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 10, 2016

75th Anniversary of the plastic Humanatone!

Filed Jan. 22, 1940 by Ernest W. Davis (NFHoF), the patent of what became the plastic Humanatone (in 1943) was registered on 10th of June, 1941, exactly 75 years ago!



We all know that the 'Hum' is not the best nose flute – could I dare to say it is the worst mass produced one – but it has been much better by the past. The plastics used have evolved in a bad way: whether the 1943+ models were roughly injected in a low grade plastic (celluloid?), the Fred Gretsch Mfg Co. quickly turned to a nice polystyren, stiff and crispy, yet light, nicely sounding. But on the turn of the 1980-90s, Trophy Music Co. bought the brand and began a production in a cheap, soft and dull sounding PVC (not from the beginning however, there were polystyren Trophy Music versions, then translucent red ones, then only the PVC).

The original shape evolved a bit at the early stages: the nose scoop got sharper, the 'true tremolo' hole stopped to been chamfered, the wingspan was reduced a bit while the mouth hole made bigger, and a heal was added to the bottom of the mouth shield. All by Grestch, on their late models.

Besides the bad quality of the plastic, we all know that the main feature that turns the Humanatone to a cheap toy is the very broad mouth hole: clog the bottom third of this hole by a piece of bristol (or better: a piece of aluminium), and the Hum immediately sounds better (but sharper). This is maybe the reason of its success: a sturdy, sharp and loud instrument would have frightened the parents! Better buy a barely sounding toy, more 'windy-woody' than sharp and crisp, and better, that the kido will break after an afternoon of use.

However, in the 1940s, the Humanatone was also specially packaged to be sent to the 'buoys' fighting in the Pacific. No more dedicated to concertists, as the original metal one was, but to kids and soldiers.



The early models were incredibly psychedelic, with swirled and marbled colours! But Gretsch rationalized its catalogue and began to produce only plain color Humanatones. Red, yellow, blue, brown, black. Then Trophy Music froze the range to the current 6 tones: yellow, orange, red, purple, navy blue and green.



In the 1950-60, the Humanatone was also produced in a tin version, made in Japan.
The Hum was copied. By the Hum-a-Tune, produced in Hong-Kong in 1969, rebranded into 'Bullwinkle's Hum-a-Tune', but also by an anonymous chinese production, in the 90s. But the Humanatone continued its road, sold under different disguises, like the Topps Nose Flute version in the 1960s, the Dr. B. B. Bumpstead's Musical Respirator, the Amazing Nose Flute in 2005, or even by Trophy Music itself with the 1st Note Nose flute. It was even used as a promotional toy for a nasal spray!

The Humanatone was also the object of all my affection in my very first video, very first post of this blog on 9th of August, 2011:



---

So, despite your numerous flaws, your cheap make, your deep crappiness, you're the one with the biggest success and longevity, and this must necessarily mean something…

Happy birthday, Grandma!



2 comments:

  1. Happy birthday to an innovative and rather shitty instrument! A milestone in noseflute history!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice definition :) Greetings, Nosymusic!

      Delete