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

170 thoughts on “MESMERISING MARBLES

  1. Dear Annika, I’m totally about marbles which is why I called my blog (marble hero). If I may, I’d love to reblog your post and share it with my readers… I totally am into music as well, so it’s a perfect combination. I’m excited I came across your blog. Lots of love from Germany. Yours, Sovely

    1. Liebe Sovely, what a wonderful name for a blog and a fantastic premise! I look forward to looking around MurmelMeister. Of course, I am honoured that you want to reblog my post! As you say, a perfect combination of marbles and music, uniquely so! Thank you so much for for your likes and reading my posts. Wishing you well and keep safe! Tschüss

      1. Thank you, it’s great hearing from you. I rarely do reblogs, actually this is the third one I got on my mind. I will have it prepared for the next few days and will be getting back with you. Thanks so much. Best wishes from here. Yours, Sovely

    1. Awww … Natalie, lovely that this has brought back so many memories. 😀I realise marbles do so more than other games and wonder if it is in their tactile nature. Yes, absolutely amazing musical invention and playing! Keep safe and well, my friend!❤️

  2. It’s an incredible machine. I loved marbles and I used to collect them when I was a child. We used to trade the marbles to get different colors and show off our collection to our friends. Ahh.. those were the days!!!

    1. Bless! 😀 Joyce, they sound like wonderful carefree days of childhood and you’re the first I’ve heard about collecting marbles according to colours! I can see how this could be addictive. Isn’t it amazing how from these simple marbles a musical machine as this one has been created!

      1. Yes he is incredible. Only a talented musician who love what he is doing could invented this complexity music machine. It is obviously a lot of works and passion.

  3. You pick the best titles, Annika. Fascinating information about this contraption using marbles. I am in awe of this gentleman’s imagination and then his creativity and engineering skills. Even Lego comes into play. I greatly enjoy the video you attached. Playful, fun, musical and very unique. Everything about your post made me smile. xx 🙂

    1. Erica, bless you for your fabulous and lively comment! 😀 It’s funny you should mention the title … I can spend ages deliberating over these and for this post had a totally different one in draft until just before I pressed publish when I came up with this one! So glad you like it. You summed up all of Martin’s talents perfectly, imagination, creativity and engineering skills! Most of us have one or two, but wow, what an amazing music box when all three become combined! 😀 It is fun to think of ‘normal’ Lego being a key element of the build, and you’re the only one to pick up on this! The modern Lego is very different from the one I played with as a child!

      I’m so happy that my post brings you joy … I wanted to share the delight and wonder I felt as I learned more about the Marble Machine and Martin’s incredible ingenuity and musicality! Keep smiling, my dear friend! Hugs xx ❤️

  4. Annika, I just love this post. It is so filled with passion and joy.
    As to marbles themselves I have fond memories of spring and summer breaks at school. Rushing out to the yard and set up your ‘ pyramid’ and invite other kids to shoot it down. Yes, you could win a lot of marbles … or lose.
    The beautiful marbles you show would be to precious.

    The Swedish musician, Martin Molin, shows such passion and gifts. Both in the music he creates on the incredible Marble machine and the building of same.
    I have played the song many times now and am enchanted.
    Your presentation of it all is captivating.
    Creativity is a precious gift and Martin uses it.


    1. Miriam, warmest thanks for your beautiful and thoughtful comment! ❤️ I love the memories of your childhood games of marbles and I’m intrigued about the pyramid of marbles! Didn’t they fall over? Marbles are wonderfully unique and I can relate to wanting to look at each other’s and seeing the magic within each and every one! 😀

      It means a lot that you enjoyed the post and presentation of the Marble Machine! I love putting these posts together and to find the right combination and correct order for all the elements. How true that not only is is music amazing but so too is his invention of the hugely inventive Marble Machine!

      May we all remember and treasure this special inherent gift of each and everyone of us — creativity!

      Keep safe, Hugs xx ❤️

  5. Annika, what a way to begin the day! The visit to the Utrecht Museum and listening to the musical marbles fascinated me. It provided me with an emotional release and spiritual cleansing. Hypnotizing sounds and motions! Beautifully engineered instrument as well. Thank you so much for the introduction. I loved the blog entry. Be well.

