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  1. #1

    Default When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    In reply to a rather ill-thought-out post I just made, DanielPlainview said
    I think you have a marked tendency for enjoying cacophonies of notes.
    On the face of it that seems to be where I'm headed but it isn't intentional. What I want from a scent is, I think, beauty. Something with the multiple sensory attractions of a Fortuny silk or an Indian miniature, or a Japanese ceramic. Scent also stimulates (and simulates) memory as well as desire, attraction, repulsion and many other things. Obviously, the best perfumers have command over a vast number of notes, ingredients, combinations, and weave a huge number of things (including both actual ingredients and imponderables like emotion) when they create their scents. Sometimes a complex scent becomes an overwhelming mess, and sometimes a simple one becomes very boring.

    So my question is: To what extent is complexity important to the success of a scent? When is complexity undesirable? When does it create a masterpiece, or descend into chaos? Is one person's cacophony another person's symphony? And is a successfully simple fragrance actually the product of complexity? I don't understand these things at all, but they interest me a great deal.

  2. #2

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    One of the maximum levels of complexity was "Balenciaga pour Homme" (1990), a real masterpiece dangerously near to "cacophony", due to the big quantities of different notes. But it's a Masterpiece still today!

  3. #3

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I find if the complexity of a scent is not in harmony then you get a discordant cacophony of notes all coming at you all at once. I find Frapin's 1697 to be a good example of this.

  4. #4

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I don't think that complexity is important in a scent at all-- ther may be only a few notes with one accord and it can be beautiful. A cacophony of notes in a scent sounds bad in itself.

  5. #5

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    IMO a fragrance can be very complex but still not be a cacophony of notes. It becomes a cacophony when the individual notes are discordant or when their contrast is not pleasant to the senses. The classic guerlains are the perfect examples of very complex perfumes that are not "cacophonic". They are the fragrance equivalents of Beethoven's 6th Symphony played by the Berlin Orchestra.

  6. #6

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    FWIW I thought your other post was very interesting.
    To me, both types of compositions could be, or become, masterpieces. Simplicity or complexity may not be requirements. For example YSL Opium Pour Homme or Caron 3rd Man. And on the other hand, Pour un Homme de Caron and Dior Eau Sauvage.

  7. #7

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    When Viktor and Rolf's Antidote is involved.

  8. #8

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Hunter View Post
    I find Frapin's 1697 to be a good example of this.
    +1 - This is exactly the fragrance that came to mind when reading the OP's question.

  9. #9

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    As usual, I don't think one can generalize too much. Complexity helps to sustain interest for an extended period of time - single note perfumes tend to become boring quite quickly. And I'm sure we all differ in what we define cacophony. Some dissonance could be wonderful for a person and horrid to another.

    That said, I think complex works when the perfume as a whole has a clear structure and "personality" (for lack of better words) that trascends the individual notes.

    cacio

  10. #10

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    When it works, it's Complexity.
    When it doesn't, it's Cacophony.
    "Follow your nose. It always knows." -- Toucan Sam

  11. #11
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by OdilonRedon View Post
    Is one person's cacophony another person's symphony?
    IMO Yes. It's all very subjective.

  12. #12

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I think 34 Boulevard St. Germain masterfully tiptoes that line between the two.

  13. #13

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buysblind View Post
    When Viktor and Rolf's Antidote is involved.
    Them's fightin' words!

    I definitely think it's all in the eye of the beholder. For instance, a simple song such as Joe Cocker's "You are so beautiful"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlDmslyGmGI

    is as touching and moving to me (or more) as something very complex such as:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=412v5YGKr7Q

    There's a time and a place for both. Today, fragrance-wise, was a simple and laid back for me today, hence I'm rocking out and enjoying Play Sport. In this mood, this scent is more enjoyable to me than say Memoir Man (my signature); it's all about finding what resonates with specific moods, situations, environments, etc.
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  14. #14

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    When? With Amouage Gold.

    Or, in music, here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LACCAF04wSs

    Enjoy!

  15. #15

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    I definitely think it's all in the eye of the beholder.
    Absolutely.

  16. #16

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by HORNS View Post
    I think 34 Boulevard St. Germain masterfully tiptoes that line between the two.
    +1. What about Guerlain's Cologne du 68? It supposedly contains 68 different notes, yet still manages to blend them into one seamless, albeit brief fragrance.

