This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Sep 16, 2014

Thai Nose Flute Holder

Here is a video by a Thai musician, Worreapuek. The recording quality is low, but the song Letters to the Father ("จดหมายถึงพ่อ ฟุตบาท ทรีโอ") is beautiful. The original song is from a Thai family band named Footpathband (here is the original version). Worreapuek plays the guitar and sings very well, although there's still a good room for improving the nose flute part (starting at 1'58, but mainly played from 3'20 and 5'14).

The presentation of the nose flute, at the beginning of the video, is very interesting. I don't know whether Worreapuek built his wooden nose flute (ขลุ่ยจมูก) by himself or if he had it from a craftsman, but it's a unique piece: It has got a kind of long nose (a bit like Mosurin's "Pinocchio" nose flute), devoted to and shaped for being plugged to a standard microphone stand.

This very clever idea could be used for designing a nosey nose flute, at the same time with a funny human face and easily held on stage (a mix of this Thai flute and the Mosurin's one)...

And the video:

Sep 15, 2014

Other Humanatone Ads from Popular Mechanics

We previously posted an article about the advertisement campaign that the Johnson Smith Co. launched in Popular Mechanics (we were interested in the pages including a Magic (Nose) Flute or Humanatone).
But during those years, the Johnson Smith company was not the only novelty mail-order company to advertise for the Humanatone. Indeed, I found 3 other competitors selling the tin nose flute through Popular Mechanics.

Oaks Magical Co.

The Oaks Magical Co. was settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and was selling novelties, gadgets and magic tricks, exactly as Johnson Smith. It was founded (1913) and run by the magician John H. Oaks (1889-1918), known as "The Mighty Oaks, the Handcuff King", and by his family after his death.

In the following ad, note that the text is very similar (if not identical) to the Johnson Smith text: it was coming from the Humanatone Co. itself. The illustration is the "clogged" version, the ones without visible stampings, as it appears from Nov. 1928 in the Johnson Smith ads, meaning this modification probably came directly from the Humanatone Co.

October, November and December 1929 Oaks Magical Co. advertisement


Scientific Novelty Co.

The Scientific Novelty Co. was based in Greenwich, New York, and was specialized in optical and electric novelties and gadgets. Again, the text of their ad is a rewritten version of the "official" one. Here, the nose flute is called Humanatone (and not "Magic (Nose) Flute"). The engraving is different from J.S. and Oaks. I don't know where it came from (a music instrument catalog? which one?), but not from the Humanatone Co., as far as I know. Could it be possible it was original? (I doubt of it).

November 1929 Scientific Novelty Co. advertisement


Heaney Magic Co.

As Johnson Smith and Oaks Magical, the Heaney Magic Co. was base in Wisconsin (Berlin). As Oaks, it was specialized in magic tricks and novelties. It was founded by Gerald Heaney, a magician known as "Heaney the Great". It is very interesting that the catalog pages are hand written and the illustration drawn (see the full page below). The Humanatone advertisement illustration are reinterpretations of the engravings printed on the Humanatone user manual. The price, 20c. in 1924, is 5c lower than in Johnson Smith ads.

February 1924 Heaney Magic Co. advertisement



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Scientific Novelty Co. and Heaney Magic Co. pages in Popular Mechanics

Sep 13, 2014

Humanatone: Johnson Smith Campaign in Popular Mechanics

Johnson Smith was a mail-order company established in 1914 in Chicago. Besides a catalog that became thicker and thicker through the years, the company put ads in magazines: one or two pages full of novelties. As a best seller, the Magic Nose Flute (Humanatone) tin nose flute frequently appeared in magazines devoted to children and young adults, like Popular Mechanics, which is totally consultable here, from 1905 to 2005 issues.

Dec. 1917 and Sep. 1931 Johnson Smith ad pages, featuring the Humanatone:


The first advertisement by Johnson Smith in Popular Mechanics mentioning the Magic Flute was published in Jan. 1917. It was a simple line in a list of the "Latest Surprising and Joke Novelties". The price of the Humanatone was 15c, and it was listed at 7th position. In September, it gained one rank, when the "Big Roll Stage Money" was removed.

Jan. 1917:


But the real first individualized « Magic Flute » ad in Popular Mechanics dates of November 1917, and is followed by the December one, already different in its typo and lay out. It features an engraving of the flute internal side that was used all the years along. The text and the image clearly express the identity Magic Flute / Humanatone. What happened then? I don't know, since the archives from 1918 to 1920 are not accessible on Google.