    1. Dear Mary Ann, thank you so much for your wonderful comment and I am moved that my post has touched you so. I can relate to how the music affected you; there is a hypnotic purity to its sound and it is great that this became ‘an emotional release’ for you. The engineering is phenomenal and a delight to see!

      Hope it is not too long until you can partake in the choir once again! You must miss it so much. Take care! ❤️

      1. Annika, you summed it up aptly regarding music and emotions. Words can’t capture the feelings, but we continue to strive to do so nonetheless. We have been singing in our church choir since one year ago Feb. But my other music groups only sing virtually which leaves much to be desired. Thank you for reaching out about music and its meaning in our lives. Be well. ox

  6. Pingback: Marbles – Emotional Shadows

  7. Wow, this is amazing, Annika, and marbles evoke so many great memories from my childhood. Thanks for sharing with us and have a great weekend ahead. Hope you’re enjoying your writing studio, too! ❤️

    1. Lauren, I love the mixture of the amazing music and inventive prowess of the musician and the way marbles evoke poignant and fun memories for so many of us! Glad you have your fair share as well! Thank you, I’m loving my writing studio, the bullfinches munching away just outside the door as I Iook up from the computer! Wishing you a lovely weekend too … a mini-heatwave is promised for us and from Monday allowed to travel beyond the locality so might even visit the seaside! Very exciting! 😀

  8. Love this post. It brought back a lot of great memories about playing marbles with my sister and the neighbourhood kids. Must introduce them to my granddaughter when the time comes 🙂

    1. Debra, so happy this post brought back wonderful memories from your childhood – I think there is something very special about marbles, they are so tactile and the games are fun but oh so serious! Enjoy teaching your granddaughter! 😀

  9. Those are very different marbles than were around us as kids but the music he made from them is outstanding. I could listen to it for hours. The human mind continues to amaze. Thanks for passing this along.

    1. Marlene, the true wonder of us humans is our ability to create, our imagination seems to know no bounds as is shown here! 😀 It’s lovely catching up with the memories of childhood marble games and yes, I agree, they must have been different from the ones required for the Marble Machine! Happy Listening … I did listen to hours with a few videos where he explains about the machines in greater detail as well as testing them out! YouTube can be addictive in that way!😀 Hope the weather is treating you well and everything is sorting for you. xx

    1. Lavinia, as this is such an amazing and inventive contraption I am surprised I hadn’t come across it earlier – particularly as the band is from the town where I was born!😀 I’m glad you knew about it – it deserves the wide fame it has achieved over the years!

    1. Lori, you’re right about the bass sound and when I first heard it I just could not work out how this element of the instrument works but looking carefully I see that he holds down the notes of the guitar as the marbles hit the strings. Yep, very complicated indeed and the range of sound is breathtaking!

  10. Wow, that was so cool, Annika. I loved listening (and watching) the music. People are amazingly creative. Even the machine is beautiful. I’d love to hear see the Marble X in action! A great share. I hope you’re enjoying your writing room too. 🙂

    1. Diana, it is an amazing invention and isn’t it wonderful to see such creativity?! 😀 I initially heard the music on the radio and fell for the unusual sound of the piece, later when seeing the energy and exuberance of the musician in action I was hooked. I too find the machine wonderfully beautiful, futuristic and almost imagine it too would walk off stage!😀

      Thank you for asking about my writing room – enjoy does not come close to the absolute sense of contentment and peace within me – I feel I have arrived and can’t believe it is less than a month since I moved in! 😀 Hope your latest book is coming along well and look forward to hearing you read book extract(s) on Rebecca’s blog sometime.

      1. You’re right, the machine does look like it could walk off the stage. Ha ha. Instruments are like places… they have souls. 🙂 And yay on the writing room – I can’t believe it’s been a month either!

    1. Mel, thank you for your wonderful spontaneous comment!😀 It does indeed look like something out of this world and I too am astounded how he came to invent the Marble Machine! So glad you enjoyed my post and its music!

    1. Laura, the whole museum looks fascinating and a celebration of self-playing instruments, some going back centuries! I do hope you can go there in person one day – my friends and I are planning a trip to Holland next year so this place is my suggestion for an outing!

      I agree, the creativity is outstanding, the music alone before even the engineering for the whole project. Where does one begin?!😀

    1. Anne, thank you and it’s been a delight to share about the Marble Machine! 😀 One can’t help but be moved by the inventive spirit, music and energy! I hope your daughter can see it in person sometime – it seems unlikely we can travel abroad this year so we are planning on sometime in 2022!

