Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Scent of Music: Christmas Time is Here (Vince Guaraldi Trio)

The scent of what, you ask? Well, perfume lovers associate a lot of things with perfume. What perfume would James Bond wear, and does it depend on whether he's being played by Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan? What does the color chartreuse smell like? What perfume goes best with prime rib?

For Christmas, some of us are blogging about the link between a piece of Christmas music and a perfume. The choice of music is up to the blogger. And I'm a weird blogger, with a taste for the dark.  The chorus of Christmas in Prison, as performed by The Boxmasters, keeps running through my head. The same album (Christmas Cheer)  includes I Won't Be Home For Christmas, also about Christmas in prison. And My Dreams of Christmas, about a child's disappointed Christmas dreams. And Slower Than Christmas, about a dysfunctional family. And Blue Christmas. And...

I love that album. And I'm slightly disappointed that August: Osage County (the movie based on the play about a dysfunctional family, by Tracy Letts) isn't actually opening on Christmas day. And I'm feeling the urge to watch Christopher Titus's Norman Rockwell is Bleeding again. It's been one of those years. Or two of those years. I'm supposed to be happy and sparkly, and I'm failing to fulfill that expectation. There's no particularly good reason why, but all the same, without an excuse, I'm failing to sparkle.

Like Charlie Brown.

We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas last night, right before watching It's A Wonderful Life. They both gave me just what I wanted, and, more surprising, they seem to fill the same need that's filled by the Boxmasters album, the Titus special, the Letts play, and similar dark work. I suppose that the common element is that they all address disappointment, address it not so much as an incident in life, but as a part of its fabric. The best comedy comes from darkness and disappointment, and I suspect that the best music does as well. I don't say that that makes it all worthwhile, but that's not really the point. You start with what you have, and you make something of it.

This is really not the kind of Christmas post that you were expecting, is it? Then again, Christmas is about darkness, too, in its way. I'm not religious, but that doesn't mean that the story of a dark world being presented with hope, hope coming from a humble and poor place, doesn't have power for me. A manger and a baby. A tiny Christmas tree facing scorn and growing when it's loved. I can't really make a tidy analogy there, but all the same, it works for me.

Christmas Time is Here, the music that opens A Charlie Brown Christmas, is sweet and sad and happy. It glimmers and ripples, like candlelight on glass. It communicates childhood, but without the frantic heartless pace of so many children's songs.

How do I translate that to a perfume? My first thought is that it's a perfume with some dark notes, not just simple pleasing sweetness. But there must be brightness, glimmering and comforting, and a touch of childhood, or at least innocence. My usual Christmas perfume is Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale, and my loyalty to that scent hasn't weakened. But Sushi Imperiale isn't Christmas Time is Here, it's the jazz number, with Snoopy dancing and Schroeder playing at the pageant.

I considered Sutra Ylang, Sushi's shy little sister, but there's not enough darkness there. After a good long sniff, I decided on Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose. No, it's not a "Christmasy" perfume--no cinnamon, no ginger, no woodsmoke. But the trail of this post led me looking for dark and light, complexity, glimmering sweetness and sorrow and joy. Cepes & Tuberose fits the description, with its forest-floor darkness mingling with luminous sweetness with that vibe of innocence, and the edge of browned butter. So there we are.

Please see the other Scent of Music posts at these fine blogs!

Australian Perfume Junkies
Chemist in the Bottle
All I am - a redhead
Riktig Parfym
Olfactoria's Travels
Undina's Looking Glass
Another Perfume Blog
the unseen censer

Image: Wikimedia Commons


  1. Oooh, spooky: we both chose Aftelier! And so far you, Tara, and I have referenced the darker side of Christmas. We're not so weird, or we're all weird in a similar way. :)

  2. I don't think Christmas has to be sparkly. It might be just a warm and relaxed celebration of the end of one year and hopes for the upcoming one.

    Happy Holidays to you! And may your next year be lighter (just a little! you do not have to give up your darker side).

  3. Thanks for joining the event with us, it's nice to have a different approach towards the subject :)

  4. Really enjoyed this post. As Natalie said, we have a similar take on Christmas. A dark world being presented with hope resonates with me too. Cepes & Tuberose is perfect for mirroring that light and shade.

  5. I got goosebumps reading your post (I get those often lately, it's such time of the year for me).
    I haven't been feeling sparkly for a long time but I think I might be finally getting back into it (slowly).
    you are of course right, there is darkness to Christmas not only light, but we couldn't recognize the light without the dark.
    I don't like going through difficult and depressing times but I recognize the fact they are necessary for all of us to learn to appreciate and enjoy fully the good times.
    I hope this Christmas and the New Year bring you a lot of joy so you sparkle! :)

  6. I loved this post, as ever - whether you are feeling sparkly and upbeat or darker and introspective, I just enjoy following whither your mind wanders! Am not familiar with the perfume you have chosen, but savoured your description of it. Have a good Christmas, featuring copious amounts of chicken and bacon, I hope, with a seasonal side of turkey?

  7. I very much appreciated reading your post, it struck me as very honest. Christmas comes with so much baggage, so many flat out lies. It sounds like a very healthy option to just refuse not seeing thing things for what they really are and see where that approach will take you :)

  8. Vince Guaraldi is my all time favorite jazz artist. I used to listen to the A Charlie Brown Christmas album over and over again in my ipod mini. Thanks for including it!

    (posting as anonymous as somehow blogspot does not recognize my identity)


  9. It's been a while since I commented here, but I wanted to let you know how fascinating, moving and insightful I found your post. The paragraph in which you state (of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the other Christmas shows and music that you like), "I suppose that the common element is that they all address disappointment, address it not so much as an incident in life, but as a part of its fabric" ... so true and so beautifully said. I love how you concluded that paragraph too.

    I think that in 2014, you should think of writing a book. Your writing is that good. Here's wishing you a very special and meaningful Christmas.

  10. Hey, everybody! I just wanted to apologize for not responding to your comments, and not chiming on everybody else's posts. I posted and promptly vanished into Christmas travel, with only partial Internet capabilities and lack of access to many passwords.

  11. Yo, Natalie! Yes, I find it very reassuring that I'm not the only one with a dark take on the subject. And, go Aftelier!

  12. Hey, Undina! Yes, I suppose sparkles and tapdancing is not mandatory, but it does often seem to be the expectation. And thank you for the good wishes. :)

  13. Howdy, Lucas! I'm glad that you joined in, too.

  14. Tara! Thank you. I do like the reassurance that I'm not unacceptably off-kilter. :)

  15. Hello, Ines! I rather like producing goosebumps. Is that wrong?

    I hope that you do get your sparkles back--or whatever happy texture you would prefer. :)

  16. Vanessa! I really appreciate that you enjoy my wanderings. :) Yes, there were those things--well, with beef instead of the turkey, which was just fine.

  17. Hiya, Sigrun! Yeah; it may, for all I know, be healthier for people to believe what they find nicest to believe, but for some reason it never satisfies me. I just need to avoid tipping over into making things uglier than they really are. :)

  18. Hey, hajusuuri! And, bad Blogspot! Yes, he does make wonderful music.

  19. Suzanne, I very much appreciate your comment, and your praise. The writing-a-book idea does amble through my head now and then; I'm not sure what keeps stopping me from at least giving it a try.