This Unbelievably Complex Music Machine Makes MIDI Out Of Marbles

Martin Molin might be an electronica musician, but he’s an electronica musician who is fascinated by curiously analog instruments. As the frontman of Swedish band Wintergatan, Molin plays instruments such as the glockenspiel, traktofon, and theremin. But now, he’s invented a wholly new type of musical instrument.

Meet the Musical Marble Machine: a Rube Goldberg-like device made out of Lego Technics. It is, perhaps, the analog equivalent of Black MIDI‘s dizzying onslaught of notes: a ridiculous, hand-cranked music box that sends 2,000 cascading steel marbles plunking down to play notes on a vibraphone at a dizzying speed and accuracy, while also thumping out a bass, a kick drum, a cymbal, and other instruments.

Molin and his band Wintergatan started building the Musical Marble Machine in 2014, with the intention of completing the instrument in just two months. Things soon got out of hand. The project exploded in scope, soon encompassing over 3,000 internal parts. In weekly updates Molin made on the band’s YouTube page, he complained: “The closer the machine gets to being finished, the harder it gets to finish it.”

Now, however, it’s finally done. Even better, the song it plays is gorgeous, although that’s no surprise: Although relatively unknown, Wintergatan’s music has always been lovely. It’s like a strange relative of Amelie‘s Yann Tiersen, played on some sort of electronic music box. If you’ve got Spotify, you should give them a listen. But listening to the Musical Marble Machine is the next best thing.JB