Share it

Someone said once that perfume is ephemeral art. Not only does the scent evaporate throughout the day, but over time, perfumes are discontinued, abandoned, and then forgotten. Fragrance is unlike nearly all other forms of art in this regard. Music can (now) be recorded, plays can (now) be videotaped, poems and literature can be written down. Fragrance and cooking are the only arts that have proven immune to modern capture. Both are recorded, long term, only in formulas.

Taking a longer view, even the things we record with are doomed to obsolescence. Animations made in early versions of Flash cannot be played now, and that was less than twenty years ago. Disks used in the 1970’s cannot be read, because all the computers that can read them are gone, and nobody remembers how to make them. Part of the speed of technology is the increasing abandonment of even successful objects of yesterday, to say nothing of the failures. Somewhere in China, years of history are being compacted, burned, and reduced to the raw materials from whence they came.

Even with the best methods of preservation available, I will not be able to pass along the scents that have impressed themselves upon me. This is a shame; I would think that a museum of scent could preserve scents so that future generations may understand what was so special about them. That this would be expensive at first, I have no doubt. However, doing this would involve being able to manufacture the scent in order for it to exist to be smelled. That requirement places my hope in serious jeopardy. No doubt that the fragrances of yesteryear will all be banned or rendered verboten by some regulatory agency somewhere, so that over time, even the memory of certain scents will be purged from our memory and history, as the glorious synthetic future hammers us all into mass-marketed widgets.

It’s strange, I suppose, to care for something so transitory and evanescent as fragrance, and yet desire to preserve it. Some people let time slip through their fingers idly while others struggle to recall and remember and savor every moment, perhaps holding too tightly and causing it to squeeze out from between their fingers. I am in the latter camp.