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 6, 2013

Wunderflöte: more complexity...

Looking for the name Wunderflöte, our beloved german correspondant the Nosy Diva found a press article about a music instrument collector, Karl Honak, alias Mr. Mundharmonica, in which it was written: « Beim Rundgang durch die einzelnen Zimmer nimmt er mal eben am Piano Platz und spielt ein paar Takte, pfeift „du bist verrückt mein Schatz“ auf der Wunderflöte durch die Nase. »

My interrogation was to know whether the name Wunderflöte had been used there as a generic name for a nose flute, or strickly for a Wunderflöte as a trademark. Mr. Honak confirmed to the Diva that he had a real Wunderflöte in his museum.
So, when I came back from Hannover where I spent the new year eve, I decided to pay a visit to Mr. Honak and to take some pictures of his Wunderflöte.

Well, Mr. Mundharmonika is a very fine performer, with his mouth-harps as with the accordions. And for sure, the collection is very impressive, with more than 400 rare and vintage instruments, of any kind, but with a preference towards accordions (140 of them...) and keyboards, harmoniums, mechanical keyboards, etc.

By the way: This collection (the whole, not piece by piece) is on sale. If you are interested, please contact Mr. Honak in Bergkamen, Germany, or contact me and I'll forward to him.

I brought a vintage german Nasenflöte (Brunndöbra, 1920) and a metal Humanatone, to be able to take comparison snapshots with the Wunderflöte. But I made no pictures. When I was preparing to, Mr. Honak told me: « So, what do we do? We make an exchange? You know, for me to have this one or this one... ». Wow! Yes, totally spontaneously, Karl proposed me to trade the Wunderflöte! What a great and generous offer! I left Bergkamen with the Wunderflöte, and alleviated of a couple of vintage items.


The Wunderflöte

If you remember the recent posts about Mr. Goldstein (Part I and part II), you should have this idea of the Wunderflöte:

And you are right. In a way. Yes, once again, facts have appeared to be much more complex. Nose flute history is really so tricky...

The newcomer in my collection is very different from Piet Visser's Wunderflöte. It certainly is a Wunderflöte, as it is stamped « Wunderflöte ges. gesch. ». In german, "Geseztlich Geschütz" means "legally protected". It is a trademark protection, not a patent, it is related to the trade name Wunderflöte.

Let's make a tour of this vintage baby. It is from what we could call the "Humanatone genome" but, as any metal flute of this strain, has his own particularities. I would even say more specific than the others.

First, instead of rivets (Humanatone) or flaps inserted in a slit and folded (Brunndöbraer or the Piet Visser's Wunderflöte), it has large soldered quarter disks to fix the airway cap to the mouth shield.

The second big difference with a Humanatone or clone, is that the cover part includes also "wings" which are soldered to the ones of the nose shield. This provides a great rigidity to the top of the flute, which is the part the most manipulated. More, it provides a certain elegance, by drawing a curve where the humanatone has a soldered junction.

Those 2 particularities drive the Wunderflöte to show solderings *only* on its edges and joining superposed flat parts, providing a better security for hermeticity and solidity.

The next major difference is that this flute, contrawise to its competitors, has no upper lip rest. (I personally never found useful that little stand, and in the case of the metal flutes, it even can be dangerous...)

I made this series of pictures to show the last particularity: size and shape. It is a comparison between the Wunderflöte (center), the early Humanatone (left, and tallest) and the german Nasenflöte from Brunndöbra (right, and shorter). Note that the differences of width in the air way, size and shapeof the mouth shield, etc.



Let's sum up some facts:

- In the 1912 Goldstein's french patent, the design shows folded flaps but no lip rest.

- In 1912, Goldstein left Paris for Berlin.

- The Wunderflöte is mentionned in the 1913 Musehold's book, Berlin.

- In 1919, Goldstein left Berlin for London.

- In the 1926 Goldstein's british patent, the design shows folded flaps and a lip rest.

- The Wunderflöte is mentionned in the 1941 Wolf's book. The design is the one of "circle stamp" type, the one of Piet Visser's collection. Siegfried Wolf was a scientist and would not have used the name Wunderflöte as a generic name for a Nasenflöte.

- The brand Wunderflöte was a protected trademark.


My hypothesis is the following:

In 1912, Goldstein files a patent in Paris, where he was living. This might have been for financial reasons, because filing a patent in Germany was much more expensive than elsewhere (several times, according to Mr. Steinbrecher). Shortly after, Joseph Goldstein depart to Berlin, registered the trademark, and began to produced the Wunderflöte.

Because of its "early" shape (the "Humanatone genome"), because it has no lip rest like on the 1912 patent, I suppose this first Wunderflöte is the model I trade from Mr. Honak, or another model following even more closely the 1912 patent.

Then, in 1919, Goldstein left Berlin for London. My hypothesis is that he sold the brand. No use for this german name in the UK. But he probably kept the rights on his 1912 patent. Some maker would have bought the already known brand, to apply it to another model of nose flute, exactly like James Stivers did with the name Humanatone in 1903, and Fred Gretsch after him, in the early 40's.

So, if my hypothesis is right, it would explain that there was priorly a Wunderflöte (even several models...) produced by Goldstein in Berlin from 1912 to 1919, then a second totally different one (the "circle stamp" one) from 1920 to the 1940's.

But it's just an hypothesis.


  1. Now that is a proper collection of musical instruments, a museum in its own right! This kind of a collection deserves to be kept as a whole in a national museum, without one shadow of a doubt.

    Such a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful line-up you made of the three types of nose flute!

    In reply to your comment about the lip rest: I have always found it quite useful, as it possibly allows for more movement of the mouth and jaw and therefore more freedom of sound.

  2. Hello Maikel!

    Yes, I know your interest for this little flap! I was just giving my very personal opinion.

    Yes, the Honak collection deserves a nice treatment! You can see only a part on the pictures, but there are real treasures. I was sick with fever, so I was not really in the mood to detail everything. Anyway, Karl Honak told me he has not found someone/some institution yet, ready for the whole package.

  3. Great line-up of models you made. It striked me how much the Brunndöbra model looks like the plastic Weidlich & Lohse (which illustrates and confirms the Weidlich & Lohse story I would say).

    A real pity it would be if a collection like mr. Honak's would fall apart in fragments.