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Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes / Bote & Bock

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Centro de Acción Social por la Música, Sala Fedora Alemán, Caracas
Members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela / Joshua Dos Santos
Composer's Notes
Repertoire Note

Music is the art of sound; perfumery is the art of scent...

Looking how to compose music based on perfumery, I got my hands on a specialized book, from where I learned that traditional perfumes are made from three sets of substances: the more volatiles, lasting only minutes (high notes), the ones that last all day or central theme (mid notes), and the base of the perfume (low notes), that prevail several days.

I also learned that there’s a modern tendency that forms a set of four aromatic substances with similar volatility, that can remain unchanged for hours, named "Aromatic Accords".

The fact of finding terms such as: high notes, mid notes, base notes, central theme, and aromatic accords on a perfumery book, made me trust that writing music based on perfumes wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. So I packed books and notebooks and headed downtown seeking for essential oils to inspire my composition. I bought every flask that charmed my nose and rushed back into my studio, where I organized them according to their origins: woods, herbs, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Then I composed an aromatic accord for each category:

Cypress   Mint   Violet   Lemon   Thyme
Pine   Palmarosa   Lilac   Bergamot   Clove
Cedar   Lavender   Lily   Mandarin   Vanilla
Ginger   Patchouli   Rose   Orange   Anise

The vertical order was established by observing their tenacities – the time it takes for their scent to fade away. Those placed higher up are volatiles, those placed lower down are tenacious. The five movements of the work correspond to these five aromatic accords.

To obtain notes and rhythms from these essential oils I had to research the chemical formula of their characteristic substances (limonene for lemon, for instance). The sense of smell works by recognizing the tridimensional structure of molecules: the geometric pattern of their atoms. So with the chemical formulas, I drew conversion diagrams from molecules to music, assigning the vertical axis to pitch, the horizontal one to rhythm. Finally, I used these pitches and rhythms to compose the music, seeking to evocate the general impression that each aromatic accord invoked on me.

Woods: profound, Herbs: fresh, Flowers: affect, Citrus: acid, Seeds: bitter.

The title of the work results from fusing the words Acoustic and Essence.
Recommended Recording

Ensamble Internacional de las Artes / Enrico Chapela
Urtext Digital Classics JBCC297


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