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.

Sep 17, 2011

Video : little foxtrot, but great swing !

Here is a video by Geert Leurink from Netherlands, playing a great foxtrot of his invention on the ukulele, while whistling the melody with a Humanatone nose flute.

Sep 16, 2011

Charles M. Berry : The Vocamonica

March 19, 1938 is the date of filing of a instrument by Charles M. Berry of Inglewood, California. Registered on April 23, 1940 under the number US2197993, the « Vocamonica » is a metal nose flute featuring several inventions and/or new intentions.
Indeed, if the shape is comparable to the metal Humanatone, but provides a sliding piece of metal as a labium, with the purpose, not to change the kind of sound like in the Cobia patent, but the tone itself :

« A toner gate 11 being a thin flat piece of oblong shape that may be made of wood or metal is ajustably mounted in the opening 9 by first blowing through the opening 9 and taking the fingers and moving it inward or outward to decrease or increase the opening until the required tone is reached, then it remains in this position without constantly fingering and is held in place by the members 12 and 13 that are fixed by screws 14 to the face plate 10.»

More, the invention had some hygienic intentions. The British Humanaphone existed in a celluloid « hygienic line », but the Vocamonica is the first nose flute which can be disassembled, in order to be washed.

« The lower section 2 being slidably mounted in the upper section 1 permits these sections to be easily separated so that they can be easily cleaned thus having a clean and sanitary instrument at all times ».

More ! Mr. Berry had some medical velleities that we hope to have been pure fantasy :
to scramble the brains !

« A further object of the invention is to provide a device of such character which may be easily operated and which will be simple in construction, simple and positive in operation and which will furthermore vibrate the brain of a person to exercise it. »

The Berry's patent was quoted as reference in 3 later ones, in 1946 (reg. 1949) by Virgil R. Kimple (US2463630), in 1987 (reg. 1988) by Patrick Huet de Froberville (FR2616574) and in 1993 (reg. 1996) by Michel A. Paulus (USD368485).

Sep 14, 2011

Video : a nice movie about nose flutes crafting

Documentary made in the wood workshop of Martina and Martin Sommer, instruments makers in Berlin, Germany. The movie is in German, but the images are international.

Sommer's website is here

Home made : the experiment of a reader

Mister Ralf P. of Leimen (Germany), regular reader of this blog, lead some experiments using the template I designed. He got a good (and working) result with cardboard and polystyrol, but experienced, as we did, problems with can tin, breaking when bent (on that matter : thin aluminium breaks when bent *because* of the heat provided by the bending, and it would be interesting to try to bend it while dipped in cold water with ice cubes...). Anyway, congratulations to him!

Sep 13, 2011

Mosurin : a Japanese master

Mosurin (モスリン) is the most famous japanese nose flutist. His pseudonym is a transcription for « muslin », and indeed, the master plays with a very smooth and harmonious style.

Born in 1951 in Katsushika-Ku (Saitama prefecture, near Tokyo), Mosurin met Mr. Sasaki Hiroaki and his clay nose flutes in 2007. Since then, accompanied with his guitar, Mosurin performs in numerous concerts, and leads nose flute workshops during which he teaches the playing but also some elements of history of our beloved instrument.

Four CDs were released, called « Hanabue no Hibiki » (meaning « Sound Of The Nose Flute »), produced by Studio Ghibli Sakuhin-Shuu. The last one, number 4, dates from June 2011, and contains 12 songs chosen among Japanese culture (Princess Mononoke, Toki No Uta, My Neighbor Totoro, ...) but also from the international repertoire (Take Me Home Country Roads, Le Temps des Cerises, ...).

The arrangements are simple but neat (a guitar or a keyboard), and Mosurin's nose flute is very sweet and smooth, always harmonious and precise.

You can listen samples here.

To play with his guitar, Mosurin uses a wooden nose flute stand, which supports the "funny mask" clay instrument by Sasaki.

Notes taken by a participant to Mosurin's workshop (Nose flute functioning and history of the modern Humanatone):

Some links :

Mosurin's original webpage (Japanese)
Mosurin's webpage translated by Google
Mosurin's YouTube channel
Mosurin's original MySpace page (Japanese)
Mosurin's MySpace page translated by Google

Oscar Cobia : interchangeable labia

The Patent US2073922, filed Oct. 19, 1936 and registered March 16, 1937 by Oscar Cobia of Los Angeles, describe a « Bird And Sing Whistle ». The shape is well-known, with a rounded nose-cap like the metal Humanatone or the Magic Nose Flute...
But there is a real innovation : a set of interchangeable "U" or "V" shaped pieces of metal, to be inserted in the air duct and offering different labium shapes (« different tuning appliances can be inserted exchangeably »), and thus, different intonations or quality of sound.

The description suggests the usage of a finger to modulate the sound :

« With a device as described here, and, particularly, by means of the tuners, an operator is able to whistle, warble, chirp, and create a great many different sounds, simulating different birds, such as canaries, and mocking birds, and also simulate whistling and singing of different people, and, by inserting a finger between mouth and plate, create different variations, as by shaking and vibrating the inserted finger. »

Here is the full patent claim :

« a device of the class described having a nose-cap with an aperture to align with the nostrils of an operator, a mouth-plate extending downwardly from the nose-cap and having an aperture to align with the mouth of the operator, a chamber securely mounted over the back of the nose-cap and having a portion extending back of the mouth-plate so as to form a narrow channel closely related to the mouth aperture, and a tuning member having a cut-out and being shiftably inserted into the channel so that a portion of the cut-out aligns with the mouth aperture. »

Sep 12, 2011

Video : the great little Nosefluter

Nosefluter is a young British girl who plays (well!) the nose flute, the uke and the piano. She plays really clear and loud, and apparently likes to make little videos in her living room, but also at Macchu Picchu or while swimming in the sea of Montenegro !

Check her YouTube channel.

Here is a duo nose flute / ocarina shot in Peru :

Sep 11, 2011

Tupa Art : cool and fun nose flutes

Tupa Art is a website where you can find cool wooden instruments. Among those, Roi Bitton makes bamboo nose flutes. Located in Tel Aviv, Israel, he sells his productions at the Nahalat Biniamin market, but from his website too.

I ordered two nose flutes from Tupa Art, and received them quite quickly. They are not expensive (9 euros) but are really unique and cool (Roi proposes to paint the flute on demand, with your wished pattern or design).

Roi's flutes (חליל אף in Hebrew) are not high end « western » objects, no. Here, the bias is to make cool, nice and original nose flutes, with a traditional look, and not to engage a technical challenge. And they are cool.

And the design is rather clever, using a single piece of bamboo with the node as a separation and nose rest. The air duct is created by sticking a piece of translucent material covering the flute. Then the piece of bamboo is coated with a thick and irregular layer of varnish, accenting the raw and rough aspect.

Finally, the instrument is painted. A technique Roi Bitton is used to is bright colors dots patterns. I thought it was an Australian aborigen reference, but Roi told me he learned this art in Africa.

Tupa Art nose flutes are really pleasant to play, very easy too, with the nose rest. They sound quite well. So, if you look for a high end flute, precise in the construction and made out of precious exotic woods, uh... you are not at the right address. But if you'd like a pretty and cool instrument, handy and strong, cheap priced but painted on demand, drop a mail to Roi !

Here is a sound sample :

Tupa art website is here
and here is its Google Translate version in English.