  17. #17

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I have used the phrase "note clash" in quite a few of my reviews. Others have already said that this is subjective, which I agree with, but I'll also add that note detection ability seems to play a role here. The best example I have come across is Cool Water, which many if not most people view as "smooth" (as well as very similar to GIT). I find it highly discordant, with notes that do not work well together, along with a candy-like quality that seems totally out of place. It's a real mess to me, but that seems to be an uncommon perception. By contrast, GIT begins a bit abrasive (perhaps largely due to the amount of lavender and violet leaf), but the notes work well together and it coalesces nicely over time (though I'm not suggesting this is a "great" or complex scent). In fact, many might call GIT's opening cacophonous, but that is difficult for me to address because I try to avoid most of the top notes in all scents.

    Oddly enough, Cool Water may come across as smooth to so many because it is so cacophonous that it deactivates their noses, so to speak. There was a recent article at Fragrantica about how if you take about 30 different notes and make them all the same strength a kind of "white noise" effect is achieved, which sounds like what you smell when you walk by Sephora at the mall. So, with Cool Water, the sweentess and the white noise type effect may be leading many to think of it as pleasant and smooth, rather than the mess that I perceive. It would bew interesting to create similar scents with a lot of sweetness (ethyl maltol?), clear notes of various kinds (but far less than 30), and dihydromyrcenol to see if it is also perceived as pleasant by the majority.
    Last edited by Bigsly; 26th March 2013 at 07:42 AM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    A good thread and all very good points of view.
    Is the juice worth the squeeze?

  19. #19

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Oddly, all the complex scents I ever got to know and, more importantly, to smell, never struck me as disharmonious/unbalanced etc., no matter what a sensory overload of notes they contained- still, they were so well blended, I didn't truly sense these notes in any way redundant, unusually agglomerated. But then again, my fragrance experience is limited, so I might have never found the scent where complexity gets out of control yet, plus, maybe this is where the genius of complex fragrances sets in: sensing and acknowledging complex notes, yet never having the feeling they are imbalanced or disharmonious.

    On the other hand, it doesn't take much for a simple scent to be blended in a comparatively disharmonious way. If this scent has not more than 2-3 notes, but at least one already feels "off" or does stand out- but not in a pleasant, distinctive or individual way- the fact that the scent lacks complexity doesn't much help either.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by L'Homme Blanc Individuel View Post
    When it works, it's Complexity.
    When it doesn't, it's Cacophony.
    +1
    That's why it's subjective. To borrow music as an analogy, 'heavy metal' rock maybe cacophonic to some but musical nirvana to fans.

    Also worth remembering that every aromachemicals has its own evaporation rate/ projection profile. What smells discordant up close may smell smooth yet wonderfully complex from an arm's length. Similarly a discordant 'mess' in the opening could easily smooth itself out as the fragrance progresses. Ambient humidity, skin temperature, etc will affect the way a fragrance present itself. That's why it takes a while to properly review a fragrance.

    Btw I'd like to thank the OP for starting this interesting thread.
    Last edited by Diamondflame; 26th March 2013 at 08:08 AM.

  21. #21

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by L'Homme Blanc Individuel View Post
    When it works, it's Complexity.
    When it doesn't, it's Cacophony.
    This point, as well as the eye of the beholder, is what it boils down to in my eyes.
    Some may perceive off-notes to be crafty and brilliant ways to juxtapose different accords, and keep things interesting. Others may prefer a more harmonic and serene scent, where the others support the theme note/accord of either the whole scent, or the top/heart/base.

    Kudos to the OP for creating a great thread!

    And keeping in line with the music analogies presented by other posters, I give you Tender Surrender by Steve Vai.
    He is (IMO) very good at balancing between cacophony and complexity (oh, and don't mind his silly outfit...)
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  22. #22

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Yes, most of it is in the eyes, ears and nose of the beholder...

    I'm not sure, though, whether one person's melody is another's noise. If you like grindcore or death metal, you like it because it's a cacophony. It doesn't sound like Mozart to you: it's the discordancy, or the ugliness, or the stridency that's the attraction. Admittedly I've had fans of death metal explain it to me in terms of classical music but in the end they were talking about their experience of it, not the music itself. They liked the screaming and distortion because it was screaming and distortion. Are there fragrances that we like just because they are a strident mess by anyone's definition?

