A little over a year after it was built, the Wintergaten Marble Machine has been dismantled ahead of being transported to its new home at the Spielklook Museum in Utrecht
A timelapse video shows the machine being taken apart piece-by-piece in the studio of designer, Swedish musician Martin Molin. In a YouTube video, Molin explains that the Marble Machine took 16 months to build and just two hours to take apart.
Next month, Molin will re-assemble the machine at the museum in one its exhibition halls meaning anyone visiting the region will be able to see the musical marvel in action. In particular, the museum wants to demonstrate the Marble Machine on guided tours, which will include demonstrations of the marble lifting system.
A video of the Wintergatan Marble Machine was unveiled in March 2016, built by Molin and filmed by Hannes Knutsson. A full making-of video is also available on the Wintergatan YouTube page, having apparently begun in Autumn 2014.
The Marble Machine is a handmade music box that powers a kick drum, bass, vibraphone and other instruments using a hand crank and 2,000 marbles. With dozens of beautifully carved wooden parts, tracks, pulleys and funnels for collecting and rerouting spent marbles, it’s a true work of art and though marble machines as an art form of their own have a long and complex history, Molin’s is one of the best.
Molin previously told WIRED the project was directly inspired by the existing marble machine subculture (“I stumbled over the marble machine culture – it’s a whole subculture – and was always interested in gears, and the future of gears…”) but with the aim of building more than a single-use demo box. “Marble machines always make music, but I was thinking maybe I can make a programmable marble machine, that doesn’t make chaos but is actually controllable in the sounds it makes,” Molin said.
“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.”
The machine itself is – as intended – programmable. Its central wheel is a 32 bar loop, and the key of the song can be adjusted while playing. The published video starts in E minor and runs into C major for its second wheel. “In theory, you could go on forever,” Molin said. “It’s all about the grid. I grew up making music on Midi, and everyone makes music on a grid nowadays, on computers. Even before digital they made fantastic, programmable music instruments. In bell towers and church towers that play a melody they always have a programming wheel exactly like the one that is on the marble machine.”
The plan is eventually to build new machines, some smaller in form, and perhaps others better tuned for touring. “I’m learning to plan the building a little bit better,” Molin said. “Then it doesn’t have to take so much time.”
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