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.

Jan 26, 2013

Achille Brilhault and the Ocariflûte

Back to the Ocariflute.

As exposed in this post, we learned that this french nose flute was probably launched and patented in 1922-23, and got a silver medal at the famous Concours Lépine in 1923.
It was sold by the "Instruments Brilhault", located 17, boulevard Rochechouart, Paris.

I wanted to know more about the instrument and its inventor. It would have been easy to get a copy of the list of the silver medallists of Concours Lépine 1923.
I wrote motivated letters, with copies of all the docs I have in my possession. No anwer. So, I called the Concours Lépine: they had "forgotten" my letter. I tried to relaunch the process, and a stupid and lazy lady finally told me her president Mr. Dorey didn't give the authorization to copy the list (is it a Top Secret classified file?). So I proposed to say a name ("Brilhault") and asked her to check if he was in the list, and what was its forename. She should have called me back... Let's make it short: Concours Lépine is a mess, and the people working there are lazy, non reliable and incompetent. Let's do without, before getting a nervous breakdown.

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The Ets. Brilhault were located 17, boulevard Rochechouart. It was a very strategic place! At number 15 was the Gaîté-Rochechouart, which was a famous music-hall stage. Number 17 bis was a movie theater, and all the district was hosting a dozen of music hall stages with Jazz-bands.

The Brilhault shop, at the corner of the piazza:


Just beside the Brihault shop, the Gaîté-Rochechouart:


The Gaîté-Rochechoaurt Jazz-band (The "Syncopaters") in 1921-22, and a drawing called "Gaîté-Rochechouart - Dorville au Jazz-band" dated of 1921:


Those two pictures show there were different kind of Jazz-bands: "serious" ones, and much more funny ones. Indeed, all kind of shows were performed on the stages, from operetta to soldiers comical shows. The nose flutes were really at home at the Gaîté-Rochechouart!

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I still have not been able to find the Ocariflute patent, but I found a very interesting one: a 1926 french patent for a musical saw filed by a certain... Achille Brilhault (patent FR 625,881, registered May 2, 1927).

I made some research about this instrument, and learned it was produced and was the first french musical saw. The blade was ornated with the signature "Brilhault" and a "lyra inside a sun". The lyra certainly was a symbol for Music (business), and I guess the sun was a kind of rebus: in French, "Brilhault" sounds like "brille haut", which means "shines high"...

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Was this Achille Brilhault the one who was awarded by a silver medal for his Ocariflute? Despite the incompetency of Concours Lépine staff (who would have easily confirmed the forename "Achille"), I am able to answer.

I found that the musical saw produced by Achille Brilhault was named Flaix-Tone, and that the Flaix-Tone was sold... at 17 boulevard Rochechouart!

In Musique-Adresses Universel - Volume 11 (1929), one can read on page 2181:

Brilhault (Flaix-Tone), 17, bd Rochechouart. — Paris.

A detailed radio program announcing the song Salomé (oriental Fox-trot), with a Flaix-Tone accompaniment:


And if it was not enough, in the same music address book, on page 888:

Brilhault, 17 bd Rochechouart (9"). — (Métro, Barbés.) — Inst. à vent. — Inst., pour Jazz, Inst à lame vibrante, Instr. -Jouets. — Paris 66745

That is: Brilhault, 17 bld Rochechouart - Wind instruments - Jazz instruments, Vibrating blade instruments, Toy-instruments.

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So, it is now definitely clear that the inventor of the Ocariflute was Achille Brilhault, who patented the first musical saw later, in 1926.

I found no biographic data about Achille, except for some genealogical ones. In the following sheet, it is noted that Achille was "restaurateur" ("restaurant owner") and was the "musical saw inventor". Achille had a brother, Jules-Henri, who was officer of the Tunisian Customs, then engineer in the railways. I found a picture of Jules-Henri, unfortunately none of Achille. Anyway, it is unlikely that Jules-Henri could have had some participation in the Brilhault instruments creation, since he died in 1922 and was apparently based in Tunisia.

4 comments:

  1. I have had quite the same experiences in trying to find out information and a bit of history about the nose flute, Antoine! It is ever so frustrating when those who could be of assistance appear to be so very ignorant..!

    Anyway, you somehow managed again to bring to life some very interesting new facts!

    One thing is for sure: Mr Brilhault was a bit of an entrepreneur! I wouldn't be surprised if one of the jazzmen who frequented his establishment before or after their gig next door had brought in a nose flute at some point, possibly even an American version...

    I am wondering to which category the nose flute would belong in Mr Brilhault's assortment: wind-, jazz- or toy-instruments.

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  2. Regarding an "american version", it's very probable.

    I found a reference in a list :

    "Brilhaut. L'oclariFlute. Paris: Brilhaut; [ca. April 1924, 1 p.] Wind: Woodwind. Advertisement for an item described as "The American Flute" (not depicted). Library of Congress L'oclariFlute file"

    (for sure, I wrote to the Library of Congress but got the answer:

    "If, however, you are referring to an advertisement in "Woodwind" magazine, I regret to report that our collections -- in fact, the collections of any library that I have been able to identify -- do not include issues of this journal from before 1948. "

    anyway, the Oc(l)ariflute was also called "The American Flute"

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  3. Two highly interesting facts: the nose flute was considered to belong to the official woodwind family and the Oc(l)ariflute was known as "The American flute"!

    The name "The American Flute" indicates that the instrument originates from America. That should prove the point that it was invented earlier and abroad. How then could it apply for a patent and how on earth could it ever win a silver medal at an invention contest?

    Such a shame that the library collections doesn't go back as far as 1924...! However, I wouldn't be surprised if the information somehow turned up somewhere. I think the more your nose flute blog gains in attention and recognition, the more will be revealed, just a matter of numbers...

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  4. Regarding the patent, the thing is easy: I don't know how long the patent protection was used to last, but it was already 23 years that the Couchois had been patented (remember that the Humanatone has no patent for itself, and is stamped with the patent numbers fo Carter and Couchois). However, I'm not sure at all that the Couchois' patent applied also for France.

    But...There was the 1912 goldstein french patent. Anyway, I haven't seen the Oclariflute patent... Does it really exist?
    And even the sentence read on one advertisement "patented in any country" doesn't mean the Ocariflute has is own patent... It could mean that Brilhault had paid Couchois to use his patent. (1922 was 30 years after Carter, so his patent was certainly off).
    Finally, I suppose that the "shape" was part of the patent in France, since there was no specific "design patent". So, as far as the shape was different from Humanatone or Goldstein...

    Regarding the silver medal: it was probably the first time that the members of the jury saw such an instrument (it was the case for the public... The article in the Figaro says that the visitors "were making a wall to see the instrument".

    Regarding your last point: you know, I have not seen info about nose flute flourishing on the web because of my blog. All what I find now was existing 2 years ago... it is just my obstinacy and my research techniques that have gained in efficiency :)

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