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 30, 2013

Jean Dubuffet, one of us!

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) was a great painter and sculptor. He was the inventor of the "Art brut" ("raw art"). He approached the surrealist group, became member of the College of 'Pataphysique.

« Dubuffet sought to create an art as free from intellectual concerns as Art Brut, and his work often appears primitive and childlike. Nonetheless, Dubuffet appeared to be quite erudite when it came to writing about his own work. » (wiki)

« Spinning Round » (1961) [Tate Gallery, London]:

Jardin d'Email, Otterlo, Netherlands:

« In late 1960–1961, Dubuffet began experimenting with music and sound and made several recordings with the Danish painter Asger Jorn, a founding member of the avant-garde movement COBRA. »

Indeed, he recorded several albums of "Experiences musicales" or "Musique chauve" ("bald music"), using many different instruments (You can listen to his experimental music here)

A picture of 1961, by Jean Weber, and the cover of Dubuffet's musical work:


Jean Weber made also a great picture of Jean Dubuffet playing his nose flute!

At first glance, I thought it was a Humanatone. Jean Dubuffet had an agent in the USA, and travelled to America very soon. So, the flute could have been bought there.

In a book published by the Dubuffet's Foundation, one can see the Weber's photograph, with a caption: « Jean Dubuffet playing a nasal flute (or narinette), Paris, 1961. » :

Was there a nose flute called Narinette? No no no. This name is the result of a double mistake!!

Indeed, there was an instrument called Varinette, with a V. The Varinette was a "double kazoo" (2 vibrating membranes) invented in 1919 by the Abbe Jules-Ernest Varin.

How may I be so sure of the confusion Narinette/Varinette and why a double mistake?

Because I found a footage. In 1961, Terre des Arts, a french TV program dedicated to arts, broadcast a documentary about Jean Dubuffet. A part of it focuses on Dubuffet and music, and the artist presents the intruments used for his recordings with Asger Jorn. Dubuffet shows and plays his nose flute! But you will hear at the very beginning of the 10 seconds footage that he clearly pronounces Varinette and not Narinette.

So, Dubuffet made the first mistake, calling Varinette his nose flute (confusing with the double kazoo), and then, the book author made the second one, transcribing Narinette with a N. Indeed, « narine » means « nostril » in French, and Narinette could have made a funny name for a nose flute...

Short, but wonderful, isn't it?

So, what nose flute is played by Dubuffet? In the footage, one can clearly see the instrument straight heel, and it makes no doubt that Dubuffet's nose flute was the french Ocariflute! The instrument looks already "vintage" and a bit rusty: it is already 35 years old or so.

I propose Jean Dubuffet for Honorary Degree in the Nose Flute Hall of Fame (Performers section)


  1. Hall of fame, yes! If Elvis and Leonard Cohen made it, he should also! What a great piece of nose flute history you discovered, dear Trüffelschwein!

  2. The footage is so short, but it is a real gem!

    Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!

  3. I just knew some very special post was up! Jean Dubuffet: such a highly influential artist! The maker of my favourite sculpture/environment, Le Jardin d'Email! This is as big as Ezra Pound: of course Hall of Fame! Now I expect you to find footage of Edgard Varese and Harry Partch as well...!

  4. Hahaha! I would love to find footage with Varese, Partch... or with any great composer, painter, poet or even football player! :)

  5. Hey, I am writing an article about the Jorn/Dubuffet collaboration, and this is a superbly helpful post. Mind if I cite you? Also, do you know more about Jean Weber by any chance?

  6. Hello Sarah,

    Glad to read that my post might be helpful to you. You are welcome to cite it. I may have other info about Jean Weber at home (what kind of info do you need?), but i'm currently traveling...

    All the best,