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.

Oct 6, 2012

A fancy clay Bocarina

For her birthday, the Nosy Diva AKA Miss Birdy K., received a unique Bocarina from Mr. Chris Schuermans. It's a clay nose flute, made of only one type of clay, the one that Chinese masters use for making teapots. I think/guess it's Yixing clay (Chris, please, could you confirm/infirm?), the famous "purple" clay (Zisha 紫砂 /Zi Ni 紫泥) that is the best for making teaware.

But more than that, the flute was stamped by metal punches in order to draw beautiful flowers and patterns. This was the path to a really unique and awesome Bocarina.

Now, here is the Nosy Diva's comment :

« This very special bocarina of a rare unglazed chinese clay is as beautiful as it is difficult to play. It requires very precise positioning and easily refuses to play - a real diva! Likewise the intonation: in general, intonation on the nose flute is difficult, but for this baby it is even harder, especially when you have bigger steps between the notes. But you are rewarded by a very clear and straight sound that takes a while to develop but gets more and more beautiful the more you play. Since you must be extremely precise it is also quite educative...
The material and the pattern on it is really beautiful..
Thanks very much to Chris Schuermans for this rare and beautiful instrument!

And a (short) sound sample to please us:

François Rabaud: a 1973 french patent

Filed March 27, 1973 at 3:41 PM (!), and registered by the french National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI) on 14th of October 1974, the patent FR2224062 claims priority on a « Instrument de musique à vent à résonateur variable », id est, a wind musical instrument with a variable resonator. The inventor is Mr. François Rabaud, french resident, and for sure, the instrument is a nose flute.

Whilst the shape of this nose flute is rather new, although showing obvious references to the first metal pioneers, it doesn't propose real innovation on the nose flute side. It is globally composed of 2 parts: a cubic air chamber and a large mouth shield.

The real novelty of Rabaud's flute lays in the fact that the instrument, despite a shape that clearly evoke early metal nose flutes, is primarily and in order of priority conceived for plastics.

Id est : « Regarding the materials used, they can be whatsoever: plastics notably. »

The two-parts air chamber, with its front lid, has been clearly thought and designed for the production by moulding :

Finally, Rabaud is the first (as far as I know) to think of an external air feeding [edit : since, I found a text which proves that the experiment was already made in 1916, with a bellows], and even and integrated amplifier:

Id est: « One will particularly notice that the air insufflation by the nose can be replaced by an artificial insufflation produced by pumps for instance, manually or electrically activated, the air flow being regulated according to the kind of playing that is wished. Likewise, the instrument can be provided with any system of mechanical or electronical amplification ».

So, François Rabaud with his nose flute mixing old features and modern concerns, with no real innovation, certainly is not elligible for a nomination to the Nose Flute Hall of Fame. However the instrument, or more exactly the patent itself, deserves our interest, in the fact it reflects the articulation between vintage and modern nose fluting.

One last word: Mr Rabaud is/was probably a nose flute player himself, as it can be deduced by his remark:

Id est: « Experience shows that the instrument new implementation principle allows altogether: staccato, trills, rollings as far as glissando, numerous effects being accessible thanks to the simple and instinctive playing required, that none of current instruments allow. »

Oct 5, 2012

1920 weird ad

The relation of a funny advertisement for a "small goods merchant" store, selling notably Humanatones. One thing is interesting, confirming those small musical instruments were used by Jazz orchestras. From "Presto", Jun 19., 1920 :

Rattlesnake by Corvus...

What what what? Forgery?? Chinese copy? Counterfeit? Not at all!
It seems that the german Bocarina distributor has found a new market. The South African nose flute is hereafter avalaible branded by Corvus Inh. H. Gramsch, based in Kirchentellinsfurt (near Tübingen, Germany).

The flute has been included in the "Rattlesnake" line, dedicated to percussion instruments. It is already avalaible from Kids-and-science and Big thanks to our friend DonLuis for having shared this info.

Oct 4, 2012

Cherry Pit Combo orchestra!

An Austrian Nasenflötenorchestra, KirschKernKombo. An acoustic bass, plus a trio of noseflutists, for a very sweet sound. Don't worry about your computer, the sound appears only at 0'32". And here, their website: and their Facebook page.