Nov. 1917 and Dec. 1917:


But when the archives are available back, there are no more ads for the Humanatone, from Jan. 1921 to Sep. 1922. Then, the same ad is published 3 times, but curiously not in December (is it linked to the 1922 company move from Chicago, Ill. to Racine, Wis.?) The text has been rewritten and the price has raised from 15c to 25c!

Oct. 1922:


Text and price have stabilized when the campaign restarts in November 1923. It will last 53 months before stopping again. Anyway, some Johnson Smith pages in Popular Mechanics were pimped with a color touch... The first one was published in Feb. 1925, with a red titling, which will appear, disappear, reappear ... with a focus on the 2 last months of the year, but not only: the full year 1927 shows this red title.
In March 1927, the price suddenly fell down back from 25c to 15c.

Feb. 1925 and March 1927:


And 5 months later, in August 1927, was raised again to 25c! At the same moment, the headline « Wonderfully Sweet Toned and Musical » was removed, modifying the proportions of the Humanatone ad. For Christmas, Johnson Smith tried an orange background to attract more customers.

August, September and December 1927:


No Magic Flute advertisement from April to November 1928. But when it reappeared, it had gotten a lifting. The name is now « Magic Nose Flute ». The text is still the same, but the word "Nose" has been added between Magic and Flute. More, the stampings visible on the flute (Humanatone and patents) have been erased. And the price has dropped from 25c to 10c! What does it mean? The trade-mark Humanatone is still present in the text... Maybe did Johnson Smith distribute nose flutes not Humanatone stamped (but also produced by the Humanatone Co.) and was it to solve a "contractual picture" issue ?

In February 1930, the "Magic Nose Flute" became the "Nose Flute". Apparently, the removal of the word "Magic" in the title allowed to place the illustration a bit upper, and be able to print the engraving showing the J. S. catalog a bit bigger.

Nov 1928 and Feb. 1930:


There were no Humanatone ad by Johnson Smith from May 1930 to March 1931. When it reappeared, it was unchanged and stayed alike till Aug. 1931 (it then got a red title during 4 months). But in December 1931, the text got some changes, in order to reduce the advertisement surface: the ending was cut ("When played as an accompaniment to a piano or any other musical instrument, the effect is as charming as it is surprising.")

Aug 1931 and Dec. 1931:


The last Humanatone ad that Johnson Smith published in Popular Mechanics was in the March 1932 issue. Anyway, the mail-order company continued to propose the Humanatone in its own catalog, during many many years (check this post for instance)

I made a table with all the occurences I've been able to find:

Sep 11, 2014

World Records!

We already dealt with nose flute big bands, like the famous German Original Oberkreuzberger Nasenflötenorchester (Der Grindchor), the Canadian SlappyFeatherWhistle Nose Flute Ensemble or the Swedish Nose Flute Orchestra, which are (more or less) permanent bands, but never sent a post about those one-day massive gatherings, generally devoted to breaking a... world record!

The thing is that, although many noseflutists think of breaking the "largest ensemble of nose flutes", organizing such an event is a huge task, and the difficulties (notably financial ones) are numerous to get the event homologated. The most famous referent, Guinness World Records, asks for a bunch of money to apply, then send 2 referees that you have to host and feed, etc. Then you have to wait long to know if your record has been homologated, or rejected for any reason. The fact is you get a 0 answer return when you search the Guinness database for "nose flute" or "nose whistle", which is strange, as we know at least one record (the German one) which looked to be "homologationable". I wrote GWR to ask, and got this answer with no more details: « We have a category for "Largest Noseflute ensemble." However no one has broken this record yet.»



That's probably the reasons that made some other "record referents" to be launched (like Record Setter). They are cheaper, less rigid and with an easier access, but also maybe less rigorous (and thus maybe a bit less reliable), but worse: less famous. Is it worth and consistent comparing a Guinness record with a Record Setter one?


Nose Flute World Records


2005, Dec. 8 - 451 noseflutists
Weihnachtsmarkt, Meppen (Germany)
Organization: André Dausin
Applied to Guinness World Record Book

This is the first record we found. Held in Meppen, Germany, the event gathered 451 participants who received a free nose flute offered by the sponsoring of local companies, and played Jingle Bells. Organized by André Dausin, a Meppener piano maker, the event was animated by the radio MC Joop Wöste. Two Guinness World Records referees were present, Gerd Gels and Carola Alge.

