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.

Aug 19, 2014

A nice picture of an Ocariflute

Several times, we have published posts about the Ocariflute (which used to be named "Oclariflute" at its beginnings), notably when we heard of its existence through advertisements, about its Silver Medal at Concours Lépine in 1923, when it was played on french TV or when we found the great (and too short) footage showing Jean Dubuffet and his Ocariflute in 1961...
So, we partly knew this french nose flute, but had never seen one in detail... until I found this beautiful picture coming from the Scenkonstmuseet (Swedish Museum of Performing Arts), based in Stockholm.

There is no doubt this instrument is an Ocariflute: the very typical shape of the heel is an evidence. What is interesting to notice, is that this nose flute was not stamped by a trademark or a name, contrarywise to any known and trademarked nose flutes we know. I have an hypothesis... as usual :)

On the advertisement above, the text "Instruments Brilhault - BT SGDG" (a not the name Ocariflute!) appears on an oval white background: it could be because the flute is not stamped but only got a sticker on the heel. And why not a stamping? Remember there was another instrument that was called Ocariflute at this time. "Ocariflute" was probably a better name than "Oclariflute", but was already in use. So Brilhault chose "Oclariflute" in 1922. But we know than after 1930, the nose flute finally got the name "Ocariflute" (Did Brilhault buy the trademark? Or was the name not renewed by he Ullmann company?). So, in the 20's, why would you have built a stamping machine with a trademark that you don't want to keep (Oclariflute) or are not yet allowed to use (Ocariflute). Better to glue a sticker, no?


The Scenkonstmuseetpossess also in its collection another metal nose flute, which appears to be a German no-name Nasenflöte, and look very similar to the German one I bought... in Danmark.


Aug 15, 2014

Tim Flood induced in the NFoF!

Mr. Tim Flood passed away on 3rd of July, and many people are plunged into mourning. Indeed, Timothy Flood had several lives, and many people knew him through the different facets of his gifted personality.

Tim Flood (8 January 1927 – 3 July 2014) was an Irish celebrity. He was famous for having been six times an Irish National Champion of Hurling, a typical Irish sport, kind of a Gaelic field Hockey.

Flood first excelled at hurling in his youth. He arrived on the inter-county scene at the age of twenty two when he first linked up with the Wexford senior team. He made his senior debut in the 1947-48 National Hurling League. Flood went on to play a key part for Limerick during a golden age for the team, and won three All-Ireland medals, six Leinster medals and two National Hurling League medals.[2] He was an All-Ireland runner-up on three occasions. Wikipedia.

Besides his successful sportive carreer, Tim was a musician, and particularly a tenor banjo player (you can hear him playing with his son in this video)

Tim Flood played music all his life and was the mainstay of the well known Castleboro Céili Band. He, along with Larry Harrington, Larry Joyce, Bill Simpson, Jack Nolan, Noel and Ramie (Buzzer) Ryan and Paddy Joyce and later with Jim Murphy, Knoxtown kept the flag flying for Irish Music in our parish and outside it. He played and competed at all the fleadh ceoils around the country and sometimes adjudicated at competitions all over Wexford and beyond. Cloughbawngaa.

But what does interest us here, is Tim Flood's third career. Indeed, after his retirement, Tim became again a multiple champion in ... sheepdog trials! Tim was one of those handlers who use a nose flute as a shepherd tool.

Since his retirement from hurling Tim has been heavily involved in sheepdog trials, and he has represented Cloughbawn, Wexford, Leinster & Ireland on numerous occasions, on TV shows such as 'One Man And His Dog' and has travelled the world in his interest in this discipline. Cloughbawngaa.

In his book "One Man's Way... The Interviews" (WSN publications - York, UK, 2006), Austin Bennett interviews famous sheepdog handlers, and notably Tim Flood. In the excerpt below, we learn that the instrument was made by late Owen Humphreys, Talysarn, Wales.
(You can get the book here :

And, for our biggest pleasure, several pictures showing Mr. Flood with his nose whistle hanging around the neck (please notice on the last picture, that his left neighbour also carries a nose whistle around the neck).

Copyrighted pictures by Austin Bennett and Barbara Collins (no infringement intended):
It is very difficult to see the details of this nose flute on the pictures. However, I found a precious footage in which the instrument is closely shown. The interviewer, John Jude Doyle was the local pub owner.

