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May 03, 2023

Hear scents, smell sounds: The fil rouge between music and perfume

It’s a fact: our senses of hearing and smell do not work in the same way. While the first is a ‘mechanical’ sense, the second is a ‘chemical’ one and they stimulate different brain areas initially. But studies now show that sound and smell can form an unlikely pairing, as these two senses can engage common brain areas and, if combined, influence our cognitive performance. In-depth studies are being conducted to investigate the connection between scent and music in neurology, and all the major labels are hiring experts in the area. 

So, what is the sound of a scent? How does music inspire a ‘nose’? A few months ago, the art fair artgenève teamed up with Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company, ScentRealm and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande to present “The Art and Sound of Scents,” a multi-sensorial performance that combined scent, sound and sight. This collaboration allowed “the audience to hear fragrances, see sounds and smell visual stories,” as artgenève reported. There, ScentRealm, a China-based digital scent technology pioneer and partner of Firmenich, created innovative collar devices where 14 scents by Firmenich perfumer Loïc Bisceglie were diffused in harmony with a video by visual artist Pascal Matthey and live music played by the orchestra.

But there is also research by Ircam Amplify, the commercial subsidiary of France’s Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (Ircam), together with the world’s leading fragrance creator IFF and L’Oréal to create “a sound grammar capable of rewriting the sensations evoked by a (scented) product.”

Ircam Amplify, IFF and Viktor&Rolf Fragrances (L’Oréal) joined forces for the launch of the new men’s fragrance SpiceBomb Infrared

Ircam Amplify, IFF and Viktor&Rolf Fragrances (L’Oréal) joined forces for the launch of the new men’s fragrance SpiceBomb Infrared

The first result of this project was Viktor&Rolf's SpiceBomb Infrared, the spiciest fragrance ever created by the brand. As stated by Ircam Amplify, they “designed the Infrared sound to bring the same sensations as smelling the perfume: a sound and a perfume that turn up the heat.” Moreover, Ircam Amplify is experimenting with innovative sound techniques that, associated with perfumes, aim to encourage consumers to buy these fragrances online, allowing them to better imagine their olfactory nuances.



Silvia Manzoni
Journalist and Beauty expert