Cruising in Cromarty, last weekend, I listened to a Radio Three show in which the presenter, a parfumier, attempted to match pieces of music to fragrances - a Brahms string Sextet to Chanel; a bit of opera to Coty L'aimant; some jazz guitar to Jimmy Choo; a piano and flute piece to, what was it now, I think it was Guerlain's Shalimar. I may have the combinations completely misremembered but you get the idea - one piece, because of its composition and rythmn and instrumental colour, suggested to the presenter a type of perfume. He knew all about the molecules, the palette, the notes of fragrance and he had a slightly dogmatic view of the music, which could only have the interpretation which he provided and no other, for its mating with the perfume to work. Although I knew most of the music and most of the fragrances the show made no sense to me; although it worked for the presenter, it was an attempt to connect things unconnectable, well, unconnectable by me, anyway.
I love perfumes, and buy them recklessly; I rarely wear them but I love it when I do, I have loads of them, boxed still, little used, pure hedonistic wastrel shit. No matter, mrs ishmael gets through hers like she was gonna die tomorrow. And if I, figuratively speaking, should die tomorrow I am sure that she will find purpose for my collected colognes.
Other smells I love through a nostalgic nose, the old-fashioned, dilute-to-strength Zoflora air freshener, Dettol, mown grass; all the Nivea products I associate with a mother I barely knew, yet others I associate with worthiness and utility - WD40, Brasso and best of all a beeswax furniture polish, Liberon Black Bison, which dresses the air of the house with a hint of ancient affluence and with both Purpose and Accomplishment, as well as maintaining and highlighting the furniture to which it is applied. I often polish furniture not because it needs it but because I like the smell of the polish, my reward is that brief olfactory uplifting, which like that provided by concocted perfumes and scents, while transcendent is transitory. There are worse compulsions than sniffing polish and I am not ashamed.
I heard this Mozart piece on the radio tonight and on the strength of the high note in the alleluia, (here at about twelve minutes) went looking for it on the youthing. Comparing young Julia, here, with others, like Kiri te Kanawa, however, I realised that she had been squirted from a different atomiser, she plays herself differently, moves to different impulses and although she sings the same notes as Dame Kiri, Julia's is a different musicality. Mike Heron had a lovely verse for Dame Kiri's stunted interpretation - Ah, you know all the words and you sung all the notes but you never quite learned the song, I can tell by the sadness in your eyes that you never quite learned the song. Somehow, at an early age, Julia has learned the songs and their meanings quite perfectly, smells their high, heart and bass notes and sings them, naturally.
It may just be that, as in sport, there is a virtuosity-nouvelle, created by punitive training and by competition for ever greater rewards, whatever has caused it Julia Lezhneva's singing, like Wolfgang Amadeus, himself, seems to be the very Love of God, both a joy and a wonder.
Ordinarily I cannot tell one soprano from another, not unless I see them. I think I can tell a good one from an indifferent one but they all - classical concert musicians - seem amazing to me. But seeing the uniqueness of this performance I started to think that maybe we all of us, to our doings, bring our own fragrance; maybe the brickie has his own Lily of the Valley around his boots and his trowel and his line; might the plumber's work not be drenched with almond blossom and Forget-Me-Not, might not the quilter's needle and thread imbue the work with her own heart notes, her own lavender and rose?
It is a Hot Medium, the radio, it is a week since, parked on the firth shore, I heard that muso-parfumier and I'm still cudgelling my brains for his meaning - does music smell, do perfumes sing?
I suspect, however, regardless of those questions, that in the fertile, creative presence of the Divine Lezhneva there grows a Garden of Earthly Delights.