Video Of The Day: This Marble Machine Makes Magical Music

Published March 8, 2016
Updated January 30, 2018
Martin Molin demonstrates marble-made music on his intricate wooden machine.

The sound of 2,000 marbles has never been so euphoric.

Martin Molin — from the Swedish musical act Wintergatan — debuted his Marble Music Machine on YouTube last week. Since then, the world has gained a new respect for the old tradition of the humble hand-cranked wooden music box.

Molin’s machine is far more than your average music box, however. A complex series of shoots, levers, and pulleys lift and drop each marble with the precision and consistency of a well organized assembly line. The marbles then get back in position, waiting in line for their next opportunity to once again pass the checkpoints and strike a note. Vibraphone bars, the strings of a bass guitar, and various percussion instruments are hit in time by the marbles with the turn of each gear.

Molin and his team started the project back in 2014. They were inspired by the subculture of marble machine makers on the internet, but they didn’t quite understand all that a project like this entails. Completion was scheduled for two months after the start date. Instead, it took 14.

“It is strange how that happens, when the finish line is in sight, everything slows down automatically except the avalanche of new unforeseen problems,” Molin and his team wrote on their blog chronicling the construction. “But it is happening. When it is finished, music will follow.”

Molin recently told WIRED that he wanted to make a marble music machine that “doesn’t make chaos but is actually controllable in the sounds it makes.” One view of the video of his finished project, and it’s clear he succeeded.

Next, check out Wintergatan’s blog to see how the Marble Music Machine was built. Then, for more musical marvels, see the first time The Beatles played in America, and then remember David Bowie with 11 of his most memorable quotes.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.
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