D.S. & Durga White Peacock Lily
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A lone peacock floats over cream lilies, oleander, and a sea of alabaster violet. Orchestral pads of harps and horns drone. Pale blue fog hangs in the far woodlands.
Charles Tomlin Griffes is an American composer of classical music. He comes from a period when music was flourishing in the U.S. A good deal of great early 20th century American music owes its language to French (and Russians working in Paris) music of the time - especially Ravel and Debussy. Though the term is much debated, this music is often described as impressionistic. Whatever it is called, it was the freshest sound of the new century. Large orchestras of odd percussion, soft sweeping strings, and harps transported the listener into dreamlike worlds where chromatic melodies hunted around the colorful corners of the tunes.
The French music being made by Frenchmen was undoubtedly French - artistic, charismatic, self aware, tongue-in-cheek - with a deep interest in mystery. Americans took this music - or this language of impressionistic tone painting - and applied to something distinct in America: tremendously vast landscapes. It is liquid music that moves and flows in grand harmonies describing the features of the American West, the open plains, and the towering peaks. Griffes most famous piece is a lush musical journey through the most iconic American landscape of all, the Grand Canyon.
The piece that inspired this perfume is called “The White Peacock” by Fiona Macleod — a Scottish woman famous throughout the highlands for her dreamy works—and set to music by Griffes. It is one of the few tone poems based on an actual poem. The music, scored for a small orchestra, takes direction from the words. Mercurial/magic harps, winding strings, quirky brass horns, and the comical buzz of clarinets describe the beautifully soft language: “cliffs of basalt, fronds of cactus, where the bulbul singeth, cream-white poppies.” In Griffes music, the listener can hear the cream white poppies, the sweeping seas of flowers, and most important the silent noble glide of the grand bird that floats above the fields of flowers.
For the scent, I first worked on the scent of lily. It is quite a basic accord that you find in everything scented - laundry detergent all the way up to parfum. The common accord is lily-like but is certainly not realistic. Lily accords are comforting and pleasant. I started there and made something very easy and approachable. The people I showed it too liked it. Kavi liked it. We almost put it out. But it was not enough. It was safe and frankly, a bit boring. It lacked the allure of the real flower. Real lilies are hauntingly narcotic. Frosty powdery vanillic with off notes of overripe green melon and the porkier side of clove distillates. So I got some lilies and went to work. Going back and forth between the real thing and my accord, embellishing it with touches of the off notes until I had a real life white lily sitting there.
The lily had to float over the fields of violets, conjure the distant fog, and the oleander of the poem. We made the real lily more unctuous with jasmine grandiflorum absolute - the elegant jasmine of Egypt, India, and France. I made it whiter with ambrette musks. I made it creamier with liquid ambrette extract - the wettest fresh musk of hibiscus seeds. One of the rarest and most prized natural/non-animal musks. Violet and rose Otto help extend the freshness of the bergamot and melon top accord. The overall effect like the music is lush, warm, noble, and dreamlike.
Top Notes: Oleander, Cabreuva Rouge & Grapefruit Pith
Heart Notes: White Lily Cream, Egyptian Jasmine & Alabaster Violet
Base Notes: Ambrette Seed, Vanilla & Fog