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.

Nov 11, 2011

Review : the Nasiphone / Mellibrou

I discovered the Nasiphone in Larigot (#29 & #30), the bulletin published by ACIMV, searched for Mr. Mellier in the phonebook, and called him to discuss and order Mellibrous.

Mr. René Mellier is now in the beginning of his eighties, and began making his nose flutes when retired. He also built small size barrel organs, and was interested in wind instruments physics and acoustics. It was at the IRCAM where he was following a course, that he was shown the book Instruments à vent, by Henri Bouasse, 1929, and was particularly interested in the little tin plate "toy" sold by "carnies", depicted in the following pages :

Mr. Mellier decided to build a small instrument following the same principle, and after several attempts, created the Nasiphone.
Later, René Mellier was asked to present the instrument in a TV show. But the TV producer got afraid by the instrument name, because it sounded like "nazi-phone" (!!)... So, for the circumstances, a new name was found, the Mellibrou, by concatenation of the beginning of Mr. Mellier's name with Brou, which is the village where he lives.

There are two models of Nasiphones : one large for adults, and a smaller one for children. I ordered both, and received them packed in a rolled user manual.

The Nasiphone is made of zinc plate, plus a wooden nose rest. The zinc part is a sandwich made of 3 plates : a long central one, in which is cut the mouth hole, soldered to two shorter and angled ones, fixed on the wood part by brass nails. They form a very thin air duct, as thin as the central plate is thick (0.65 mm - 1/4"on my palmer). This is a very easy and simple, but clever way to set the duct thickness...

The wooden nose rest is cut with a more or less 100° scoop to fit occiental nose conformation, and drilled of 2 holes as air passageway. Obviously, on the chid size, the drillings are smaller in diameter and squeezed together (very cute!).

The Mellibrou profile is interesting too, notably the way it is angled :

Well, the Nasiphone is not chiseled like a silversmith piece, but its roughness, rusticity and simplicity are parts of its appeal. Each Mellibrou is stamped with Mellier's initials, plus the year of making.

I wouldn't say the Nasiphone is the most comfortable flute I ever tried, neither the most beautiful, nor the best sounding... But it works, with a large range of notes from basses to sharps, and exhales a real character of authenticity and friendliness.

The only real flaws are the formation of condensation (probably because of a Z shape of the beginning of the air duct), which imposes to dry the flute (with a hard blow in the nose holes) after 15 minutes of playing, and a tendency to "over whistle" (some stridents unwanted sounds, maybe due to a flat labium).

Here is a sound sample :

Mr. Mellier stopped making the Nasiphone...and told me he is out of stock now.
So, it has become a collector's object.

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