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.

Jun 2, 2012

White Ghost Shivers

White Ghost Shivers is a Jazz-cabaret hectic and joyful band based in Austin, Texas. They formed in 1999 and evoke their music like this :

« Imagine a smorgasbord of Cab Calloway, circus sideshow, KISS, cabaret, Hee Haw and Robert Johnson served up at Andy Kaufman's bat-mitzvah. A joyous mixture of the absurd and sublime, the six-piece ensemble gracefully blends a musical amalgam of Hokum Blues, Hillbilly Swing, Country and Hot Jazz. »

The seven members of the band wear nicknames : Cella Blue, Saturn, Shorty Stump, Hot Thomas, Smokebreak Slemenda, Poppiticus and Baby-faced Finster.
Westen Borghesi, aka Shorty Stump — a 6 and 1/2 feet tall guy — sings and plays banjo, ukulele, baritone horn and... nose flute.

In their album Hokum If You Got 'Em, not less than 3 songs include some nose flute : White Ghost Shivers Ball, Eliza May and One Eyed Sam. The nose whistling style of Shorty Stump is singular since, provoking a deep vibrato by shaking his Humanatone with his hand, Westen gets a sound very near a musical saw.

Here is a short excerpt of Eliza May (the entire song and the others can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon)

And here is a video of White Ghost Shivers Ball. The nose flute part begins at 1'24" :


Links :

- White Ghost Shivers website, with many videos and pictures.

- White Ghost Shivers' Youtube page

- White Ghost SHivers BandCamp page

- White Ghost Shivers MySpace page

- Read an interview of White Ghost Shivers


Jun 1, 2012

History : A Humanatone in 1892 ?

As seen with the very first post of this blog (just after the inaugural one), the modern nose flute (let's dare the "urban type" nose flute) was invented in 1891, with a patent [US477167] filed on november 19, 1891, and registered on june 14, 1892 by our pioneer William carter.
Then the second important patents were those bt Garrett J. Couchois, in 1899, giving to our instrument the bases of the mordern design.

For a long time, I thought the Humanatone was the first nose flute to be commercialized. The Humanatone Introducing Novelty Company was founded in 1904, the brand Humanatone was registered on 1st July. But James J. Stivers added the precision "This trade-mark has been continuously used in my business since July 6th, 1903" [see details here].

But I recently found a 1903 music catalog with an ad for a Magic Flute, and had to retrace a new Humanatone & clones chronology.

I have been continuing my researches, and just found an interesting new information.

The Cincinnati Wholesale Jewelers and Manufacturers Association was a corporative structure depending of the Chamber of Commerce. Apparently, the members were used to have an annual outing in June, having some fun, gorgeous lunch, baseball game, amateur theater show, then a nap. Let's say a Summer orgy in the countryside.

In 1922, the 10th of June, the association went to the White Villa — residence of the treasurer Edgar Noterman — in Covington, Kentucky. After some refreshments, the fellowship had « a wonderful feast of broilers », and then, probably totally drunk, the jewelers began a baseball they never finished (« Oh yes, the game only lasted five innings, which was about as much as the ability of the players and the patience of the audience could stand »). Two teams were formed, the Irish Greens and the Dutch Blues, which one was captained by Art Jacobs, of the D. Jacobs Sons Co.

After the game, the joyful fellows went on stage. The Secretary, Mr. Remellin, « who is a violin artist of no mean quality, gave a heart-breaking interpretation of "Love's Old Sweet Song." Everybody was crying — for silence. »
And then « Art Jacobs, also a musical wonder, performed marvels (of discord) on a "Humanatone", which he purchased at the Chicago World's Fair in 1892. »

[from : All Baseball and Golf Records Smashed by Members of Association Who Spent Enjoyable Day at White Villa, The Jewelers' circular Co., 1922, Volume 84, Numéro 2, P.75. Full article downloadable here]

So, were there Humanatones sold at Chicago's World's Fair in 1892 ???

The first Chicago World's Fair — there was another one in 1933 – opened its door, in fact, in 1893. More : « When the gates opened on May 1, 1893, all but a few minor attractions were ready to accomodate the thousands of eager first-day visitors » [in The World's Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World's Fair of 1893, by Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing, 1992]. Dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892, but it is unlikely that Art Jacobs bought his instrument in 1892...
But since the Chicago's Fair was also called "The Columbian Exposition" because it was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492, it is probable that 29 years after the Fair, Mr. Jacobs made the confusion (or was it the author of the article?).

