Marbles hold a fascination for us all! From the early childhood games, the trick to winning more becomes an obsession and soon one small leather pouch of marbles is just not enough!
However, they quickly become a fleeting memory for most of us but for one Swedish musician his interest in marbles and particularly marble machines only deepened.
During a visit to the Speelklok Museum (self-playing musical instruments) in Utrecht, Martin Molin from Gothenburg was inspired to combine his passion for marble machines, gears and self-playing machines into the most audacious project.
After all, why content oneself with playing a conventional musical instrument when one can build a contraption that uses 2,000 marbles to create an unique and melodic tune.
Each part was hand-crafted, beautifully carved and engineered with tracks, pulleys and funnels collecting and rerouting the marbles. It is a labour of love and a stunning work of art!
Originally Martin Molin, a member of the Swedish folktronica (comprising elements of folk music and electronica) band Wintergatan, thought the project would take two months. Sixteen months later the Marble Machine was ready.
He had created a music box as never seen before!
The sheer energy is noticeable even before the music is heard as Martin powers up the machine using a hand crank. As the marbles are fed into the multiple feeders they are cleverly released from height via programmable gates, thereby falling and striking various instruments.
The array of instruments is astonishing and include vibraphone, bass guitar, cymbal and emulated kick drum, high hat and snare drum sounds using contact microphones.
The musician felt that “marble machines always make music, but I was thinking maybe I can make a programmable marble machine, that doesn’t make chaos but is actually controllable in the sounds it makes.” He achieves just such control through a music score which is stored on two programmable wheels utilising Lego Technic beams and stud connectors to trigger armatures to release the marbles which even allows for key changes.
The artist’s ingenuity for music and engineering is extraordinary, a whimsical notion resulting in the ultimate marble music machine.
Luckily his passion for the art is flourishing and he has built a new and hugely ambitious Marble Machine X which utilises 50,000 marbles!
For now, the original Marble Machine is on display and partially operating at the museum which inspired him so much and I for one look forward to visiting Utrecht in the future to see it in person!
Sources: Google, wikipedia, wired magazine & BBC Radio 3