2,000 marbles, 3,000 parts, and 14 months to build. This is The Marble Machine, a hand-cranked music box of sorts that incorporates loads of other instruments, all played by the machine’s cascading steel marbles. It’s like a Rube Goldberg machine on steroids. made of wood, gears, steel marbles, rice (yes, rice), coasters, matchboxes, LEGO parts, and guitar, xylophone, and drum parts, to name a few. Its mad inventor/creator/musician is Swedish musician Martin Molin, known for his fascination with unusual instruments. I read some of his writing about the process of preparing the machine, and this was clearly a difficult birth.
“The closer the machine gets to be finished the harder it gets to finish it. It is strange how that happens, when the finish line is in sight, everything slows down automatically except the avalanche of new unforeseen problems. We need to start making music now and spend less time picking up marbles from the floor soon soon soon. But it is happening. When it is finished, music will follow.”
To make matters worse, after announcing that the world premiere of the Machine’s first music video would be released on February 29, they just couldn’t get it done in time. He ended up having to postpone the release by one more day. That must have been a heartbreaking decision. Nonetheless, he finally prevailed, and the video has had more than 10.5 million hits since its release last week. That’s got to feel good. It was well worth the wait.
The plugs and wires you’ll see in the video are exclusively for the audio feed. The machine’s moving parts are all manually propelled. Like a more traditional music box, pegs can be moved and instrument parts can be tuned to enable the Marble Machine to play whatever Molin wants, but for its first piece, Molin “programmed” in something he composed just for the Machine. The composition illustrates both the Machine’s programmed play mode and Molin’s mastery of its manual features. It’s a real treat to watch in action, and it sounds marvelous, too!
Of course, I can’t resist the making-of video!
And now, in case you like me need to geek out on how it works, here are the nitty-gritty details!