What does silence smell like? Joseph Quartana of Six Scents took the challenge when developing 4’33” for record label Mute’s Stumm433 vinyl box set, the latest installment in the Mute 4.0 (1978 > Tomorrow) series.
The candle 4’33,” pronounced Four minutes, thirty-three seconds, or Four thirty-three, is Quartana’s interpretation of John Cage’s silent 4’33″ composition. The score of Cage’s composition, which premiered in 1952, instructs the performer or performers to not play their instruments.
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Developed in collaboration with nose Marcela Olalde de Castillo, the candle is made with bergamot, black pepper and pimento oil accords, with main notes ozone, salt, musk and cedarwood. He chose the ingredients ozone and musk to reflect “the creative flash of a performance” and “the human element of the performer,” respectively. The candle is available for preorder and releases on Oct. 4 with purchase of the Stumm433 box set.
“The formula simply reflects the inspiration that flashed into my mind upon hearing about the project for the first time,” said Quartana. “I had a laser-precise vision of what it should smell like, and I assured them it was pretty easily executable as sometimes when I’m creating fragrances, it takes years.”
“Stumm433 didn’t originally have a scent component to it,” said Mute U.S. senior director of marketing and project management Mona Dehghan, “but after meeting Joseph at the ADULT. show and hearing his excitement, passion and vision for the project, the ‘smell of silence’ was too interesting not to explore further.”
Mute 4.0 is the record label’s unconventional 40th-anniversary celebration. Founder Daniel Miller is not a fan of anniversaries and launched the 4.0 concept in late 2018 to highlight the label’s past and focus on the present and future. “Daniel Miller is pretty anti anniversaries; the thought of looking back and congratulating ourselves didn’t seem right, so he came up with the anti-versary idea,” said Dehghan.
The label offered limited-edition T-shirts and releases and hosted events, and is launching this October the Stumm433 vinyl box set, featuring interpretations of John Cage’s 4’33″ by over 50 Mute artists, including Depeche Mode and Goldfrapp.
“After conversations with both Joseph and Daniel, it was decided that a scented candle that could burn during the listening duration of the box set would be the best way to add a new dynamism to the release,” said Deghan. “We loved his ideas of creating a scent (sense) of absence, anticipation, and afterglow with creative, nontraditional, perfume elements and ended up adjusting the release to include his contribution.”
Quartana initially pitched a body spray, but pivoted to making a candle after he developed the idea behind the scent. “The urgency of this project didn’t allow for a custom accord, but it didn’t matter in this case,” he said. “For a relatively quick turnaround, I’m extremely pleased with this formula.”
The award-winning director cofounded Six Scents in 2008 while operating multilabel fashion boutique Seven New York, which is known for helping to introduce the American market to Raf Simons, Jeremy Scott, Mary Katrantzou, Juun.J and Hood by Air, among others. Six Scents has created 27 scents to date, including collaborations with Jeremy Scott, Gareth Pugh, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Juun.J. The most recent collection from the brand is Les Potions Fatales, inspired by poisonous flowers.
Mute does not have further collaborations planned, but Quartana is wrapping up a new stand-alone scent under Parfums Quartana, which will be his overall 39th release between Six Scents and Parfums Quartana. The scent is made in collaboration with Luca Maffei.
“It’s my first Italian collaboration as I’m working with famed nose Luca Maffei, so in some sense it is a love letter to Italy, my paternal origins, as my father was born in Palermo and came here when he was a teen. Expect it to be a totally new experience.”
Net profits from the Stumm433 box set will go to the British Tinnitus Association and Music Minds Matter.