Falling marbles make monstrous machine sing
Artist Martin Molin has spent the last 14 months designing and hand-building the Musical Marble Machine, a huge loom- or printing press-like contraption made from birch ply that makes use of 2,000 metal balls to play a tune. The musician-powered machine drops marbles onto the instrument surface, notes sound and the orbs are collected and re-used again.
Before any music can be heard, the player needs to start turning a hand-crank that spins a flywheel which drives an intricate mix of wooden cogs, wheels and belts. The machine is made up of 3,000 components in all. The repeating melody to be played is composed beforehand using the two main wheels at the center of the machine, where raised pins hit wooden blocks or levers that stop or allow through queued marbles.
Marbles get scooped up from below and are fed to each instrument queue according to open or closed levers, allowing for individual instrument sounds to be played as desired. Notes are produced as marbles hit the bars of the vibraphone, the surface of the kick and snare pads, a crash cymbal and the strings of a Hofner copy electric bass guitar before bouncing off into collectors at the front to be sent back to the top of the machine again. Only one hand is required to wind the crank, allowing the other to be used to fret the bass.
The end result is mesmerizing, as you can see from the video below.