The main interrogation is about the name Humanatone. James J. Stivers, as we stated before, wrote that the brand had been used since july 1903. Art Jacobs didn't buy a Humanatone, but a nose flute. Why did the journalist write « Humanatone ». I am prone to think it was a language abuse. In 1922, when the Jeweler's Circular text was written, the metal Humanatone was at the top of its fame. It was the most commun nose flute on the market, and I believe it was beginning to become a common noun. Exactly as we, frenchies, are used to say "a frigidaire" instead of "a refrigerator", or American people would say "a colt" instead of "a handgun", using a famous brand instead of the generic noun. Yet, it is still the case nowadays : many (american) people say "Humanatone" instead of "nose flute". [EDIT : Rectification on that point, see this post]

On thing still stays a strange coincidence : the author of the article wrote « ... Art Jacobs, also a musical wonder... ». And the first Humanatone was stamped with that same appellation :

So, what nose flute did Art Jacobs buy at Chicago's Fair in 1893 ? I sincerely have no clue of the answer. It might have been a Magic Flute, as it existed before the Humanatone (check my chronology)...

Or was it another unknown (by me) instrument?

The important thing is to record there was a nose flute available in 1893, and it was probably directly issued from the Carter's patent, filed at the end of 1891 and registered mid-1892. Just the time to launch a production... Did Jacobs buy a Nasalette ?


About metal Humanatones, check :

- Humanatone - part I : the metallic era
- New Humanatone ads
- The Two metal Humanatones
- Another metal Humanatone
- Humanatone boxes
- Another Humanatone box
- Humanatone: A very early user manual
- The Magic (Nose) Flute: only questions... .
- A Humanatone and clones chronology
- A Humanatone in 1892 ?
- Humanatone: Early promotional demos
- Another Humanatone archive
- Huma... something
- Rectification: Humanatone appearance date
- Great paper from 1903
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part III
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part IV
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part V
- A Humanatone as a scientific tool
- Two other Humanatone Ads

And on later Humanatones :

- Humanatone - Part II : the Gretsch plastic era
- Humanatone - Part III : the Gretsch metal era


May 31, 2012

Leonard Cohen too!

It's also from Maikel Mei that we learn that Leonard Cohen too, had recorded some nose flute. Indeed, in his second album Songs From A Room (1969), in the last song called Tonight Will Be Fine, the last seconds of the recording feature a nose flute, dubbed with a natural whistling.

Well, we can say that the great Leonard was very easy with it, since the playing is a bit unstable, but once again, this is a stone in the Nose Flute Ha... Wall of Fame !

Here are only the last few seconds, for copyright reasons, but they include the entire Cohen's work for nose flute :

May 30, 2012

Video : A Bocarina in Sri Lanka!

Nose flute paintings by Maikel Mei

It is not necessary to introduce Maikel Mei on this blog anymore, since he has become a great and regular source for it. Let's just remember his series of drawings and his ink work, formerly published in this page.

Today, Maikel sends us a series of 4 paintings, individual paintings, but working as elements of a whole. Put together, they represent a Swan logo Maikel Mei logo (MM) nose flute.

« They are individual compositions, each with their own colour scheme. The medium is acrylic metallic paint on canvas. Each canvas measures 30 x 40 cms. The 'big picture' therefore measures 60 x 80 cms. Only 4 colours were used: green, lilac, blue and pink, all complementing each other. They can be hanged as a group: I intended them to be hanged in various arrangements. I like the idea of being totally free to hang them the way I like. I think it suits the instrument with its total freedom of pitch. »

In his drawings, we already felt Maikel's obsessivity through the huge accumulation of quick sketches of the same object (what they call "wearing an object out by drawing") [see Gérard Titus-Carmel's work "The Pocket Size Tlingit Coffin (or: Of lassitude considered as a surgical instrument)" as a topic example]. And with a rule added by Maikel Mei : one line of pencil.

Here too, there is a kind of mathematical and geometrical constrainst applied to the four paintings. The 4 elemental canvas were built in order to fit together when differently arranged : some lines still connect to others, even when the tiles are set according to another combination.


On the same topic :

- Beautiful drawings by Maikel Mei
- Nose flute paintings by Maikel Mei
- Maikel Mei's new paintings
- Bocarina painting by Maikel Mei

- Mei's History of Art - Series 1: Rock Cave Art


May 29, 2012

Ohrbooten : Nose Flute Hip Hop!

Ohrbooten ("earboot") is a famous Hip hop/Ragga german band from Berlin. Since 2005, they have released 3 albums plus many singles. The lead singer, Ben Pavlidis, is also a nose flute player, and his style is in accordance with Ohrbooten music : cool, jerky and energetic.

Particularly in the CDs Spieltrieb and Gyp Hop, there are two songs with a nice use of the nose flute : An Alle Ladies and Superman.

