Guest Blog by Annika Perry
Swedish-born, British-bred poet-storyteller Annika Perry explores all kinds of marvelous topics, but I found this one particularly “marble-ous” (my pun, so don’t blame her)!
Marbles! From early childhood games, the trick to winning more marbles becomes an obsession and soon one small leather pouchful just isn’t enough! However, they quickly become a fleeting memory for most of us. But one Swedish musician’s interest in making marble machines only deepened…
During a visit to the Speelklok Museum of self-playing musical instruments in Utrecht, Netherlands, Martin Molin was inspired to combine his passion for making self-playing machines into his most audacious project yet.
Why be content with playing a conventional instrument when you can build a contraption that uses 2,000 marbles to create a unique and melodic tune? Each part of this magical marble machine 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, a member of the Swedish folktronica band (folk music + electronica) Wintergatan, thought the project would take two months. 16 months later, his Marble Music Machine was finally ready. And he’d created a music box like no one has never seen!
The array of instruments is astonishing: vibraphone, bass guitar, cymbal, emulated kick drum, high hat and snare drum, each using contact microphones. Martin says,
“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.”
He achieves this control through a music score which is stored on two programmable wheels utilizing Lego Technic beams and stud connectors to trigger armatures releasing the marbles and even allowing for key changes.
Fortunately, Martin’s passion for this unusual artform is flourishing and he has built a new and hugely ambitious Marble Machine X which utilises 50,000 marbles!
Marble Machine X
Martin’s original Marble Machine is on display and operating at the museum which inspired him, and I for one look forward to visiting Utrecht in the future to see and hear it in person!