Editor, McLerran Journal
Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX
Martin Molin, born in 1983, is a member of the Swedish “folktronica” rock band called Wintergatan and is also the mind behind the marble machine. The ensemble, which includes Evelina Hägglund, David Zandén, and Marcus Sjöberg, only recently released their debut album Wintergatan in 2013. The nine tracks are characterized by minimalism, driving beats, and the absence of lyrics. The band’s name comes from the Swedish word for “The Milky Way” and was inspired by the starry nights they marveled at together during the process of recording their premiere album (Molin). Each band member of Wintergatan plays multiple instruments and all four share a passion for inventing new sounds (Molin).
The Wintergatan Marble Machine is a massive music box built between 2014 and 2015. The inspiration for this project was the presence of a large “marble machine subculture,” noticed by Molin, and the work of German engineer, Matthias Wandel (Ferreira). About the invention, Molin shared that his aim was to take the existing idea of what a marble machine is and refine it. He wanted to design an instrument “that doesn’t make chaos but is actually controllable in the sound it makes.” Molin’s two passions in life, he shared in an interview for Study in Sweden, have always been music and mechanics. He first designed the instrument on his computer using 3D imaging software and carefully handcrafted each of the (approximately) three thousand pieces over the course of sixteen months.
In its completed form, the machine stands approximately 6.5 feet tall and can play twenty-two different songs. It is operated by turning a hand crank, which sets into motion the two-thousand marbles contained within the invention on a series of custom tracks and funnels. The marbles are periodically dropped onto various smaller musical instruments including a simulated kick drum, bass drum, and vibraphone. Because the marbles are redistributed automatically, the machine could theoretically play forever. Surprisingly, it is also possible to alter the key of the music while the machine is being played by adjusting one of the many levers at the top of the instrument (Molin).
The Wintergatan Marble Machine was recently disassembled and transported to the Speelklok Museum in Utrecht. Eventually, Molin plans to build miniature versions of the instrument for easier travel. To aspiring young musicians and inventors, he advises “believe in your dream [and] find the right context for you.”
Woollaston, Victoria. “16 months to build, two hours to demolish: watch the Marble Machine
being taken apart.” Wired. Wired magazine UK and US. 16 March, 2017.
“Meet Martin Molin-Let your eyes and your ears feel the magic.” 2017. Study in Sweden.
Molin, Martin. “Wintergatan Bio.” 2016. Wintergatan.
Ferreira, Elsa. “Martin Molin tells all on his Marble Machine.” 7 July, 2016. Makery. Makery