As you can see, the nose flute - full brass - is from "Humanatone type", but has a huge air hole in the nose shield and has a flat mouth shield (no bending there). It is difficult to be affirmative, but it also looks like having a double wall nose shield, (as on Bernard Visser's vintage flute)

I also found an interesting RTÉ radio program (Farmweek - July 27, 2007). In the first part, Tim Flood mostly talks about his dogs, but from 3'23 till the end, we can hear the "herding nose flute" and From 4'46 until the end, Tim deals about the nose flute itself:

May Mr. Timothy Flood rest in peace.


For having used and promoted the nose flute as a herding tool, Tim Flood is induced to the Nose Flute Hall of Fame, in the "Promoters" section!

Aug 13, 2014

Sheepdog Nose Flute

I had the opportunity to put the hand over a brass/copper nose flute. The seller only specified « it's coming from a farm background ». Indeed, it is a old British sheepdog nose whistle.

In Great Britain, sheepdog handlers use whistles to send orders to their herding dogs. Most of them use what called a "sheperd whistle", which are totally handsfree and can provide different tones (like this one or like the one used by Mr. Job Te Pas in this video)

Anyway, some sheepdog handlers used to whistle a nose flute for their job, but as we previously noticed in this post, they were (are) very few, because the nose whistles « obviously did not become popular ».

However, it was not the first time I met a shepherd nose whistle: I had previously "missed" this one:

It is interesting to notice that my sheepdog nose whistle was made with two metals: brass for the body and copper for the airway. Why that? I don't think this was done on acoustic reasons. So, either the bi-metal choice was made on an aesthetic purpose, or maybe, it was simply the result of "what is left in stock", as Mr. Heinrich Handler is used to crafting his Nasenflöten with residual wood pieces.

The flute was handcrafted, and some of the lines that have been drawn with a awl on the metal sheet are still visible. Even the nose hood shows some of those tracés, and we can still see a middle circle that was engraved between the two air holes.

I have no clue of the age of this instrument, but its shape is a pure imitation of a metal Humanatone (or Humanaphone since we are in Great Britain), with a much longer mouth shield (and the double air entrance).

Aug 11, 2014

The Magic Nose Flute in Ellisdon's catalogs

While Johnson Smith was the most prefered novelty catalog in the US (hosting Humanatone and Magic Flute ads), Ellisdon's was its equivalent in the UK.

Ellisdon's catalog cover in the 1930/40's and the 1950's:
The nose flute proposed by Ellisdon's was the Magic Nose Flute, other name for the Humanatone or, more likely, of the Humanaphone, which was the British make of the Humanatone (this is just an hypothesis, but we are convinced of its reality, notably because of the visits of G. Stivers in London, etc.) Why do we write Humanaphone? Because the Humanaphone was stamped "ALL BRITISH MAKE", and the Magic Nose Flute — as drawn in the Ellisdon's early catalog — show a BRITISH MAKE stamping. Anyway, this stamping has disappeared in the 1950's ads. Is it significant of a change in the nose flute manufacturing? What's sure, is that it could correspond to the Humanatone Co. sale by the Stivers to Fred Gretsch. And also, it is certain that the change was intentional, since it is the original drawing that has been modified (and not a new drawing that would have neglected this stamping detail).

Another interesting point is the texts are absolutely the same, excepted for one sentence that does not exist anymore in the 1950's version: « It is made entirely of metal ». Since the modification did not gain a line of text (it's not a typo/lay out need), what is the reason of this correction? Wasn't the 1950's Magic Nose Flute made in metal? Again, we remember that the Humanaphone was *also* the first plastic nose flute. Did Ellisdon's propose a plastic Magic Nose Flute?

1930/40's advertisement:

1950's advertisement:

The same advertisement — with a renewed presentation text however — is continuously used in the 1960's. Then the ad disappeared.

Here on the back page of the comics Marvelman #3 (1959) and in the 1965 Ellisdon's catalog:

Aug 9, 2014

An Original Couchois

I recently had the great luck to acquire an original Garrett John Couchois' whistle (read: a nose flute). We previously posted an article about this beautiful baby, which (real) existence was not ascertained yet, besides the Couchois' patent. We had made researches about uts inventor (check here please). We had even built a replica (check here, here and here please).

But now, thanks to Mr. Brian B., we have one in our hand, and in a very nice condition! Take a look at that beauty!