    But it does mostly come back to subjectivity. I had a totally negative reaction to Sartorial when I tried it, but I only gave it a go because so many other obviously expert sniffers had rated it so highly. I wouldn't dare presume to say that they are wrong and I'm right, because that's plainly impossible. But whatever it is that makes one person imagine a skilled tailor going about their hushed business and another picture someone's hung-over, badly-shaved uncle from the early 70s - that's the interesting bit.

    Must try Sartorial again, obviously!

  23. #23

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Very good thread!!! I have tried frags where the notes all scream loudly and together. Slumberhouse is an example of a house that produces these. To some extent Bn9 does too. To me, a fragrance should slowly mature from sharp top notes into a stable base which carries several harmonious notes. A*Men is an example of a frag that has what appears to be dissonant notes working well. Creed Royal Water is an example of a failure to make them blend well. Many Penhaligon's are examples of "linear" frags that don't really evolve, but smell nice.

  24. #24

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Wonderful thread.

    When any of the notes rise above the others in such a fashion where rather than playing a solo with the orchestra voluntarily playing for support. The soloist instead plays with such a huge ego so as to drown the orchestra who then have to fight to be heard above it.

  25. #25

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by JiveHippo View Post
    +1. What about Guerlain's Cologne du 68? It supposedly contains 68 different notes, yet still manages to blend them into one seamless, albeit brief fragrance.
    In all honesty, it is mostly hype...like KFC's "secret recipe" containing 12 herbs/spices. Yea there are 12 but Most are just trace amounts. I have reproduced fried chicken almost identical in taste using pepper, MSG, salt, and paprika. Guerlain's 68 truly does have a truckload of competing notes, but most fall away and you are left with a sort of floral gourmand vanilla powder.

  26. #26

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    CK Shock for Him is the most recent example of fragrance cacophony to me. Only sniffed it once or twice, so maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance. But it struck me as a bunch of odd, random notes crammed into a garish bottle. Not so much of a shock, more a cacophony.

  27. #27

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    When your nose tells you so.
    "To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat." - Beverley Nichols

  28. #28

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    When it doesn't smell good!
    As many have already pointed out, I think it depend on your nose. It's like Jazz! Charlie Bird joints are total cacophony/chaos to some people
    FWIW, for example, I don't find 1697 (Frapin) cacophonic at all, but to be an interesting reinterpretation of Vanille Absolument

  29. #29

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I don´t like when people say the phrase " It is completely relative"

    We are human beings and there are patterns to our behaviors and tastes. Even though you will always be able to find exceptions to rules, rules do exist. That is what social science is all about. Why do you think babies like the smell and taste of breast milk so much? In our evolution, we developed a sense of smell and such sense includes favorite notes and accords. It should be easy to find accords that are considered dissonant or discordant by the majority of people.

    If there is reasonable consensus that Beethoven's 6th symphony is balanced and not just a cacophony of notes, THEN it is also possiblle to find near consensus about the balance of perfumes.

    We have to find patterns in nature. This is the essence of Science.

  30. #30

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buysblind View Post
    When Viktor and Rolf's Antidote is involved.
    I get your point about Antidote, but I don't think it could ever be described as 'complex' -- rather just a load of notes thrown together haphazardly -- imo of course, i.e. a 'cacophany'.

    OP - nice thread.

  31. #31

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    ...cacophony...



    Top Notes
    Ozone, Menthol, Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, Pineapple, Blackcurrant, Apple, Melon, Lavender, Basil, Mint, Nutmeg, Green Leaves
    Middle Notes
    Jasmin, Muguet, Violet
    Base Notes
    Vetiver, Cedar, Iris, Patchouli, Sandal, Oakmoss, Peach, Raspberry, Powdery Notes, Amber, Musk

  32. #32
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by OdilonRedon View Post
    But whatever it is that makes one person imagine a skilled tailor going about their hushed business and another picture someone's hung-over, badly-shaved uncle from the early 70s - that's the interesting bit.
    Must try Sartorial again, obviously!
    Dude, you just ruined Sartorial for me, big time. LOL.


