Slowing time on the scent piano

public piano

It must be amazing to have perfect pitch. I say that as someone who doesn’t. To my musical friends who do, it may feel as natural as breathing.


I have heard the vast library of aroma chemicals in professional perfume labs being referred to as a “piano.” The analogies all make sense—the notes, the chords (accords), the composition—until we insert the variable of time into the equation. Suddenly it breaks.

As I listened to a piano-cello trio today in all the glory my headphones could transmit, I found myself wishing a scent equivalent existed. Each musical note, though blended with others in a chord and conveyed in quick succession, is perceptible as a distinct entity. Alas, not so with aromas; with their varying levels of volatility and the saturation of olfactory receptors, there is no way to precisely control their perception temporally.

Unless, perhaps, we release each note with enough time in between to allow our noses to capture it and our brains to recognize it consciously. That way, the score might unfold along a time axis.

In doing so, we would be  e x p a n d i n g  time—taking much longer to process a scent allegro than its musical equivalent.


Again alas, that won’t give us more hours in the day, but it might help us be more present in the hours we have.






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