Nose flute

From Academic Kids

The nose flute is a musical instrument played in Polynesia and the Pacific rim countries.

In Zaire, southern Africa, it is played by eight different ethnic groups,(see entry in Groves for Bolukuluku).

In Hawaiian, Hawaiian language it is called Ohe Hano Ihu (bamboo flute of the nose). It is played with the nose over a slanted, sharp edged hole that splits the air stream into two fluctuating streams (air reed), which sets the air inside the flute (air column) into a vibrating state, the same principle that sounds other types of flutes. The tube of bamboo is cut with one closed end node wall, and with one open (distal) end of the tube, which in playing position, is pointed away from the player. The holes for the fingers in the side of the internodal length of the tube allow covering or uncovering by fingering so the player can change the pitches of the musical notes produced. The nose hole for the nostril can be on the side, just in front of the nodal wall, or in the center of the node. The node can rest against the upper lip and under the nostril (for the side nose hole), or the top of the node wall can rest against the bottom of the nostril itself, (as in the playing position used for the kaleleng).

Social contexts include music for courtship, and communication (signaling) between lovers. Associated with this is the belief that there is a pure pathway to the soul through the nose, based on the idea of one's breath being the essence of one's soul. With your mouth you eat, tell lies, and expel vomit, hence the nose is considered a more pure pathway. The individual charm of the improvised melodies (part of the player's mana) is another dynamic factor in acceptance or rejection of the flute player's attentions.

An interesting variation, the Fangufangu nose flute of the island of Tonga is made with intact node walls at both ends of the bamboo tube, with the nostril holes on the side in front of the nodes (along with side finger holes) and a hole in the middle of the tube, acting as a vent hole, and taking the place of the open distal end. Thus the Fangufangu can be played from either end, and the disposition of the fingerholes differ from node to vent hole so two alternating scales can be played, one scale at a time.

In the Philippines the pitung eelong or kaleleng of the Bontok people is played with the extreme forward edge of the nostril and, because it is long and has a narrow internal diameter, it is easy to play different harmonics through overblowing, even with the rather weak force of the air from one nostril. Finger holes in the side of the tube change the operating length, giving various scales. Some players take a filter tip from a cigarette and plug the other unused nostril to increase the force of their breath through the flute.

Due to the large interior diameter of other nose flutes, the range is only in one octave and in the playing position, the player closes the unused nostril with his or her thumb.

In New Zealand the Maori had no naturally occurring native bamboo, so their nose flutes were carved from a soft stone similar to soapstone. If a gourd is used, it is the neck of the gourd, cut open to a small diameter, that is used for the nose hole with a side finger hole drilled in the bowl of the gourd to vary the pitch of the instrument.

The Hawaiian gourd nose flute was called the Ipu ho kio kio and had three finger holes along the side of the bowl of the gourd.

The Humanatone nose flute, is a musical novelty, a sort of plastic shield held under the nose that directs the breath through a whistle slot. The tones are varied by changing the shape of the mouth with different vowel and consonant formations, in the same manner as the Trump is played. However the trump is a plucked tongue in a frame, and possibly the origin of free beating reeds.

Duct or fipple flutes (whistles) can also be used as nose flutes. The Bidi of Taiwan (bi=nose, di=flute in Chinese), which the indigenous Ami people call Dibolo, have the beak(s) of the whistle(s) inserted into one or two nostrils (if used for a double flute, one tube for each nostril and hand). (see entry in Groves for Bidi)


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