    Quote Originally Posted by DanielPlainview View Post
    I don´t like when people say the phrase " It is completely relative"

    We are human beings and there are patterns to our behaviors and tastes.
    .....
    We have to find patterns in nature. This is the essence of Science.
    These patterns are known as habits and preferences in behavioral science. And yes, they vary with individuals. So it's still 'relative', whether we like it or not.

  33. #33

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamondflame View Post
    These patterns are known as habits and preferences in behavioral science. And yes, they vary with individuals. So it's still 'relative', whether we like it or not.
    NO. Patterns in science mean habits and preferences that a population has in common. Such a population has a pattern for liking or disliking something. It is the opposite of relativism. Sorry.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    when you try antidote

  35. #35

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I'd say when it's loud and displeasing. I don't think complexity (or the lack of it) has that much to do with it.

  36. #36

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rüssel View Post
    I'd say when it's loud and displeasing. I don't think complexity (or the lack of it) has that much to do with it.
    +1
    A scent with a "simple" structure or few ingredients compared to others can be totally disharmonious and displeasing!

  37. #37

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    Today, fragrance-wise, was a simple and laid back for me today, hence I'm rocking out and enjoying Play Sport.
    *Hi-Fives You!*

    Play Sport!

  38. #38

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamondflame View Post
    Dude, you just ruined Sartorial for me, big time. LOL.
    Sorry! I wanted the tailors and the chalk and the steam iron but all I got was... the uncle (not my uncle, I hasten to add). Perhaps all the tailors were wearing vintage Brut?

  39. #39

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I like to look at postives vs. neutral and negative reviews...True some people are kind and never give negative reviews, or only review if the like a frag...and we all know creed heads rate everything that house puts out as "god-like"...but there are frags out there where the negative or neutral+negative outweigh the positives. I smelled one called "Saddle Warmer" by Smell Bent that NO ONE who smelled it liked. I couldn't fine one person who liked it. Scentology isn't all subjective.

  40. #40

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Danielstripedtiger View Post
    I smelled one called "Saddle Warmer" by Smell Bent that NO ONE who smelled it liked. I couldn't fine one person who liked it. Scentology isn't all subjective.
    But objectivity is not synonym for unanimity

  41. #41
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    complexity that almost went to cacophony for me was Bal a Versailles vintage!

    if you havent tried, try it ....when i smell that scent i have a feeling it has 500 ingredients...and they all sit one over the other but the end result is very rounded, and pleasant scent yet extremely complex to the point that i dont understand why he used so many things when i think it would be simmilar with much less ingredients

    on the other hand many vintage perfumes are complex, ofcourse all is subject to tase etc but there is something i think that is fact:

    complexity to my nose comes from many natural ingredients: becasue natural materials are complex perfume blocks...unlike synthetics that are usually very simple chemicals, that can be only 1 chemical...while every natural stuff contains at least 4 or who knows how many more chemicals in itself...

    so there can be a beautiful stunning perfume done with only 3-4 natural accords...and represent simple beauty...like some of profumo.it perfumes....or vintage Mitsouko! that is actually gorgeous stunning beauty made of only few accords, but natural baseakmoss, galbanum
    that is the prototype of what i love the most...(Samsara vintage as well!only 3 accords)

    or can be building of complex blocks like other vintage Guerlains( L heure bleue, Habit rouge, Apres Loondee , even Shalimar)

    modern perfumery unfortunately can only choose i think between expencive simple beauty of 3-4 natural accords , or some complexity of synthetic chemicals, that just can never offer that real thing i ask for, example would be Hermes scents by J.C; Ellena, he makes perfect synthetic complexity...

    others like some modern designers are just too simple a lot of "pumping air" done by some hedione, or Iso E super in the best case plus 1 -2 notes.....that is the trend as soon as they discover new synthetic chemical soon everyone wants to play with that new toy

    so i would conclude for me complexity is mostly beeing lost with the loss of natural materials in perfumes, and can be substituted only by best ingredients available now
    although i have noticed i love the most perfumes with only 3-4 really good natural accords

    example of modern cacophony for me are 1 million, and Reflection by AMouage for men my appologies ....on female side can not think at the moment, many i can think of are too simple synthetics lol
    Last edited by iivanita; 26th March 2013 at 09:02 PM.