It is stamped PAT. ALLOWED 1899, which perfectly corresponds to the Couchois patent No. US31,876, registered Nov. 21, 1899. Indeed, the Couchois' nose flute is the 2nd urban nose flute in history, following Carter's Nasalette [1892] (and from which it flattens the nose hood into a nose saddle and rounds the square mouth tube), and before the Magic Nose Flute [±1902], which will improve the Couchois with a mouth shield instead of the mouth tube.

Coincidentally, and by a curious chance, Mr. Brad G. very recently posted a comment on this blog to tell he had found a Couchois too. He kindly sent us a couple of phot, and yes, it is absolutely the same instrument, despite the repair Brad's nose flute got at the neck :

As you can see, it had been necessary to weld solidly the saddle and the neck. Indeed, mine shows frailty at the same point, and I suppose there was a real weakness at this point, as I had noticed with the difficult welding I had to make on the replica.

Brad wrote me: « On the front of the air tube is a patent date that says "PAT. 189" due to the repair the full date is unreadable as is another word that follows "PAT. that starts with "AL ».
This is interesting, because if you look on mine, a repair would have not make disappear the same part of the stampings, and so, we can state that, contrarywise to a Humanatone for instance, the stampings were made by hand (sometimes one way, sometimes the other...)

Now, was I right with my replica and the corrections I made on the inconsistent patent drawings? Well, I must say I was not totally wrong... but my replica is a bit taller, the mouth hole that I reduced was a wrong interpretation, and following the size of the air entrance deduced by the patent was a mistake (since it got wider in the poduction).

But Couchois' drawings wre not accurate neither, compared to the real nose flute. So, I don't really feel guilty :)

And big thanks to Brad G. for sharing your pictures, and if your have other public (or not!) performances, please try to have someone to shoot a video!


Aug 7, 2014

Nose Day! - The Ass and the Flute

Summer... Holidays... and more: Today is the (Japanese) Nose Day! (see this post). So, I decided to allow myself to publish an almost off-topic post. Off-topic, because the finger holes on the flute in the illustrations. But the poem does not mention those holes.

Today, I want to present an old poem, written in 1792 by the french poet Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755-1794). It is called « L'Ane et la Flûte » (The Ass and the Flute).

The text says (with more art than in my translation...)

The Ass & The Flute

Fools are a great people,
Finding all things easy:
It must be acknowledged, often they are happy;
Great reason to believe they are clever.
A donkey grazing in its thistles,
Was watching a swain playing under the foliage,
A flute which sweet sounds
Were attracting and charming the shepherds of the grove.
This unhappy donkey said: this world is crazy!
There they are all, gaping mouth,
Enjoying a great fool who torments himself and sweats
Blowing into a small hole.
It is through such efforts that we manage to please them
While I ... stop ... let us go from here,
Because I feel too much angry.
Our ass, thus reasoning,
Goes ahead a few steps, when on the fern
A flute, forgotten in these country areas
By any swain in love
Is found under his feet. Our donkey straightens up,
On her side sets her two big eyes;
One ear forward, slowly lowers herself,
Applies his nostril on the poor instrument,
And breathes as strong as she can. Oh! Amazing coincidence!
A pleasant sound comes out of it...
The donkey feels her great talent
And joyfully shouts while tumbling:
Eh! I can play the flute too!

Since L'Ane et la Flute was the first French poem mentioning nosefluting, I propose Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian — who seemed to have had a rather prominent nose — to the Nose Flute Hall of Fame, Promoters section.

Aug 5, 2014

Afro-American Humanatone Artist in 1944

I found this interesting paper in the Californian Eagle, Feb. 10, 1944, and felt a bit bizarre while reading things like "Mr. Vallier is the only member of the race" or "Brave Heroin of our Race"... Times have changed, fortunately (well, we hope so). Anyway, the Californian Eagle was an Afro-American made and dedicated, based in Los Angeles.

Reading this article, it seems that Mr. Joseph T. Vallier was a real Humanatone afficionado. We also learn that he had worked with Cornelius Coleridge « Dick » Campbell, who was a key figure in black theater during the Harlem Renaissance.

We already know another "Humanatonist" who was programmed on Radio: Mr. Ray C. Clarke.

Aug 4, 2014

Pic of the Day

Just a great and funny picture by Mr. Herman Vandecauter, at the harvest festivities, Ellezelles, Belgium. The nose flute is a vintage Schwan.