  11. Truly mesmerizing. How did he ever figure that out. Even the machine sounds added to the concert. That was worth the four minutes (and then some.

    I did wonder about that black marble…

    1. Jacqui, I was wondering if someone would also be asking about the black marble! 😀 I can’t imagine a reason for it but it definitely stood out amongst the rest! I like how you found the machine itself added to the musical sound – at first I thought this was accidental but think not!

    1. Donna, a delight to share here and it does give one the feeling anything is possible! 😀 Truly inspirational and we only set ourselves the boundaries! Do we dare break them?

  12. Annika – thank you for introducing me to Martin Molin and his extraordinary musical instrument. I can understand why it took 16 months to complete this project. This was a labour of love.

    1. Rebecca, I did think he was rather optimistic with only two months for the build! 😀 One can sense and see the labour of love in it all, and through his amazing music … creative imagination and ingenuity at its best!

  13. What a joy, your post, Annika! The photo of marbles brought back fond memories of childhood springs.
    Oh, and this young man, Martin Molin. What a brilliant use of his talents and with marbles makes it even more fun! This is an amazing achievement and I am so encouraged to hear that young men like Martin Molin are spreading joyful music. Thank you, Annika and thank you, Martin.

    1. Carol, I love how you pick up on the sense of joy and fun – that stands out for me too! 😀 When there is so much darkness in the world, the creative energy and fantastic engineering here is a delight that inspires us all, lifting our spirits – with marbles at the heart of it all! Sounds crazy, is real!

      Yeah! I’m glad my post brought back wonderful childhood memories of marble games and Springtime – I think just the feel of them is evocative of another time, carefree and full of joy! 😀

    1. Jo, phenomenal is the perfect word to describe the machine and music!😀 I felt for his arm too and at the same time in awe of his sense of rhythm not only with the hand crank but then playing the notes on the guitar and adjusting all the levers! He makes it look so easy though!😀

    1. Jan, that was exactly my reaction! 😀 Where does one come up with the idea? And then to put it into action? I liked learning how this Marble Machine was built in layers, one on top of the other whilst the new one is more separate individual parts and hence a lot easier to fix/adjust!

    1. Robbie, I first heard this unusual music on the radio whilst out driving and luckily caught the name Marble Machine … when I read more and saw it in action I knew so many here would share my enthusiasm and love of the music and creative, imaginative ingenuity of the project! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post – something a bit different and I do miss writing travel posts so enjoy sharing this!

  14. A love of music combined with a soaring imagination and a generous dollup of mechanical genius. Brilliant and fun, Annika. I’ve seen the YouTube video before. In fact, watched it several times. I was happy to watch it again. Thanks. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Curt, I was wondering if anyone else here would have come across the Marble Machine before – you are the first one! 😀 I doubt I’d ever tire of it! At first, I didn’t realise it was nearly five years old but see the testing for the new one was still taking place in December. He is most definitely a ‘mechanical genius’ combined with an imagination that pushes right to the edge of the impossible and makes it into mesmerising music! Thank you so much for your lovely comment! Hope the cold is all gone now!

      1. Cold’s all gone, Annika. Thanks. As I recall, it was my friend and fellow blogger, Linda at shoreacres, Lagniappe who posted it over Christmas. She, like you, has a great eye for the unique. Fun! –Curt

    1. Rosaliene, this is absolutely amazing and uplifting to see such imagination and creativity at play! Oh, I feel for your son having to leave behind the marbles but they would have weighed so much and taken space. Does he still remember them?

    1. Kamal, I doubt anyone could ever have imagined such music from marbles – well, apart from this incredibly gifted and creative musician!😀 True artistry! I’m so glad you enjoyed the music and video – his energy is amazing! How lovely that you also played marbles with your cousins. Do you ever wonder where all the marbles disappeared to? I had two big bags at one stage!

  15. I’ve never seen anything like this. Thank you so much for sharing this, Annika. What a happy experience! I’m still smiling. I played marbles when I was a kid, but never like this! Wow!

