Behold the Ingenious Musical Marble Machine

Could the return of mar­ble-based mad­ness be a reac­tion to our dig­i­tal age? That we must con­struct real fan­tas­ti­cal machines that per­form hum­ble amuse­ments in the face of CGI-filled block­busters? Do we need to know that if soci­ety col­laps­es we can look to mem­bers of the Swedish folk­tron­ic band Win­ter­gatan to help rebuild it? After watch­ing the above video, friends, I say yes to all those (rhetor­i­cal) ques­tions.

The Mar­ble Con­vey­er Belt does what its name implies in a lov­ing series of cranks, gears, “fish stairs,” ratch­ets, pis­tons, curved tracks, and springs, and no real amount of florid descrip­tion will do jus­tice to the visu­al poet­ry of watch­ing Wintergatan’s Mar­tin Molin operate/play what they have dubbed Mar­ble Machine X.

This is not Molin or the band’s first machine. Accord­ing to Wikipedia, between Decem­ber 2014 and March 2016, Molin built the first Mar­ble Machine, that played instru­ments like a vibra­phone, bass gui­tar, cym­bals, and a contact-microphone’d mini drum kit fol­low­ing a pro­grammed wheel that trig­gered mar­ble release arma­tures.

In fact, we told you all about it in a pre­vi­ous post in 2016, just in case this is all sound­ing famil­iar.

When that was a suc­cess, they dis­as­sem­bled the machine and set about work­ing on Machine X.
Each step of the process was doc­u­ment­ed on YouTube, which is per­fect for this sort of thing. The 79 videos can be watched over at this mas­sive playlist. (Watch it below.) This time, Molin worked with a team of design­ers and engi­neers, along with fan input, to build some­thing big­ger and bet­ter.

Molin pro­vid­ed some specs over at the fin­ished video’s YouTube page:

The Mar­ble Con­vey­er Belt is Com­plet­ed and it deliv­ers Per­fect­ly.
— lifts 8 mar­bles per crank turn.
— thanks to it being dri­ven by ratch­ets and pis­tons, it makes a short halt to load and unload the mar­bles, on exact­ly the same spot every time.
— The pis­tons are con­nect­ed to the crank shaft with a 2:1 gear reduc­tion which means that the con­vey­er belt go in time with the music, and in half time. I can even use the mechan­i­cal sounds from the ratch­ets and the mar­bles climb­ing the fish stair to cre­ate parts of the beats.
— I only had one kick drum chan­nel up and run­ning so the kick drum plays on 2–4 like a snare nor­mal­ly would. Sounds a lit­tle strange but I just made this piece of music to demon­strate the con­cepts are work­ing. (no music you hear in the videos are going to be used for the album, its quick and dirty func­tion­al pieces for the videos only)
— Its been a jour­ney but we are now on our way. Again.
— the throw of the pis­tons s 40mm, the pitch of the chain is 15,875x2 mm, an impe­r­i­al val­ue, and it hap­pens to be exact­ly twice the mar­ble diam­e­ter. All this makes it pos­si­ble to lift exact­ly one row of mar­bles per crank turn. The ratch­ets move 40 mm but only grabs onto the chain to move it exact­ly 31,75mm per crank turn.
The car­ri­ers are flame pol­ished cnc:ed acrylic
— The chain was cus­tom made in Japan and I wait­ed 5 months for it to be deliv­ered. haha. Of all the time con­sum­ing dar­lings on the MMX I love the con­vey­er belt /fish stair com­bo the most.
the mar­bles looks like they are stuck over the demag­ne­tis­er wheel, this is by design, as soon new mar­bles come into the pipes from below, the mar­bles are slow­ly pushed over the demag wheel which ensures per­fect demag­neti­sa­tion.

Molin has some kind of mad­ness, the good kind. Where he goes after this achieve­ment is anybody’s guess.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Metrop­o­lis II: Dis­cov­er the Amaz­ing, Fritz Lang-Inspired Kinet­ic Sculp­ture by Chris Bur­den

See the First “Drum Machine,” the Rhyth­mi­con from 1931, and the Mod­ern Drum Machines That Fol­lowed Decades Lat­er

200-Year-Old Robots That Play Music, Shoot Arrows & Even Write Poems: Watch Automa­tons in Action

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

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. 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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