Watch a Musician Improvise on a 500-Year-Old Music Instrument, The Carillon

Last year we featured the Wintergatan Music Machine, a lovingly handcrafted in wood automated instrument created by artist/musician Martin Mollin. Over 2,000 marbles travel through a complex series of gears, cranks, and tubes, eventually striking notes on a xylophone and creating beats on two closely mic’d pads to make bass and snare drum sounds. There’s more layers to follow in the video, and it’s all been programed by Mollin.

His video earned over 55 million views on Youtube. What inspired the Wintergatan Music Machine?The collection of old automata at the Speelklok Museum, where Mollin's machine now resides. In an interview, he told Wired:

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.

Which leads to today’s video, where Mollin gets to improvise on the machine that inspired him to make his own: a 500-year-old carillon. This carillon uses a programmable wheel (or “repinnable musical drum” as it is officially called), which allowed melodies to be played on church bells.

Those patterns are set on the drum by a series of movable stops, but this carillon also has a second set of keys that are arranged like a piano, and must be played with a fist. Mollin has a go, and improvises a melody near the end.

Mollin also hosts “Music Machine Mondays” on his YouTube channel, where he explores more of the museum’s collection of automata, like this insane Self-Playing Orchestra with 17 Instruments (above). If you are into some pre-transistor coolness, before steam or punk was even a thing, do check it out.

Related content:

Hear a 9,000 Year Old Flute—the World’s Oldest Playable Instrument—Get Played Again

Behold the Sea Organ: The Massive Experimental Musical Instrument That Makes Music with the Sea

Watch Leonardo da Vinci’s Musical Invention, the Viola Organista, Being Played for the Very First Time

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.


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