Did You See This?

Musical Marble Madness

An unbelievably complicated musical instrument that runs on marbles.

In the video above, every single sound you hear is being made by Swedish musician Martin Molin’s incredible Wintergatan Marble Machine. The wildly complicated hand-cranked contraption is like a music box gone mad: For one thing, it runs on marbles. 2,000 of them.

After stumbling across the existing marble machine subculture, Molin set aside a couple of months to build his own music machine. In the end, it took two years, beginning with 3D software designs, and winding up—an apt phrase—with Molin form-fitting and shaping parts as he went along. A series of  videos documented his progress.

The Wintergatan Marble Machine is mostly wood—a hand-built jungle of wheels, belts, elevators, funnels, and tracks. Marbles roll and bang into an embedded vibraphone, bass drum, cymbal, and the remains of a Hofner Beatles bass guitar, among other instruments. The machine can be made to play different songs and tunes based on a programmable 32-measure pattern.

But those marbles. As Molin told WIRED: “The marbles, you know, they behave like water. The nature of water is that it just breaks through everything. After 100,000 years it can make a hole in stone. The marbles act like that, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing to try to tame them. They are just flooding every wall I’m putting up… I’ll have to fix some escaping marble issues in order to tour.” Molin loses a few of his in the video.

The final Wintergatan Marble Machine makes Rube Goldberg look lazy, with the marbles running in and around each other, all the while producing a band’s-worth of wonderful music.