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Dead medium: Piesse's Smell Organ
From: (Richard Kadrey)
Source(s): June 1922 issue of (the now long dead) magazine, Science and Invention, as reprinted in Experimental Musical Instruments magazine

"The Smell Organ by Joseph H Kraus

"Which one of us has not listened to the enrapturing tones of the church organ or the pipe organs in motion picture play houses, and not awakened to its appeal? Now an entirely new organ has been developed, which instead of inspiring and thrilling audiences by sound, translates music into corresponding odors.

"The suggestions comes from Dr. Septimus Piesse, a French chemist, who claims that every perfume produces its own particular effect on the end organs of smell terminating in the mucosa, mucous membranes lining of the nose. The organs are called the olfactory cells, and just as every note has its effect upon the ear and as the colors have their effect upon the retina of the eye, so this transposed music, the music of smells, will have its effect upon the olfactory organs.

"The range of notes has been carefully plotted, the heavier odors being assigned to the low notes, and sharp pungent odors to the high notes. Thus, starting with the bass clef three octaves below middles C, the musical notes, and the odors assigned to them, (are listed on a separate list at the end of this piece).

(((The smell organ would be used to play olfactory transcriptions of classical music.)))

"Of course, the combination of odors will creates a smell entirely different from any individual qualities of the various perfumes and it is necessary that, in the soft, dreamy compositions, the odors blend harmoniously. Discords will have a decidedly unpleasant effect but inasmuch as the composers did not dwell upon discords to any great extent, the audience will be saved the rather unusual embarrassment of smelling disagreeable combinations. Some music would perhaps have to be changed and the odors carefully graduated so that no particular perfume will predominate, except when the loud pedal, or rather in the smell organs, the *strong* odor pedal is trod upon.

"It is, therefore, up to the perfumer to combine the mixtures in much that same way that an artist blends colors, or as a good florist makes a bouquet. If it is desirable to insert a little contrast into the bouquet, the appropriate blossoms or grasses are used, and so the perfumer likewise would have to employ the proper aromas.

"The arrangement of the apparatus is such as to include five or more octaves of colors.... These odors have been discovered and placed in their particular location after painstaking research, the odors being arranged in bottles and sprayed up into the air by an atomizer-like action.

"In each of these bottles, we may note the atomizer or sprayer attachment. These atomizers are actuated by keys on the piano. Pressure upon any of these keys closes a circuit, which operates a solenoid, or suction type magnet, the latter releasing a valve and permitting compressed air from an air compressor and storage tank to blow the odorous vapor upward. In back of the individual spray nozzle is a funnel-shaped pipe likewise connected to a compressed air supply source. These create a constant drift of air blowing the odors upward and this draft is further facilitated by large rotary fans at the rear of the theatre. The strong pedal under the piano keyboard connects with the air supply compartment and operates an auxiliary valve which admits a further supply of air and consequently increases the amount of perfume and directly increases the strength of the odor.

"It is possible that to rid the room quickly of any odor, ozonized air may be permitted into the funnels."


C patchouli

D vanilla

E clove bark

F benzoin

G frangipane

A storax

B clove

C sandalwood

D clematis

E rattan

F castorium

G pergulaire

A balsam of Peru

B carnations and pinks

C geranium

D heliotrope

E iris

F musk

G Pois de senteur

A balsam of tolu

B cinnamon

C rose


C rose

D violet

E cassia

F tuberose

G orange flower

A new mown hay

B arome

C camphor

D almond

E Portugal

F jonquil

G syringa

A tonka bean

B mint

C jasmine

D bergamot

E citron

F ambergris

G magnolia

A lavender

B peppermint

C pineapple

D citronel

E vervain

F civet