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 10, 2013

The Ocariflûte / Oclariflûte

The Catalogue général de la Société de la Gaîté française, a french novelties catalogue #1, published in 1930, proposed a new little instrument called the Ocariflûte. « No need to know Music. No fingering, no need to hold the instrument, it is handsfree and one can play it along with violin, piano, accordion, etc. ». The advertisement shows, however, a man in tuxedo holding the Ocariflute in his hand.
For sure, it is a nose flute - a french one - and it is classified as a Jazz instrument.

Earlier, another (or the same...) instrument called Oclariflûte, with a "L" after the "C", had appeared in the catalogue of the Manufacture générale d'Instruments de Musique (unkn. date). It is classified as a Jazz instrument, but also as a toy ("Jazz-Jouets"). It is proposed through several versions: tin, nickel plated or luxus, for jazz.

On this lastad, we can clearly read on the flute: "Instruments Brilhault" and in-between the 2 words: "BT. SGDG", abbreviation of "Breveté Sans Garantie du Gouvernement" (patented with no government warranty). So, the baby was patented (but I found no trace of its file).

The instrument looks like a regular metal nose flute, with one specificity: the shape of its mouth shield which, contrarywise to almost any other flute, is not rounded at its bottom, but presents a kind of square heel.

There is no doubt that the Ocariflûte and the Oclariflûte were the same instruments.

On the first ad, one can guess the shape of the Oclariflûte heel...

But more: here is an newspaper article published Sep. 27, 1923, in the Figaro and about the famous Concours Lépine (inventions contest). The paper says: « L'Oclariflûte. This sensational novelty still gets a huge success at the Concours Lépine. It is very difficult to approach this booth, where the crowd makes a real rampart to listen to this little instrument. Everybody will become a musician with this novelty, unique in its type. Nickeled instrument, 6 francs, nickeled copper, 8 francs, and grand luxus item, 12 francs, in a case with user manual...»

And if you look back at the first advertisement, you'll notice the title is underwritten by « Médaille d'argent au Concours Lépine » (Silver medal at the Lépine Contest). I think this is a definitive evidence that Ocariflûte and Oclariflûte were the same.

So, a nose flute got a silver medal at the Concours Lépine, in Paris, 1923!
For sure, I contacted the current Lépine contest organization to ask if they could find something in their archives (a name, an address, an occupation... for the inventor). Unfortunately, I haven't got an answer yet.

But we know the name of the company who sold (and probably manufactured) the Oclariflûte: Ets. Brilhault, 17, boulevard Rochechouart, Paris IX. (The Figaro made a spelling mistake in the name, writing "Brilhaut" instead of "Brilhault", missing the "L").


Now, why the two names, with or without a L?

I am quite sure this came from a trademark issue. The nose flute was named Oclariflûte in 1923 (at Lépine Contest). Maybe the inventor wanted to name his nose flute without the L"... but there was already a wind instrument called Ocariflûte! It was metal ocarina shaped like... a flute, and patented by another musical manufacture in Paris, the Ets. Mathieu.

But in the 1930 catalogue, the nose flute is called Ocariflûte. Were the rights over the name Ocariflûte over? Or did the Ets. Mathieu sell the brand to Ets. Brilhault?

It seems that the Mathieu's ocarina was sold from the early 1890's until the beginning of the 1900s. But I also found that the brand Ocariflûte had been registered in 1901 and 1916 by:

Ch. & J. Ullmann were instruments makers and big distributors: in 1907 their catalogue is composed of 13 volumes! ... and they are the successors of Lecomte & Mathieu Co. The same Mathieu who invented the Ocariflûte-ocarina. In the 1907 catalogue, 9th part (Toys intruments), one can see the Mathieu's ocarinas, but for sure, no nose flute (they have not appeared in France yet).

So, the brand was owned by the Odeon company in 1916, but I don't know if it was registered only for recordings or also for musical instruments. Anyway, it's more than likely that the name was still registered in 1922-23, when the nose flute by Brilhault was issued.


  1. A great piece of research once more! Another French/European nose flute: I am losing count and overview again!

    This nose flute was probably patented in the same year it was introduced, wasn't it? Any inventions contest surely would demand for patent drawings, so this particular patent should be around if the organisation kept its archive well.

    It is great to hear that the nose flute was thought so highly of, especially by experts in the area of invention. However, I wonder how this nose flute would or could have been considered an invention... as it simply is one of many revisits of the Carter nose whistle.

    Surely, the organisation must have been aware of other nose flutes or nose flute patents around at the time! I wonder why they obviously were oblivious to that.

    To me, the interesting bit in the design is the prolonged mouth shield, which is perfect for attaching a miniature microphone.

  2. Hello Maikel,

    Yes, I suppose the Oclariflute was patented in 1922/24, if it was patented! But you know, the inventor may have applied for a patent... and not got it registered, because the INPI would found no "novelty". In such case, the files were destroyed.

    Anyway, I made a search at INPI with "Brilhaut" (the only name I have) and found nothing. I still wait for an answer from the Concours Lépine... (I called them this morning again: they had "forgotten" my letter. They should send me the list of all the silver medals of 1923.

  3. Hello Antoine,

    That may well be the explanation: either the "inventor" hadn't filed a patent or the patent pending was not acknowledged, particularly since there doesn't seem to be any improvement to the instrument. This seems the most logical: surely other patents would have been discovered, had it been looked into.

    I do wonder about the square prolonged mouth shield though: it doesn't seem to fit the overall narrow, round, polished Deco-look. Could it have been used to attach a clip to, in order to keep the instrument in place? That would explain for the "handsfree" function, wouldn't it?

    Good to hear the Concours still exists after so many years! I do hope that they look into the matter and will be able to bring up the missing piece of the jigsaw related to this nose flute.

  4. All is possible. No mention of an optional clip or so...

    Yes, Concours Lépine still exists and each year, brings a lot of great or funny inventions out of the shadow!