  42. #42
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buysblind View Post
    When Viktor and Rolf's Antidote is involved.
    Must admit Antidote came to my mind as well . . . not necessarily the most dense, but one of the most complex designer frags out there.

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    As usual, I don't think one can generalize too much. Complexity helps to sustain interest for an extended period of time - single note perfumes tend to become boring quite quickly. And I'm sure we all differ in what we define cacophony. Some dissonance could be wonderful for a person and horrid to another.

    That said, I think complex works when the perfume as a whole has a clear structure and "personality" (for lack of better words) that trascends the individual notes.
    Well put

    Quote Originally Posted by L'Homme Blanc Individuel View Post
    When it works, it's Complexity.
    When it doesn't, it's Cacophony.
    Nice n terse

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamondflame View Post
    Also worth remembering that every aromachemicals has its own evaporation rate/ projection profile. What smells discordant up close may smell smooth yet wonderfully complex from an arm's length. Similarly a discordant 'mess' in the opening could easily smooth itself out as the fragrance progresses. Ambient humidity, skin temperature, etc will affect the way a fragrance present itself. That's why it takes a while to properly review a fragrance.
    Very good points about projection and lifespan. Re: reviews, that's why it's so impressive when reviews like foetidus manage so many accurate ones!

    Quote Originally Posted by iivanita View Post
    complexity to my nose comes from many natural ingredients: becasue natural materials are complex perfume blocks...unlike synthetics that are usually very simple chemicals, that can be only 1 chemical...while every natural stuff contains at least 4 or who knows how many more chemicals in itself...

    so there can be a beautiful stunning perfume done with only 3-4 natural accords...and represent simple beauty...like some of profumo.it perfumes....or vintage Mitsouko! that is actually gorgeous stunning beauty made of only few accords, but natural baseakmoss, galbanum
    that is the prototype of what i love the most...(Samsara vintage as well!only 3 accords)

    or can be building of complex blocks like other vintage Guerlains( L heure bleue, Habit rouge, Apres Loondee , even Shalimar)

    modern perfumery unfortunately can only choose i think between expencive simple beauty of 3-4 natural accords , or some complexity of synthetic chemicals, that just can never offer that real thing i ask for, example would be Hermes scents by J.C; Ellena, he makes perfect synthetic complexity...

    others like some modern designers are just too simple a lot of "pumping air" done by some hedione, or Iso E super in the best case plus 1 -2 notes.....that is the trend as soon as they discover new synthetic chemical soon everyone wants to play with that new toy

    so i would conclude for me complexity is mostly beeing lost with the loss of natural materials in perfumes, and can be substituted only by best ingredients available now
    although i have noticed i love the most perfumes with only 3-4 really good natural accords

    example of modern cacophony for me are 1 million, and Reflection by AMouage for men my appologies ....on female side can not think at the moment, many i can think of are too simple synthetics lol
    A bit disorganized and vague, but several very interesting points in there.

    Most of the point I would have made have already been covered by others as you can see. Interesting thread, thanks!

  43. #43

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Letitbenose View Post
    ...A scent with a "simple" structure or few ingredients compared to others can be totally disharmonious and displeasing!
    Doesn't the title of this thread suggest that the OP is interested in discussing complex scents rather than simple ones that offer a sharp contrast between as few as two notes?
    Last edited by Bigsly; 27th March 2013 at 02:15 AM.

  44. #44

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigsly View Post
    doesn't the title the this thread suggest that the op is interested in discussing complex scents rather than simple ones that offer a sharp contrast between as few as two notes?
    yes.

  45. #45

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaern View Post
    I get your point about Antidote, but I don't think it could ever be described as 'complex' -- rather just a load of notes thrown together haphazardly -- imo of course, i.e. a 'cacophany'.

    OP - nice thread.

    Ummm...yeah, that's exactly what I was saying.


  46. #46

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    doesn't the title the this thread suggest that the op is interested in discussing complex scents rather than simple ones that offer a sharp contrast between as few as two notes?
    Quote Originally Posted by DanielPlainview View Post
    yes.
    Dear Bigsly and DanielPlainview : I was replying to Originally Posted by Rüssel: "I'd say when it's loud and displeasing. I don't think complexity (or the lack of it) has that much to do with it".
    So I thought his point was interesting and made a comment. And yes I understood the OP: cf my first reply.