Oct 3, 2012

Some mid-week amusement

Many readers wonder : « How is made the Bocarina quality control? ». Well, I must admit I didn't know. So, I traveled to South Africa and asked to visit the manufacture. It seems that each sample is inspected with care by the Bocarimen...

Here, you can see the Chief Engineer responsible for the ABS injection teaching two new workers while the foreman Mr. Fipple checks the size of the mouth hole.

South Africa!

Link sent by our friend ShowNoseFlute, thanks! Here is a video by DCUC, a band from Soweto, South Africa. I made screenshots to look what nose flute is played by the whistler with the black cap: it's not a Bocarina from Pretoria, but a wooden flute :

The video is on the christopherdaleyfilm Youtube channel :

Oct 2, 2012

Jazzy-Rap Nasenflöte

A Jazzy-Rap song by Peter Alexander Bauer (music/lyrics) including some Nasenflöte. The file is very long, but the nose flute appears at 6'36".

Oct 1, 2012

Nose Flute Pioneers: Garrett J. Couchois

With the "Nose Flute Pioneers" series, enters a little cycle of research. I hope it won't be too arid for a blog, but I really think that the facts I found have to be published. The sources : Google patents, US Census and an access to newspaper archives. But also, depending on the topic, correspondence by e-mail with descendants. Let's better say : internet searching tools available for a Frenchie not able to access US real paper archives.


Nose Flute Pioneers: Garrett J. Couchois

Garrett John Couchois was born in 1860 in Chicago, Ill. Couchois filed his first patent at the age of 24, for an "Agraffe for pianos" (US326020), and the same year, on Christmas day, married Orpha A. Hazenplug (born Sep. 1861, Chicago).

The Couchois live in Chicago, at 1010 N Haleted St., and Garrett continues to file patents. In 1885, for a "Tucking attachment for sewing machines" (US354100) then for a "plaiting attach for sewing machines" (US354101). On the 24th of September, 1886, the Couchois have a daughter, Alice.

In 1889, the family moves to Duluth (943 N Clark Ct), Minnesota. Garrett is declared as "Com. Trav.", that is a commercial traveller. He is a travelling agent for GT Porter & Son, music dealers in Duluth. On 21st of November, he has a son: Garrett John Jr.

Back in Chicago with his family in 1892, Garrett Sr. files another patent, another agraffe for piano (US500562). In january, he has left the Ayers Co. for Kimball :

In 1895, Couchois works for the Rintelman Piano Co., and we learn a funny detail about how his name should be pronunced (with a mistyped inital "C" instead of G") :

In 1899, Garrett J. Couchois files 2 patents.
The first one (US641025), on 25th of January, is primarily filed by a certain Albert Leech (Couchois is collaborator), for a "Self-playing whistle". It is not a nose flute, because the air is blown by the mouth, mouth which is also used to change the pitch: the airway tube is pressed onto the palate with the tongue, which serves as a wall to create a chamber in the front of the mouth. Very interesting system, but certainly very difficult to play.

The second patent (USD31876), filed Oct. 21 by Couchois alone, is for the design of a nose flute. The shape is very elegant and uses the same kind of "mouth tube" that was found in the Nasalette design. Here, it is cylindrical, and not of rectangular section anymore. The nose cap has become a "nose rest" (and not a "nose hood" anymore): this is the real modern nose cap, the same kind that will be found on the Humanatone or even on the 1955 Weidlich & Lohse "Swan" plastic nose flute.

Please note that those 2 patents numbers will be stamped on the metal Humanatone, just below the Carter's one, meaning that James J. Stivers bought them (between 1900, when the patents were registered, and 1903, when the Humanatone was issued):

How did Couchois, a piano seller come to the nose flute? Who was this Albert Leech?
The answers lay in the 1900 US census sheet!

From 1899, Garrett J. had an office in New York City (as testified in the patents), but the Couchois' family lives Belgroove Drive in Kearny (NJ). On the 1900 census sheet (one year after the patents were filed), we can read that Garrett has become "Pres. (Novelty Co.)"... president of a novelty company! Couchois publishes music sheets, but does he also sell his nose flutes and whistles?

