What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

nose flute

on September 19, 2014

day one of the WIST musical instrument shed-a-thon

In case you haven’t heard or seen one before, this is a nose flute:

the classic nose flute, anterior and posterior views, still available from many sources for about $1

the classic nose flute, anterior and posterior views, still available from many sources for about $1

Or, if you want a more genteel name for it, Humanatone. They were invented, according to a blog devoted to the devices, in 1903. To play one, the nose flautist presses it against the nostrils and open mouth. Exhaling through the nose produces a tone (described as “pleasantly flute-like” by the optimistic), which can be modulated by closing the mouth or opening it wider. I just got a quavery octave out of mine. When I was in form, I could manage a decently pitched octave and a half.

Briefly (mercifully), a subset of a punk band I was in formed a nose flute choir. We played the opening to Also Sprach Zarathustra at a church once, stomping our feet because we didn’t have timpani.

The trick to playing a nose flute is to not start laughing. It destroys the dignity of the performance.

I don’t feel I have much more dignity in my 50s than I did in my 20s, nor significantly less playfulness. But I’m going to shed the nose flute nevertheless. But not to deny myself fun—it’s that reducing the quantity of my possessions has become urgent to asserting my freedom.

Across thirty years, a punk I knew who swore he’d never work for the clampdown is laughing … with me.

shedding style: unfortunately, because of the rather intimate contact between flautist and flute, I feel I must throw this away
destination: landfill

Comments welcome … that box of mementos in a drawer: is it time to move any of them into memory alone?


One response to “nose flute

  1. […] that decades—I’ve wished I could play a musical instrument. (In this, kazoos and Humanafones don’t count.) I’ve even wished I would learn to play, because I recognize it […]

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