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 and/or watch his films here.

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