  47. #47

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Hey moderators, this thread is pretty good too, maybe you should lock it?

  48. #48

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Honestly, if you think something like Antidote is a 'bunch notes thrown together haphazardly' you've obviously never tried your hand at perfumery.

    You may not like the progression, but technically it is pretty brilliant (I say this with the caveat that I am not a professional perfumer) and very very far from haphazard.

    More or less, given that essentially none of us commenters (myself included) really understand perfumery at a building blocks level, this is going to boil down to almost pointless speculation based on preferences. A lot of the fragrance community thinks that Acqua di Gio is utter shit, while many perfumers think it is a brilliant formula. Brilliant formula =/= you have to like it or enjoy it, of course, but the truth is that very few if any of us are equipped to see the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the technical side of construction.
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  49. #49

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by EndlesslySurprised View Post
    When? With Amouage Gold.

    Or, in music, here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LACCAF04wSs

    Enjoy!

    Thanks EndlesslySurprised for the levity on this (sometimes) surprisingly heated thread.
    (This could also be for anyone needing a reminder of the original hipsters.)

  50. #50

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Looking through the reviews, it's obvious that some fragrances produce fairly uniform 'this is OK' reactions and some - the interesting ones - elicit very polarised responses. Are the interesting perfumes those in which some element of risk-taking figures in the design? I'm wondering if the really successful ones (from an aesthetic point of view, not commercial) are the ones which gamble on skin chemistry and things like social conditioning. MKK comes to mind: reactions from out and out horror and disgust to finding it puzzlingly non-controversial. But a classic like Jicky is equally polarising, as far as I can tell.

  51. #51

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Schilling View Post
    Thanks EndlesslySurprised for the levity on this (sometimes) surprisingly heated thread.
    (This could also be for anyone needing a reminder of the original hipsters.)

    Schilling, you're too kind. Yet, that video is astonishingly funny (and complex!! for three minutes) so I couldn't pass the opportunity.

  52. #52

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    Honestly, if you think something like Antidote is a 'bunch notes thrown together haphazardly' you've obviously never tried your hand at perfumery.

    You may not like the progression, but technically it is pretty brilliant (I say this with the caveat that I am not a professional perfumer) and very very far from haphazard.

    More or less, given that essentially none of us commenters (myself included) really understand perfumery at a building blocks level, this is going to boil down to almost pointless speculation based on preferences. A lot of the fragrance community thinks that Acqua di Gio is utter shit, while many perfumers think it is a brilliant formula. Brilliant formula =/= you have to like it or enjoy it, of course, but the truth is that very few if any of us are equipped to see the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the technical side of construction.
    From what I've read, many perfumers don't actually smell that many scents, unlike many of us. Instead, they study construction, essential oils, aromachemicals, bases, etc. We study the finished products, and that is where the "cacophony" can occur. It's very different from a sport, for example, where there are players and spectators. With scents, we are players too, so to speak, and perhaps in a better position to judge, if we sample hundreds of scents within a few years or so (and we are the ones they seek to impress, or at least the "masses"). In fact, I remember one perfumer on BN (Chris Barlett) mentioning that he hasn't sampled as many scents as plenty of us certainly have. What perfumers will not do is get confused by a scent like Cool Water. They will recognize the major aromachemicals as well as the rendition of rosemary, neroli, tobacco, etc. However, they may not have much of an aesthetic sensibility, instead simply creating "salable" formulations, perhaps often doing "variations" on popular themes. Luca Turin mentioned this in the context of scents like Body Kouros, Yohji Homme, and Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, IIRC. If a "mess" becomes a best seller, there will be perfumers trying to do something similar, that's for sure, and how many will proclaim publicly that it is an aesthetically displeasing concoction?