From the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung and weihnachtsmarkt-deutschland.de:


Everything seem to have be well organized, with the help of the city marketing deprtment, which director, Ulf Mensing declared: « Nase putzen, Nasenflöte auf Mund und Nase setzen, Luft durch die Nase in die Nasenflöte blasen. So einfach ist das. Wollen wir das versuchen? » ("Blow your nose, put the nose flute to mouth and nose, blow air through the nose into the nose flute. It's that simple. Shall we try that?"). The nose flutes were sporting a sticker with sponsors logo, and the sentence « Du wirst mich noch brauchen » ("You will still need me").

« Ein Ohrenschmaus!» ("A feast for the ears!"):


So, with 451 participants, Guinness referees present at the event, did the Meppeners break the first nose flute records? Obviously, yes. Was this record homologated by the GWR board? I don't know, but as preceised earlier, there are no record in Guinness database. So?

Special thanks to the Nosy Diva for the info!

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2010, Mar. 17 - 109 noseflutists
Joe's Pub, New York, NY. (USA)
Organization: Opus Moreschi
Applied to Universal Record Database - Record setter

With no record in the database for the Germans, how could those Americans know the number to be killed? Several years after Meppen event, the comedy writer and producer Opus Moreschi (James Shattuck Moreschi) organized a nose flute gathering at Joe's Pub in Manhattan. "The record was set at a St. Patrick’s-themed World Record Appreciation Society" with Dan Rollman and Corey Henderson (URDB). Opus Moreschi conducted an nose flute orchestra of 109 people through a rendition of Mary Had A Little Lamb, and the record was set at the Universal Record Database of Record setter.



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2011, Apr. 30 - 146 noseflutists
Northland International University, Dunbar, WI. (USA)
Organization: SpringFest
Applied to Guinness World Record Book ?

One year after the New York record, an attempt was organized for the SpringFest at Northland International University, in the Wisconsin, which published its intention to « break the Guinness World Record for the largest humanatone choir ». 800 students had registered for SpringFest, but only 146 signed up for the nose flute orchestra... The local newspaper is a bit ironic, but the choir was bigger than the New York one. Were there GWR referees? Did they really applied for Guinness record? As said already: no nose flute record in GWR database. SpringFest should have applied at Record Setter...

Northland International University and Iron Mountain Daily News:



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2011, Dec. 28 - 50+ noseflutists
2012, Dec. 28 - 100+ noseflutists
2013, Dec. 28 - 120+ noseflutists
Shitennō-ji Hall, Tsu, Mie Pref. (Japan)
Organization: Hanshin Hanabue Association

These 3 Japanese events were not intended to break a record. However, as one-day gatherings of numerous noseflutists, they can be looked at alike, despite no (pursuit of) official homologation. The annual gathering organized by the Hanshin Hanabue Association, is called "9th Event" because the hanabuists, conducted by sensei Mosurin, play the final movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, Ode to Joy (check this post). It's been 3 years it is held on the same date (12/28) and at the same place (Tsu, Mie), and each year, gathers more and more musicians: 50 in 2011, 100 in 2012, 120 in 2013... In 2012, the 9th Event got a live broadcast on TV.



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2013, Jun. 30 - 50 noseflutists
Leidse Hout, Leiden (Netherlands)
Organization: Roeland Aerden
Applied to Guinness World Record Book

Here is a nice attempt, organized by Roeland Aerden, musician and former biology teacher, who conducted the Jeugd Symfonieorkest Rijnstreek - 50 participants - for two nose flute pieces, including a 4 voices canon. They sent pictures and videos to the Guinness World Records, but have not (yet?) received a positive answer.

On Sunday afternoon, the 30th of June, people tried to set a new world record. The orchestra formed for the occasion called "The Merry Blowers", consisting of no fewer than 50 nose flute players, performed 2 musical pieces, amongst which was a canon for four voices.
The event was a joint venture between the singing biologist Lord Thingy and the Youth Symphony Orchestra Rijnstreek. Together they took on the challenge to form the world's largest nose flute orchestra.
With a little effort anyone from the age of 6 can get a sound out of the nose flute, but in order to play a pretty melody on it, quite a lot of musical talent and perseverance is required. That helped, because the children from the Youth Symphony Orchestra in the age of 11 to 15 all had both qualities in abundance.