An Alle Ladies
is a great hit, according to the number of live videos of this song you can find on Youtube. Here is an excerpt, cut around 1 minute for copyright reasons (but you can buy the complete mp3 title on ITunes or Amazon for cheap) :

And here are several video versions, a street one, followed by a concert one and a remix.

Here is an excerpt of Superman, cut around 1 minute for copyright reasons (but you can buy the complete mp3 title on ITunes or Amazon for cheap) :

And here is a video of Superman, from the last Ohrbooten Cd (video a bit shaky ...):

May 28, 2012

The first nose flute postcard ?

I received this beautiful postcard sent by the Nosy Diva, my incomparable partner of Feed the Diva. It shows both members of the band auscultating a lavender collector Bocarina (I let to your sagacity the care of guessing which animal represents which musician...). [to non German speakers: the text says « Do not disturb! Therapy! »

It is a real postcard, not just a picture, and is back printed by the KulturStation and the Kunstschule of Hildesheim (DE), with the title « Kultur Kann Anders - 23/34.05.2012 ». « Culture can make it different » (or something like that) is an experimental project making art entering the hospital and is dedicated to patients as hospital employees. The postcard was made during the conference Kultur kann Anders, and is totally unique! Thank you Miss Birdy!

Lampi, with ukulele

Lampi100 is a not a newcomer in the noseflute world; he has already published many videos playing both the Nasenflöte and ukulele. But he was a long time without making a new one. That's done with Krietschitscher Wein (Greek wine), and for a nice little video with a snout custom nose flute.

Video : Hanabue114 at the sea

One of my prefered videos by Hanabue114. Our friend was on the Juki shore, in the Iwate prefecture. In the description, he explains the waves noise was huge, and that he was obliged to squat in order to fit the lanscape framing, thus was in a teetering position... A kind of extreme nose flute video!

Medley with a Nose Flute

Jens Mügge is a polyinstrumentist and diphonic singer (some exercises for diphonic singing on his wbebsite). He composes music for meditation, and just releases on Youtube the following video, a medley recorded in the Heilig-Kreuz Church in Berlin Kreuzberg.

May 27, 2012

What would Elvis have done ?

In a recent e-mail, our friend Maikel Mei wrote « ... even Elvis Presley [is] said to have played the nose flute on recordings... » This could not let me peaceful until I had found. And I found.

Kissin' Cousins is a 1964 low-budget musical comedy set in the hills of Tennessee, starring Elvis Presley in two roles, one as an American soldier, the other a hillbilly. And if an attentive nose-flute-accustomed searcher watches (and listens to) the movie trailer, he'll notice some nose flute playing... At 0'15, 0'42, 1'26, 1'57 and 2'12.

Those 5 short nose flute appearances are parts of the songs Barefoot Ballad, Smokey Mountain Boy and Catching On fast, three of the soundtrack songs recorded on Sep. 30, 1963.

But... But if you watch the parts of the movie corresponding to these songs, you will hear no nose flute at all on two of them, and some rare notes "undermixed" and rather inaudible on the third one.

If you listen to the movie soundtrack record, it is **almost** the same : the nose flute on Smokey Mountain Boy has been replaced by whistling GI's and Catching On Fast features no nose flute neither. But, hopefully for the nose flute History, Barefoot Ballad has kept its nose flute track, with a decent sound level !

Here is Barefoot Ballad (nose flute version) found on Youtube, but you can buy it on iTunes or on Amazon to get a better sound quality.

So, what happens ???

To get some explanations of the differences between the movie trailer and the movie itself and the soundtrack record, I needed to reach an expert. I asked Mr. David Troedson, curator of Elvis Australia, the very knowledgeable Elvis fan club website in Australia. David answered me very gently and quickly :

« Antoine, very often the songs in the movies had extra overdubs, they were never released on the albums or singles so I think this would be the reason. I am not even sure when these were done but as they were not a part of what Elvis considered good for the recording I would say the movie studios did the overdubs to suit themselves or they were done after Elvis finished recording to suit the script but were not considered appropriate for release on album or singles. Although the recent Blue Hawaii FTD Collectors club release included three 'movie version' tracks so Sony obviously had the tapes in this case. To be honest I have never been interested as these versions to me are inferior. There have been times when these have been released unofficially on bootlegs but the tracks have been recorded straight off the video [video in the case of the one series released about 12 years ago] if anyone was to do them today they would take them from a DVD of course.

So if you get yourself the DVD you will probably find it has the flutes. Now there were two versions of the song Kissin' Cousins so I think that is where you are hearing the two different flutes. But you should be able to hear the lyrics are different. At this time the soundtrack has not been released on CD. »

Thank you David!