SONG: Lost Aromas (A Rose)


“Lost Aromas (A Rose)” [Download]

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Discover 25 Jan 2022, “Smells Are Going Extinct, So Researchers Are Working to Preserve Them,” as used in the post ‘On the extinction of smells, and the attempt to preserve an aroma.

Wanted this one simple. This is simple. Four tracks: a strummed ukulele, the same track duplicated and shifted down an octave to fill in a little, a plinking lead line, and a vocal. All recorded lying down with the laptop on my chest, using the onboard laptop mic to capture it. Everything else is a tweak of compression here, a dab of reverb there, pinch of tremolo on the lead, and a very fast and subtle noise reduction on the whole thing to keep the hiss down to a hushed roar.

On March 21, I had no song. I sat down with a uke and played around with that super typical Am-G-F-E progression (which there’s probably a name for) to make it even simpler. Had a melody come to me in the middle of the night, so recorded on the Voice Memo in bed. Thus, the ultimate recording technique.

I knew it was going to be about the library of extinct smells, somehow, so I started thinking about words for things that smelled evocatively and/or were either extinct or endangered. Vanilla orchids were under threat a couple years back, weren’t they? OK, vanilla – and that smell is also a component of old-book smell. Rain on asphalt. Words took off from there pretty easily.

Then, because I sometimes avoid love songs (they can be boring) I thought, sure, this can be a love song. The melody is sort of melancholy. (If it was 50% faster and had a drum part, it could be a cover of an unrecorded Smiths song, maybe.) So fine, the narrator is requesting a collection of aromas to help remember a bygone love, or to maybe help a lost love remember their relationship. Of course, by the last stanza we’ve got oracles (probably intoxicated by ethylene gas) and the sizzling fat of burnt offerings… so I guess things weren’t really so great on the romance front, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I also wanted to at least allude to what the research is really doing, which is reconstructing actual smells from the past, even if they’re not especially pretty. Those are worth remembering too.


Library, send her vanilla

Asphalt rain, bakelite combs

No one sees the lost aromas

The silent language, we once called home


Library, send carbon paper

Mimeographs, ink on the press 

Reconstruct us both together

Catalog each lover’s breath


A rose, as strong as a memory

A rose, the way that we used to be. 


Library, send her old vellum

From manuscripts and myrrh-smudged hands

No one sees the lost aromas 

Aurochs and moas, spice caravans.


Library, send Roman kitchens, 

The burning sacrifice, the flesh the flames would melt

Reconstruct us both together

Catalog the fire we felt


A rose, as strong as a memory

A rose, the way that we used to be.