If the world record is actually awarded, is yet to be decided by the Guiness World Records. Before the event, an application was filed and sent to the Guiness World Records and during the performance of The Merry Blowers plenty of pictures and videos where shot, which will be forwarded as evidence.


Vrienden van de Leidse Hout and Leidsch Dagblad.


Special thanks to Maikel Mei for the translation!

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2014, Feb. 22 - 434 noseflutists
Central Christian School, Kidron, OH. (USA)
Organization: Todd Martin
Applied to Universal Record Database - Record setter

This "Amish country" record was held at Central Christian School, Kidron, Ohio, during the Froliche Dorf ("Happy Village") annual party which produces several bands on stage. But this year, an unusual event took place: the breaking of the nose flute world record.

Smithville Mennonite Church announcement:



The performance was organized by Todd Martin, pastor of Smithville Mennonite Church and gathered 434 noseflutists, who played chistian songs: Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace and the Doxology.

From Amishleben.com blog and The Good News, the C.C.S. newsletter :


The record was set and homologated at Universal Record Database - Record setter



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2014, May. 18 - 465 noseflutists
Choralia Spring Gala, Bloomington, MN. (USA)
Organization: VocalEssence
Applied to Universal Record Database - Record setter

Unfortunately for the Mennonites, their record stood less than 3 months, because of the one set by the voice ensembleVocalEssence at their Spring gala "Choralia". The performance was held at Radisson Blu Hotel, Bloomington, Minnesota, and gathered 465 noseflutists, an even larger number than the 451 Germans in 2005. The event was organized at the benefit of educational programs.



This is the current world record, set at Universal Record Database - Record setter




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Now, who's gonna overshoot the 500 nose flutes ?

Sep 10, 2014

Nose flute in a 1959 University Yearbook

It is not rare to read in yearbooks students' depictions like "Steve is a nose flute artist and raised many laughs at his fraternity party"... But it is much scarcer to have a portrait à la nose flute published in those pages, and particularly in 1959!

Here is a page of the 1959 Columbia University - College of Pharmacy yearbook. The young pharmacist Lawrence E., member of ΡΠΦ fraternity, is shown playing a Humanatone (certainly a Gretsch one).
To plainly understand the caption, you have to know [all the readers here are not Americans] that Juilliard School is a famous New York City performing arts conservatory.

Sep 8, 2014

Steven Parkes - New Nose Flutes

I received some news from our friend Steven Parkes (please check this post). Steven continues to build and improve his wooden nose flutes, and sent me pictures of his last productions.

« I've been busy since I last posted you about my first, home-made noseflute. I have begun making models for each of my four, grownup children in turn. I found a local joinery business who were able to let me have some nice, hardwood offcuts for a couple of pounds (GBP) - in Sapele (a nice, red wood) and Beech.»


All pictures of this article were shot and are copyrighted by Steven Parkes.
All Rights Reserved.



The No.2:

« I used Sapele for the main body, and a thinner piece of Beech for the front fipple plate.  It ended up a little longer and slimmer than my prototype, as you can see from my comparison photos attached.  »

Here are his prototype called No.1 with the beautiful nose flute No.2, and some No.2 details:
But Steven Parkes didn't stop there. He also built the No.3 and No.4, on the same global shaping, but with their own personalities (and a great talent!). Steve sent me a bunch of pictures showing the making of those babies. Very interesting, and really a great work!


The No.3:

« For this one, I used a lovely piece of Sapele with a tapering section, left-over from a window-sill, for the body, and the same Beech for the front fipple-plate. The varnish I use, by the way, is a linseed-oil based gunstock varnish called Tru-Oil, as I believe it to be not-toxic. »



Then smoothing, sanding, painting a birdie, varnishing, and finally the beautiful result:




The No.4:

The Parkes No.4 is really impressive and funny at the same time. It is a sculpture that whistles, more than a nose flute.

« This one is, obviously, more complicated because of the wood-carving of the face.   I used two pieces cut from the same length of Sapele for the body and the front fipple-plate, with crossed grain again.  The front was thicker because of the carving I knew I would have to do for the face.  The eyes are not glued in place - they are a tight fit into their sockets. If, by some chance, they ever got scratched or damaged, it would be possible to easily replace them by pushing them out from the back, using the small, ejector-holes, with a steel knitting-needle or something similar. »

The No.4 was started like the No.3, then:

And the great No.4 finished:


One last word, by Steven:

« I will be starting to make number 5 soon»

We are really curious of it!!