Antonio Artese, DMA – Direttore Artistico Florentia Consort, Florence)

Experiencing “Scent Scapes”: Adding an olfactory and deep emotional dimension to the synesthetic works of Alexander Skrjabin

Moving from an analysis of Alexander Skrjabin's original concept of colors associated with music keys, both in his late piano production and orchestral works (Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, Op. 60, 1910), the research paper focuses on a project that aims at offering the general audience a true aesthetic and synesthetic experience.
In recent years, performances of Skrjabin’s piano solo and/or orchestra with the addition of lights have become more popular than ever. Advanced computer technology and solid state lighting offer unprecedented and powerful tools for creating a sophisticated visual and aural music experience. However, the project explored in this paper pushes the boundaries of such experience: it adds a third sensorial layer through the stimulation of the olfactory sense, which is known to be directly connected with the limbic system. The result is an original combination of a “visual-sound-scape” with a “scent-scape” and its emotional deep implications on the audience’s memory and its overall esthetic-synesthetic experience.
The venue envisioned for this aesthetic/synesthetic experience is similar to a “planetarium”. It features a curved screen and an array of 6 to 10 projectors reproducing high resolution color images triggered by computer generated algorithms. An acoustic grand piano – with a properly “treated” keyboard connected to a computer, will deliver the acoustic sound-scape, based on the keys/colors combination of the original piano score. The scent-scape dimension is granted by the alternation of olfactory stimuli. Especially designed fragrances will follow a particular script line, added to the original music score and based on the concept of Skriabin’s Mysterium.
A section of the paper is devoted to explore the state-of-the-art for music and lighting combined design. The olfactory dimension is analyzed and engineered in cooperation with one of the finest noses and top essence designer in Florence.
The project aims at proposing to the general audience a synesthetic experience with the combination of three senses. Adding a layer of sensorial experience (olfactory) to a visual and acoustic production in tune with what the Russian composer anticipated in his Mysterium. The tonal and color combination framework are piloted and triggered by a "treated" acoustic grand piano, while the olfactory experience (in cooperation with one of the finest noses and essence designer in Florence) adds depth to the performance.
The envisioned venue for such a concert is a "Planetarium" with a curved screen, where an array of 6 to 10 projectors reproduce images triggered by computer algorithms based on the musical score (keys) and keyboard 's combinations. The sensorial alternation of perfumes also follows the "score" of the original piano compositions.