  53. #53

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    From what I've read, many perfumers don't actually smell that many scents, unlike many of us. Instead, they study construction, essential oils, aromachemicals, bases, etc. We study the finished products, and that is where the "cacophony" can occur. It's very different from a sport, for example, where there are players and spectators. With scents, we are players too, so to speak, and perhaps in a better position to judge, if we sample hundreds of scents within a few years or so (and we are the ones they seek to impress, or at least the "masses"). In fact, I remember one perfumer on BN (Chris Barlett) mentioning that he hasn't sampled as many scents as plenty of us certainly have. What perfumers will not do is get confused by a scent like Cool Water. They will recognize the major aromachemicals as well as the rendition of rosemary, neroli, tobacco, etc. However, they may not have much of an aesthetic sensibility, instead simply creating "salable" formulations, perhaps often doing "variations" on popular themes. Luca Turin mentioned this in the context of scents like Body Kouros, Yohji Homme, and Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, IIRC. If a "mess" becomes a best seller, there will be perfumers trying to do something similar, that's for sure, and how many will proclaim publicly that it is an aesthetically displeasing concoction?
    This makes a lot of sense.

  54. #54

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    The great Phil Spector, record producer for the Beatles had a technique called "the Wall of Sound" where he took huge orchestras, amplified certain instruments, and basically created a huge wall of intense music. Of course this worked well...when it worked. I see frags the same way, a quiet refined British house like Penhaligons puts a few harmonious notes together, and voila! a conservative harmonious frag. A Brahms concerto. Then there is Bond no 9, who likes to amplify their notes, add many unusual supporting notes, and they end up with loud, projective creations analogous to Heavy Metal Rock...that people either love or hate. When I see reviews divided, and see terms like "Awful, Horrible, or garbage" It seems to be the complex, avante garde frags. Houses like Bn9 have created some awful messes, but when they hit a complex masterpiece (insert favorite Bn9 frag here) It usually gets a large response.

  55. #55

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    Honestly, if you think something like Antidote is a 'bunch notes thrown together haphazardly' you've obviously never tried your hand at perfumery.

    You may not like the progression, but technically it is pretty brilliant (I say this with the caveat that I am not a professional perfumer) and very very far from haphazard.

    More or less, given that essentially none of us commenters (myself included) really understand perfumery at a building blocks level, this is going to boil down to almost pointless speculation based on preferences. A lot of the fragrance community thinks that Acqua di Gio is utter shit, while many perfumers think it is a brilliant formula. Brilliant formula =/= you have to like it or enjoy it, of course, but the truth is that very few if any of us are equipped to see the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the technical side of construction.
    That's your opinion. I have tried enough fragrances to determine whether there is at least a 'clash' of notes. I don't think you have to be some sort of master 'perfumer' to realise that. I stick by what I said before and imo Antidote is a piece of designer crap with about as much complexity or thought processes involved as a concrete wall.

  56. #56

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    Honestly, if you think something like Antidote is a 'bunch notes thrown together haphazardly' you've obviously never tried your hand at perfumery.

    You may not like the progression, but technically it is pretty brilliant (I say this with the caveat that I am not a professional perfumer) and very very far from haphazard.

    More or less, given that essentially none of us commenters (myself included) really understand perfumery at a building blocks level, this is going to boil down to almost pointless speculation based on preferences. A lot of the fragrance community thinks that Acqua di Gio is utter shit, while many perfumers think it is a brilliant formula. Brilliant formula =/= you have to like it or enjoy it, of course, but the truth is that very few if any of us are equipped to see the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the technical side of construction.

    I agree with what you're saying. I don't think Antidote was haphazardly thrown together. When I tried it I just remember thinking "What the hell is going on here? and getting confused by the note composition/progression from one moment to the next. To top it off, I didn't really like the way it smelled either.

    So yeah, my comment was probably made more haphazardly than anything, though it's still the one fragrance that comes to mind when I think of "Cacophony" for the simple fact there are so many notes that often emerging then disappearing then reappearing in different combinations/volume levels. In actuality, they're not discordant or anything, I just don't like them.

    John Varvatos, which I like, actually becomes cacophonous at times. I noticed that the structure will sometimes fall apart completely, resulting in a very discordant feeling. What results is kind of like an orchestra where each member is playing the same piece but in different time signatures or as if they started playing the piece at different times. The notes are in tune (same scales), but the result is totally off.

    Maybe Antidote is more like a really big orchestra (with some electic guitars, synthesizers, and theramins added to it) playing a tune I'm not crazy about.


  57. #57

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    I'd vote Breath of God - into this category. Like being hit with a wall of scent - olafactory knock-out...
    Well, it's cheaper than therapy... edit: No it's not...

