Music and Perfume

Sometimes when I smell a perfume and there is music playing in the background, something happens. A magical synergy, that ties both the perfume and the song into a tight knot, so I can’t think of one without the other. And listening to the song while re-smelling the  perfume often brings back the intensity of the first experience of smelling it.


This happened to me when I first smelled Mona di Orio’s Oud *. The song that was playing on my laptop was Bessie Smith’s ‘Baby won’t you please come home‘. If you have some MdO Oud on hand, go on, dab/spray some and listen to the song. There is a quality in each, the perfume and the song, that enhances the other for me.

I am listening to Tom Waits’ Martha while writing this post. And it has sort of intertwined itself with this post. And when I pause the song, I find that I can’t continue this post till I resume the song. I now wonder what perfume will suit this song. I almost feel like any perfume I smell while listening to this, will be infused with a pathos and beauty that it may not deserve. Which is probably why music in film can often times become manipulative, since it can infuse emotions and a certain quality into scenes, that those scenes may not deserve and possibly cannot achieve on their own. Imagine smelling Aqualina Pink Sugar while listening to Martha! But I digress.

Do me a favor, will you? Play this song while reading my post? 

I would probably try smelling something fleeting and heart breakingly beautiful while listening to Martha. My mind fixates on a perfume that I don’t know very well : Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee. The idea of that perfume sounds perfect for the song. But then, Montale’s Black Aoud might be a better fit with its brooding, dark exterior and sweet rosy center, a bittersweet perfume if there ever was.

Now, I switch the song to another favorite, Rolling Stones’ You got the silver to check if my thoughts flit to a different kind of perfume. I feel like being contrary and smelling a dry incense while listening to this. Something like Commes de Garcon Avignon.

Other perfumes and music that pair well together:

By Killian Love and Tears (which often smells to me like jasmine petals dancing on their toes) reminds me of Vivaldi’s Spring or Mozart’s Turkish March

This ‘jazzy’ cover version of All about that bass sounds wonderful with a side of rose chypre like MDCI Chypre Palatin.

And the deceptive sweetness of Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur ** is perfectly cut by the raspy voice of Eddie Vedder singing Last Kiss.

What are some of your favorite music and perfume pairings?

* I didn’t know MdO Oud had been renamed to Oudh Osmanthus till now. Where have I been hiding?

** I am wearing the (discontinued) oil which  is softer than the edp.

Picture via WeHeartIt


  1. I must confess that my senses of smell and hearing don’t seem to be connected in this way, though I will see if I can spot any associations in future. Of course that is very much how Asali’s mind/nose works, indeed her blog is entitled ‘The Sounds of Scent’. As an opera singer, that kind of kinaesthesia probably comes easily to her, as it does to you. At a pinch Apres l’Ondee could be Mahler’s Death in Venice for me, maybe. More work needed!

    • I just started listening to Death in Venice after reading your comment (I hadn’t heard it before)- it is beautiful. Thank you! I guess, it isn’t necessary to associate a particular perfume with certain music to enjoy them together. I also meant that perfume and music sometimes gain something from each other when smelled together (Like pairing wine with a meal). Do you think that is true for you? Or not?
      Yes – I remember really liking the name of Asali’s blog when she started it. I NEED to put it into my regular blog-reading rotation! Thank you for the reminder!

  2. I’m with Vanessa on that: I do not “hear” perfumes… Actually, I do not “see” them either. For me perfumes are scents and memories of different events, happenings and occurrences. The same goes for music: I do not have any visual associations – just memories.

    • Yes – especially with music that is true for me too- the associations with memories (and the ‘feelings’ associated with the memories) are the strongest. However, I always ‘see’ something when any non-visual sense is engaged (even though I don’t think I am a synesthete). With perfume, more than just auditory associations, I was also wondering aloud if it is enjoyable to ‘pair’ a perfume with a piece of music to enhance its enjoyment (even though, for a good perfume, it *should* not be necessary to pair it with any other ‘sense’ for it to be enjoyable. It should be enjoyable on its own if it is any good. :-). Come to think of it- that is true for any piece of art, no?).

  3. Yep, I am a ‘one sense at a time’ kind of person for the most part. As Undina says, it’s all about the scents and the memories – not even past ones, though, in my own case. For I actively select particular scents to wear to an event *I think* will be enjoyable in order to imprint them with a happy memory. That’s organised of me, I’d say. 😉

  4. Scent and memory, and music and memory, and taste (food) and memory, is how I ‘see’ but this, scent and music, is an interesting observation that I will watch out for! [listening to your Mozart pick now!]

    • So nice to see you here, Anita! Yes, a lot of times, the connections between various senses do seem to be via the many ‘shared memories’ (shared between the senses) and associations. But sometimes, some direct independent associations end up happening. I will be interested to know if you end up ‘spotting’ any..:). Thanks for stopping by!

  5. There are several of my perfumes that are composed because of, or inspired by music. David Sylvian’s “Brilliant Trees” is one of the songs that I am composing a new perfume to, at the moment. 🙂

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