    1. Anneli, this was totally new to me too and I wonder how he dreamt up such an incredible machine! Haha … no, I doubt anyone has played marbles like this as a child or even an adult! 😀

    1. Very much so, Alethea! 😀 The more I looked at it the more awe I felt. Watching the testing of the 50,000 marble machine I was gobsmacked – just how does one make such a contraption?!

  16. The marble machine is whimsical, mad, and delightful! The music produced is charming. ❤ Thank you, Annika, for sharing this musical oddity with us!

    As children, my brother and I scavenged "steelies" at a local garage. My mother thought it was inappropriate for young ladies to hang out there. I did see a collection of "girlie" calendars there.

    As a teenager in the sixties, I enjoyed making "fried marbles" by heating the marbles and then dropping them in ice water. Some people made them into jewelry.

    All the best!

    1. Cheryl, your childhood sounds wonderfully free and happy! Were you a bit of a tomboy? I definitely was (often hanging around with my older brother as very little) and my mother struggled to get me in a dress! 😀

      I love the name ‘steelies’ for the marbles and blimey, who would think of heating them! That is inspired and bet it the jewellery was very special.

      I’m glad my post has sparked these lovely memories and that you enjoyed the music. It is indeed a combination of whimsical and mad – I find the tune very catchy!

    1. Brad, a joy to share here and I’m glad it was a lovely way for you to start the day. Did the music stay in your head? I’ve listened to it so often the Marble Machine tune is on a constant for me – not that I mind – yet!😀

    1. Darlene, I wondered if you’d been to the museum on your travels? It looks amazing (I’ve been trawling through YouTube videos ‘researching’!) My friends and I are planning a trip to Amsterdam next year hopefully and I’ve now put this museum on the list of places to visit – can’t wait!

    1. Jennifer, I too loved the mixture of the amazing machine and also the memories it brought back of intense marble games! Alleys? Is that what the marbles were called? Very unusual!

      1. I found this definition at “alley [al-ee ] noun, plural al·leys. Chiefly Northeastern U.S. a choice, large playing marble.”
        For some reason as kids we called all of them by that name, not just the big ones. 🙂

  17. It’s an amazing contraption and utterly unique. I’d like to hear him play “Raindrops keep falling on my head” with each marble being a raindrop. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Pat, I’m smiling at your suggestion of the song for the Marble Machine – that would be perfect! Do you think it takes requests?! 😀 It is unique and I think so much work I doubt anyone else is making anything like this!

    1. Clive, I thought you would particularly appreciate this post – I wholeheartedly agree, he is a genius and doesn’t even seem to realise how impressive the machine is. In later videos, he’s annoyed it wasn’t built better and faster! Yikes … he sets a high bar for himself!

    1. Pamela, I agree, the music alone is amazing to hear and how I first came across the Marble Machine, seeing it in action is incredible. One feels hope for a world where there is so much innovative creative ingenuity at play!

  18. That’s amazing! When I was 9, I spent about a year totally fascinated by marbles. Played endlessly with them. Outgrew them quickly though and am not sure anymore how they were replaced. Probably by comics. Those childhood passions are some of my best memories.

    1. Lynette, you are right that those childhood passions are something that we never really replicate in adult years. They are all-consuming, wonderfully so! I still recall a game of Monopoly my friends and I played for one year – yes, same game! We created a new bank, money, characters, houses & hotels!

      I do wonder where your cache of marbles went to? Do you know? You must also have had a big collection of comics? My son was crazy about Dr Who and collected the cards. They’re now stored safely in our loft and I keep joking this will one day be his pension!

      1. They are unfortunately long gone – my parents moved after I left home and then my mother died soon after. My dad sold the house and I believe he gave away then (or it had already happened) many things to charity.

    1. Liz, wow, indeed! I’ve watched this video so many times, mesmerised by the music and also the engineering – how did he create this!? Wonderful to see such craftsmanship and imagination at play!

    1. Jill, as soon as I heard the music on the radio and read about the creation of the machine I just had to share here! I agree, amazing and appreciate that most of us can relate to playing with marbles as young. I’m happy you enjoyed the post so much! xx

  19. Oh how fabulous! There’s something about marbles, isn’t there? I used to love them as a child, but haven’t really seen any for years. Making music from them is inspired!

    1. Margaret, it is astonishing how he’s made such wonderful music from such ordinary playthings! I agree, one seldom sees marbles or children playing marbles and even at school I was told off for being ‘dangerous’ when I set up a game!

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