  58. #58

    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Complexity becomes cacophony when there is a clash of harmony with the needs of the person wearing the fragrance. There is harmony and rhythm within the notes of a perfume creation - similar to rhythm in a piece of music. When the notes clash with what you personally need it creates a jarring, discordant disharmony - that is cacophony. It takes two to tango so to speak. A fragrance that is cacophony to you might not be for someone else. Fragrances that are complex and have many bold statements have a greater likelihood of clashing just because they are taking more risks by putting this statements out there. Not all bad fragrances are disharmonious - some are just boring, inappropriate or lack style or harmony at all.

  59. #59
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    From what I've read, many perfumers don't actually smell that many scents, unlike many of us. Instead, they study construction, essential oils, aromachemicals, bases, etc. We study the finished products, and that is where the "cacophony" can occur.
    so true, i was amazed to learn this myself! i just started like 1 year ago and i know so many frags that some experienced perfumers never smelled, make me wonder why is this so? i know there are people who investigate competition product, but those are not perfumers, i think they are afraid of sniffing others work, to not fall under the influence .....but many are not in the touch with reality i think.....

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by SculptureOfSoul View Post
    More or less, given that essentially none of us commenters (myself included) really understand perfumery at a building blocks level, this is going to boil down to almost pointless speculation based on preferences. A lot of the fragrance community thinks that Acqua di Gio is utter shit, while many perfumers think it is a brilliant formula. Brilliant formula =/= you have to like it or enjoy it, of course, but the truth is that very few if any of us are equipped to see the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the technical side of construction.
    oh man! for my money a perfumer will not teach me what is an art or sell me synthetics as if i can not tell the difference i think its very easy to recognize beauty, but its hard to make it....

    also just think a little bit if you are a perfumer....how would you do a perfume? do you think you could objectively smell your work? i dont think so....esp if you invested lot of time in it

    i think we are in much better position to see what is good and what bad ......

    i have done some tests with people, who i think have very average noses, all of them could clearly smell the difference between reformulations of certain perfumes and be spot on! so.....saying one can not see whats real beauty is like saying one must have an eye to spot a beautiful woman lol
    Last edited by iivanita; 27th March 2013 at 03:09 PM.

  60. #60
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    Default Re: When does Complexity become Cacophony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Danielstripedtiger View Post
    The great Phil Spector, record producer for the Beatles had a technique called "the Wall of Sound" where he took huge orchestras, amplified certain instruments, and basically created a huge wall of intense music. Of course this worked well...when it worked.
    Phil Spector only produced Let It Be, and angered the Beatles a lot by some of the over-the-top choices he made. All the rest of their output was produced by the great George Martin, who had more taste in his little finger than Spector did in his whole frame. My dad went to high school with him, so I know Wall of sound also required certain cutting-edge technologies (dynamics processors) to create, just like cacophanies' effect is potentiated by synthetics in perfumery.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzzlepuff View Post
    Complexity becomes cacophony when there is a clash of harmony with the needs of the person wearing the fragrance. There is harmony and rhythm within the notes of a perfume creation - similar to rhythm in a piece of music. When the notes clash with what you personally need it creates a jarring, discordant disharmony - that is cacophony. It takes two to tango so to speak. A fragrance that is cacophony to you might not be for someone else. Fragrances that are complex and have many bold statements have a greater likelihood of clashing just because they are taking more risks by putting this statements out there. Not all bad fragrances are disharmonious - some are just boring, inappropriate or lack style or harmony at all.
    Excellent points as usual BP. Especially that last. Cacophany is merely one perfumers' pitfall . . . and believe me, there are many.

    Quote Originally Posted by iivanita View Post
    so true, i was amazed to learn this myself! i just started like 1 year ago and i know so many frags that some experienced perfumers never smelled, make me wonder why is this so? i know there are people who investigate competition product, but those are not perfumers, i think they are afraid of sniffing others work, to not fall under the influence .....but many are not in the touch with reality i think.....
    Correct. It's difficult as an artist or designer to know where to stop in sensory input, since it all has an effect on your creativity. In general, masters result from learning as much as you can then forgetting it all. Savants (the opposite) are rare and tend to have limited range.

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