Martin Molin with his Marble Machine
Martin Molin with his Marble Machine

Musician Hasn’t Lost His Marbles; He’s Composing Marbelous Music

The internet is no stranger to ridiculously complex attempts to make music with technology. But this might be one of the most purely spectacular attempts yet to take something which is now incredibly easy, and make it virtually impossible to comprehend.

The Wintergartan Marble Machine, built by Swedish musician Martin Molin and filmed by Hannes Knutsson, is a hand-made music box that powers a kick drum, bass, vibraphone and other instruments using a hand crank and 2,000 marbles.

The machine has to be seen to be appreciated: with dozens of beautifully carved wooden parts, tracks, pulleys and funnels for collecting and rerouting spent marbles, it's a true work of art. And though marble machines as an art form of their own have a long and complex history, this might be one of the best.

Molin tells Wired magazine that he planned spending two months building his machine, but ended up spending 14.

The machine itself is programmable. Its central wheel is a 32 bar loop, and the key of the song can be adjusted while playing -- in the published video, it starts in E minor and runs into C major for its second wheel. "In theory you could go on forever," Molin said.

"It's all about the grid," he said. "I grew up making music on Midi, and everyone makes music on a grid nowadays, on computers. Even before digital they made fantastic, programmable music instruments. In bell towers and church towers that play a melody they always have a programming wheel exactly like the one that is on the marble machine."





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