Now, if you look several lines below - and that means 1 or 2 houses in the street - you will find... a certain Albert Leech, "Professional Actor"! Leech was just... Couchois' neighbour! And since Leech is the prior registrant of the first patent, it is very probable that Leech drove Couchois to interest in nose flute. Indeed, the first nose flutes were used in the Music-hall, and Albert Leech certainly had heard one (even was he used to playing one). Leech invented his own "self-playing whistle", which probably lead Couchois to help him filing a patent and then to design his own (Couchois) nose flute. Did Albert show an original Nasalette by Carter, or a copy, to Couchois who decided to improve it? The fact is that the "mouth tube" is a "specific character" of that pioneer flute.

In those years, Couchois was also a famous and prolific music/lyrics composer.

Albert Leech, having moved to Arlington, will file another patent in 1902, and a famous one: the slide whistle (US780674)(in fact, it's a multiple patent, because it also includes a kind of whistle which pitch is driven by the buccal cavity)

Couchois, still in Kearny (31 Franklin pl.) in 1902-03, moved to Rutherford (NJ) where he bought a house at 456 Montross avenue. Garrett J. has become "editor". In fact, he's a music publisher.

Probably this house :

And in 1905, drama and scandal! Couchois is convicted of piracy for having published and sold "spurious copies" of the orchestration of a waltz called "Beauties' Charms/Hearts and Flowers" by Theo Tobani, and which rights where owned by Carl Fischer. Couchois was sentenced to a $350 fine and... 30 days of jail!
When the trial occured, Garrett had already spent a month in the "Tombs" jail, and is liberated. But 3 days later, he is arrested again for another act of counterfeiting on "Blue Bell" (Haviland publish.). He returns to jail.

Excerpts of the Music Trade Review :
And the series is not over! :

Garrett spent 8 month in jail and we can write without defamation that Couchois has become a professional copryright infringer.

His image has clearly been taken a notch down... :

In 1909, we learn that Garrett John Jr., 20, has become an architect.

At the same time, Couchois Sr. is implicated in a blackmail against a piano manufacturer, J.V. Steger. And in 1913, the scandal strikes back! Garrett, former agent of a trade journal, The Musical Courier Extra, explains to the court that his boss, William Geppert, asked him to do the dirty job: first, to find "anything discreditable" to Steger, a piano manufacturer, and then demand him $50.000. Otherwise, "they would turn the batteries of the paper upon him". Couchois added that this blackmail "had been done by the Musical Courier Extra in the past to other piano houses".

New York Times, Feb. 28, 1913 :

But it was judged that Couchois was forced to act as he did. Well, scandal had exploded anyway, during this 10 days trial.

In 1917, Garrett Jr., architect-engineer, asked for an exemption not to serve during the war. Exemption rejected, he will be soldier from Apr. 1, 1918 until Feb. 3, 1919.

In June 1918, Garrett John files a patent (US1256877) for a "resilient tire".

Bizarre, no? A tire?? Did also Garrett John Sr. (57 y.o.) work for the army? Why not... It could also have been a patent by Jr., architect and engineer, but whether we compare the signatures, the "tire patent" one looks more similar to senior's one than junior's one, which appears on the army form (please take a look at the "G", the "C" ...):

From the nose flute patent :
From the tire patent :
From the army form :

In 1920, we discover that Jr. has married Alice G. (1894-1975), an english immigrant. He is still an architect, and Sr. is recorded as a "salesman" in "specialties". All the family still live in the Montross house (Rutherford, NJ).

But in 1921, Orpha appears in the city directory as a widow. So, Garrett John Sr. has passed away, late 1920 or 1921, at the age of 60 or 61.

Garrett J. Jr. died in 1971, in Littleton (NH), and Alice, his wife, in 1975.
I've not been able to trace any descendance.

Now, the question is: does Garrett John Couchois deserve to enter the Nose Flute Hall of Fame? In other words: should the NFHoF regard "moral considerations" to elect a new member? Without wanting to enter a controversy on that subject, I guess that American and Japanese readers will answer "Yes, NFHoF cannot accept crooks in its list". On my side, I have a tendancy to answer: "Oh yes, Couchois was a crook! But on a pure nose flute point of view, he designed a great nose flute. He acted as a pirat against his competitors, but he didn't killed anybody. And even if he did: should Louis Althusser the philosopher be expelled from the philosophic pleiad because he killed his wife? Is it the man's soul, or is it only the work, that is celebrated in the Hall of Fame? I do not know anything about Buford Threlkeld's soul or Ernest W. Davis' one. Anyway, I wait for your anwser to that question.


