As someone who writes about weird and awesome stuff on a pretty regular basis, I should have approximately 500 words to describe the Wintergatan Marble Machine, a music-making machine/art project made by Swedish musician Martin Molin. But even after watching the video on repeat almost all morning (not recommended if you’re in an office environment), there still aren’t a lot of words that can fully explain what’s going on here. It’s a beautiful, haunting melody being played on a wooden toy that throws marbles around. It’s like a Rube Goldberg machine, but one Björk would really, really appreciate. In fact, you probably shouldn’t be surprised if this sound is all over her next record.
According to Colossal, the machine is handmade and needs to be disassembled completely each time it’s moved. It’s got 3,000 parts and has been in production since 2014, with the original plans to produce it using a 3D printer. But even with that kind of technology, to make it perfect, it had to be built “on the fly.” Colossal calls the machine’s appearance “Frankenstein-ish,” but I guess even Frankenstein’s monster was strangely beautiful? (Maybe that’s a stretch.)
As the device cycles it activates a vibraphone, bass, kick drum, cymbal and other instruments that play a score programmed into a 32 bar loop comprised of LEGO technic parts. The marbles are moved internally through the machine using funnels, pulleys, and tubes.
You can watch the machine being built on YouTube. If nothing else, it will definitely give you an appreciation for how much hard work and energy went into creating it. Now if only Molin would get it to play the hottest pop tunes of today. Wait, never mind. No need to give Bieber any ideas.