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!

Marble Machine

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!

Marble Machine X

Sources: Google, wikipedia, wired magazine & BBC Radio 3

175 thoughts on “MESMERISING MARBLES

  1. Pingback: REFLECTIONS – Annika Perry

  2. niyathisree

    Thanks for sharing such interesting information! The sound of marbles hitting against one another is so fascinating, and to think that somebody invented an instrument out of them is just as amusing.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and interest in my post! πŸ˜€ As soon as I heard the music on the radio I just had to learn more about this unique sound! Martin’s inventiveness and engineering skills are phenomenal … wonder which direction he’ll take next?

  3. Your post got time to rewind and made me nostalgic. Yes, as a kid, I loved collecting marbles. They looked like an entire galaxy was wrapped up inside a small sphere. Nice read!

    1. Monica, wow! I adore your vision of marbles as ‘an entire galaxy was wrapped up inside a small sphere’! Such a beautiful and poetic description of marbles – imagine a whole collection of galaxies – a richness indeed!πŸ˜€

    1. Mitch, I see your reaction mirrors my own! πŸ˜€ I’m honoured you want to reblog this and please go ahead when it suits you and your blog. Thank you so much! πŸ™

  4. seasontlive

    Truly enjoyed playing with marbles…it was a pleasant pass time. So many interesting designs can be seen in them too. Great post. Enjoyed the read. Blessngs.

    1. Thank you so much! πŸ˜€ I thought the post would resonate with many – so many of us have enjoyed playing with marbles and here they are used to create the most unique music!

  5. Mike

    Love this post Annika. It’s amazing what people can do when they put their mind to it. It’s an amazing piece of kit and it produces great music.


    1. Mike, I sense that you would like to give this instrument a play! It does look fun and Martin’s ingenuity and creativity know no bounds! The music is unique and hypnotic! So happy you enjoyed this post! πŸ˜€

  6. Annika, what an absolutely incredible invention. And I have to tell you that as I played the video just now my son (sitting on the other side of the lounge room and who loved playing with marbles as a child) just said β€œ I know that marble machine”. Clearly the sound is very distinctive.
    Amazing music, amazing creation! Thanks for sharing. 😊

    1. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€ Good for your son! I’m impressed how he knew about the machine and also recognised it so quickly! But yes, a very distinctive sound and that is what caught my attention when I first heard it on the radio! It is a wondrous combination of music and creativity – and it’s been a lot of fun to share here! Happy First of April! xx

    1. Toni, it is wonderful how marbles on their own are so mesmerising, turning them around to see the changing glow of colours. Even just holding them is reassuring and a bit like worry beads! So glad you enjoyed the post! Happy First of April – may it bring joy for us all. xx

    1. I totally agree, the combination of marbles, music and engineering is astounding!πŸ˜€ Yes, his creativity and passion is amazing and shines through in the design of the instrument and his playing. As for marbles … a favourite play toy for so many of us! πŸ˜€

  7. Pingback: Marvelous Marble Music – MurmelMeister

  8. What we humans create always give me hope and wonder and optimism of the continuation of a peace-loving wonderful human race! This post is AMAZING, Annika. I’ve been listening to the marble music machine and getting goosebumps. Or is it Marblebumps?? ❀

    1. Yeah! πŸ˜€ Pam, I’ll toast to that and wholeheartedly agree that inventions and creativity such as this gives one an uplifting sense of optimism! In the midst of the crazy world, where often hatred and violence win the headlines, one guy decides, for the fun of it, to invent a marble machine! Why not?! I love that this is gives your Marblebumps!! πŸ˜€β€οΈ

  9. Oh wow, Annika, this is amazing! Who would have thought of using marbles to make a musical machine except for this genius! As a music lover, I want to know how the machine produces rhythm. I would love to see this machine in person also. Thank you for sharing this amazing information!

    1. Miriam, we will have to meet at the museum and take a closer look at the machine in action! πŸ˜€ The rhythm must all be part of the two programmable wheels (?!) and one can see how he is almost one with the machine, following the rhythm as he plays the bass along with everything else! πŸ˜€ He makes it look a lot of fun and easy! I agree, how on earth did he think of marbles to make a self-playing instrument … the other ones in the museum seem much more standard although I was particularly in awe of the violina, the so-called 8th-wonder of the world, which is a orchestral self playing violin! Astonishing!

      1. I’m at awe of the mind of a genius, Annika! They must have a more complex wiring and all the wires are activated early in life and they are active throughout the life of the brain!!

        We must go to the museum together to admire such a beauty and an amazement. πŸ™‚

    1. Ally, I know what you mean – you just want to sit back, soak up the music and inspired ingenuity – words are just not enough! πŸ˜€ I watched the Marble Machine X when they were testing it and wow, the maths and engineering was insane – he wanted to get it to the stage where no marbles managed to escape!!

    1. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€ Andrea, your comment has me giggling and yes, Martin has definitely perfected ‘ker plunk’ to wonderful music! πŸ˜€ It is amazing how he dreamt up the idea and even more astonishing he managed to make it! So uplifting to see creativity at work!

      1. Hi Annika – they were actually my grandfather’s marbles. He used to collect them and there are even handmade marbles of all different sizes. He was born in 1900 so they are pretty old. I’ve been toting them around since the 1980s.

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