See also :

- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Review
- An Original Couchois' Whistle


On the same topic :

- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part III
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Ernest W. Davis - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Ernest W. Davis - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Nelson Ronsheim
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Garrett J. Couchois


Sep 30, 2012

Italian Bocarina duet

A new video by Rosa & Francesco, aka Nacrociochi, Andy Griffith's Theme, with a vintage Martin uke and a pair of nose flutes. Very well done!

"Swan logo"... Identity revealed!

The Swan logo is the "second most famous" nose flute in the world, just after the Humanatone. However, "nobody" knows exactly when it was launched, and even... it's name!

Several days ago, a very fine Austrian man, Mr. Christian Steinbrecher, contacted me because he was interested in a 1911 music instrument catalog I had bought. We discussed a bit and had a very good relation through e-mails. Christian is a mandolin lover, and conducts historic researches about his favorite instrument. I told him that my quest was nose flute oriented, and he sent me a file, adding « Probably you know this but for being on the safe side, I attaché it! »

The file was the Swan patent. Dear Providence!

Weidlich und Lohse were based in Göttingen, precisely in Weende (just besides the Göttingen University). The company was specialized in the production of plastic musical instruments, but also in repairing accordeons. I have not been able yet to find more info about Weidlich & Lohse, but I found (thanks to Mr. Steinbrecher), 3 other patents published by this manufacturer. All of them four were filed within 2 months.

The first one is a "Druckzylinder mit Stimmen und Federeinsatz als Sockel für Figuren mit beweglichen Teilen als Spielzeug", which can be translated in "Pressure cylinder with voices and spring use as a base for figures with movable parts as a toy". The item is a funny plastic duck which, according to the drawing, opens his mouth and has his hat jumping when the springed base is pressed.
The second one is a "Flaschenverschluss", that is, a simple bottle cap.

Then, Weidlich & Lohse filed 2 patents on the same day. Both are small musical instruments : the Nasenflöte, and a "Kreisrunder Hohlkörper zun hineinsingen aus Plastik" ("Circular hollow body item for humming, made in plastics"), let's say a circular kazoo, which was called the "Summophon".


"We all" thought that the "Swan" was launched in 1958... Mistake! It was 3 years earlier :

On February 24, 1955, the Weidlich & Lohse Musikwarenfabrik sent the file to the German Patent Office in München, and it was recorded on the 1st of March. It was registered on the 29th of April with the number 1.698.951 and publicized May 18, 1955.

What is interesting is the object of the patent. For sure, Weidlich & Lohse wanted to patent a nose flute, but above all the new feature it provided : a flexible nose cap. Indeed, the title of the patent file is "Nasenflöte aus Plastik mit biegsamem Oberteil" ("Plastic Nose flute with flexible top part")

That is, approximately: "The subject to be registered is a nose flute. The flute is made of plastic, and it must in any case be blown with the nose. Above all, it comes with this instrument that the upper part (nose piece) is flexible. Thus, the technical innovation is characterized."

This innovation is provided "so that in each case, the opening is hermetically sealed.":

Very interesting, because as far as I know, there were no "Swan" nose flute with a particularly flexible nose cap...

Some technical drawings are provided after the description, and we can recognize the "Swan" flute as we know it :


Identity and dates have been unveiled! Do not say "Swan from the 50s" anymore, but "Weidlich & Lohse, Göttingen, 1955". However, all the questions about this nose flute have not been answered yet. Notably regarding the current Chinese production.
And when did the Weidlich & Lohse Musikwarenfabrik stop its activities? When exactly did someone decide to relaunch the production? Who was that? Was it first in Germany, then in China, or immediately abroad?


On the same topic :

- About the "Swan logo"... Part I
- About the "Swan logo"... Part II
- About the "Swan logo"... Part III
- "Swan logo"... Identity revealed!
- Much more about the Swan!
- Schwan Special Colors
- Vintage Schwan - Forensics and Dating