adventures in sinaesthesia: the human cello
I’ve been hanging out with my two cellist siblings a lot this summer and it has gotten me thinking about cellos. Well, cellos and people. Well, cellos, perfume and people. You see, to me the cello is the instrument that most resembles the human voice. In shape, it most resembles the human form. Its voice is mostly male, its form mostly female, and thus it is fundamentally androgynous, a quality which has done much to keep it in the collective unconscious of pop culture. Even the act of playing the cello is intimate in a way unlike any other player’s relationship with his instrument. The female player titillatingly holds the cello between her thighs when she performs—my sister has trouble finding black clothing appropriate for performance for this very reason—and their union results in the birth of music itself. The male cellist, too, is locked in a creative embrace of his beloved.
The color of the cello—as well as its tone—is the richest warmest honeyed amber, in one of the most perfect sinaesthetic unions of sound, color, form, and smell imaginable. For I forgot to mention the dusty, woody smell of the cello itself, of the shiny varnish over warm-smelling wood, or the amber-resinous scent of the rosin so frequently used on the bowstrings.
The richness of the cello’s tone is neither too high nor too low, too full or too nasal—but, in the words of Goldilocks, just right, which brings me to its equivalent on the olfactory scale, amber.
Amber is neither too sweet nor too bitter. It leads us to neither the masculine nor feminine olfactory mindspace. It is, simply put, the most human of all the smells used in perfumery. It is rich and dark, but also smooth and warm, like human skin.
Sonoma Scent Studios’ Ambre Noir is, to me, the perfect olfactory equivalent of the cello. Comforting, luminous, neither male nor female, but exceptionally sensual as well. It has this core that, simply put, reminds me of the deep amber at the heart of the cello’s spirit. Vanilla for comfort, warmth, yes, but also a green-brown vetiver, a raunchy/holy incense, and some dark stickiness that reminds me of cello rosin. All in all a lovely, rich composition, and one that I
have just come to equate with the beauty and golden richness of the cello. Not to mention it is intense and long-lasting, two major plusses in my book. And for me, that smooth luminous olfactory and sonic richness represents my loved ones, my memories of my childhood, everything.
SO, for this week’s adventure in sinaesthesia, pour yourself an expensive amber liquor—I’ve got some nice cognac. Dab on your favorite amber—mine is this gorgeous Ambre Noir—and listen to some cello music—whatever you love will do. For me, this time, it’s Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello; overdone, I know, but for pure beauty, it can’t be beat.
Enjoy the richness of your life.
The Cellist, by Chagall