as "right?" In which case, why does it have to take so long?
"Love is in the eye of the beholder" -
I THINK that it is extremely hard to judge something objectively when the love for perfumery is based on feelings. The judgment is tainted by lack of training, clouded personal experiences and the extra effort to pull down the media hooplah of advertisement praising the object, the perfume.
To have equal standards with which to measure, those standards have to be established first.
Bear with my simple choice of words when I refer to law. There is basic law which is applied in judging, and then there is the law that is constantly living and evolving by the precedents.
Since the art of perfumery is constantly moving and evolving, the judgment cannot be static either. It has to go with what is modern, after what was built on tradition.
Complicated ? No doubt. Whoever wants to take the job to "write" the first set of standards, will be opposed by others who believe that different "standards" should apply.
That struggle continues. But it also leaves an area of freedom of space within new creation can take place.
And, the whole idea of enjoyment should not be missed:
"Freude schoener Goetterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium, wir betreten feuertrunken Himmlische Dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder, was die Mode streng geteilt.
Alle Menschen werden Brueder, wo Dein sanfter Fluegel weilt."
Just realized that I've been using the words "standard" and "criteria" like there's some book of rules. Ack! Sorry! Not what I mean at all! As others have pointed out, over the breadth of human creativity almost all art seems to fall into a set patterns and emotive/intellectual constructs whether we intend it or not. This occurs even when art is created naively or intuitively. It even happens when we try to avoid the "rules." It's just part of being human. Either that or humans are really good at rationalizing and pigeon holing...
One of the best aspects of art is that it creates a communal understanding that unites and inspires. But it can also be plied to divide and stratify. There's a whole new thread for a discussion of how that relates to perfume.
Geez, I'll try to stop with my constant blather. Forgive me...
Last edited by Symphonies; 21st March 2012 at 12:48 PM.
Profumo has been challenging this very concept of art and appreciation of a perfume recently in his caravan project. The perfume began a journey through a collective group of perfumistas and then the form of the perfume was governed by their responses and feelings towards it. The result was not one, but a group of three perfumes documenting the olfactory journey and in themselves being a piece of performance art.
My take on any perfume designed with careful deliberation, is perhaps each one is a piece of performance art and it depends from where you are standing on how you appreciate it. Each person has a different angle and no-one has the same view.
From a brilliant 2 part interview with Francis Kurkdjian at http://persolaise.blogspot.com/2012/...ords-from.html
"I think itís really time for people to understand that perfume is the mirror of our days and our lives. No 5 was a reflection of the 20s, in the same way that Miss Dior was a reflection of the late 40s. We are so nostalgic about perfume nowadays. We say that now we have too many trends. But there were trends in the past too. There were many perfumes like Miss Dior at the time, there were many perfumes like No 5, for two reasons. The first one is that perfumers were looking at each otherís work. The second is that the number of raw materials was so limited that the chances of doing the same thing were much higher than they are now. We now have much more diversity. But we keep thinking that things were better before."
How relevant can that really be when you consider the longevity in years of No 5 for instance? Is this just a justification of stripped modernity and if so, it has to have some quantification.
Is it possible that limited ingredients limit creativity to produce similar perfumes? Surely the perfumers had access to better quality ingredients before. No frag is ever free of copies if it has rewards by the making of it. Plus there is always the charitable aspect of pure admiration to consider rather than just vulgar imitation.
There are so many frags of such a diverse nature, both from those eras and now. Do you think there can be a mirror of any time? I can vouch for frags being much better before where some reformulations are concerned. I have hundreds of vintage frags and I can honestly say that their compositions are very often incomparable with current modern chemical frags for reasons of molecular complexity rather than just conjecture.
I think there was excellence then and there is excellence now, but you have to look hard for the real treasures.
Last edited by Symphonies; 21st March 2012 at 05:41 PM.
Last edited by Guest05; 22nd March 2012 at 02:57 AM.
Continuing with the performance, wearing the perfume is not the only part of the show, nor is the perception of it by the audience. In the process of wearing a particular fragrance, the wearer is also transported to an internal place which influences their own behaviour too. The whole show is both influenced by the perfumes effect externally yet is also created by it internally. A very neat chicken and egg syndrome.
To choose a different scent would mean by default that the same show would definitely be different.
I am able to smell something and say "I dont like it but i can see why others might." I could not care less about the house, bottle, perfumer, history, ingredients,name, blah, blah, blah, blah.
There are only two perfumes i can think of, Serge Noir and Le Labo Patchouli, where i cannot understand how anyone would want to stink like that.
Last edited by socalwoman; 22nd March 2012 at 04:51 PM. Reason: f'ing whim