This Ludicrous New Instrument Makes Music with 2,000 marbles
Swedish musician Martin Molin has long had experience with esoteric instruments like the glockenspiel, traktofon, or Theremin, but he may have topped his musical prowess with the invention of his own new instrument: the Wintergatan Marble Machine, a hand-cranked music box loaded with instruments including a circuit of 2,000 cascading steel marbles. As the devices cycles it activates a vibraphone, bass, kick drum, cymbal and other instruments that play a score programmed into a 32 bar loop comprised of LEGO technic parts. The marbles are moved internally through the machine using funnels, pulleys, and tubes.
Molin began work on the marble machine in August 2014 and hoped to spend about two months on the project. Its complexity soon spiraled out of control as all 3,000 internal parts had to be designed and fabricated by hand, a time-consuming process that eventually took 14 months. An early version was designed using 3D software, but it was easier for Molin to create parts on the fly leading to it’s Frankenstein appearance. The musician shared much of his progress in regular video updates that he shared on YouTube.
Despite the extreme interest an oddity like the Wintergatan Marble Machine is bound to generate—especially on the internet—don’t expect to see it on tour anytime soon, as the contraption has to be completely disassembled to move it. Molin hopes to build additional music devices, some smaller, or perhaps more suited for transport.