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A man of the cloth and the steel he wields

Musical Marble Machines: From Ray and Charles Eames to Wintergatan

Constant readers of this blog may remember last year when I posted some short films about Ray and Charles Eames and their fabulous “901” Warehouse workspace. One of the films features a large “Marble Music Machine” built by the Eames which used thousands of marbles gravity-fed to drop into xylophone blocks to constantly play a strange and unsettling calliope tune with the notes and timing “programmable” by moving around the xylophone blocks.

Well, now a Swedish musician named Martin Molin has done the Eames one better with a fantastic hand-made contraption called the “Wintergatan Marble Machine”, incorporating not only the guts of a vibraphone, but also a small drum kit and a bass guitar, all played by one man cranking the handle to power the machine, throwing levers like a mad scientist and fingering the bass fretboard built into the machine. Must be seen to be believed, and far less unsettling than the Eames machine:

Curious about how it works?

Super Typosphere Bonus! Completely unexpectedly (though a genius like this guy is *certain* to have one) as I was watching one of the “How It Works” video, I spotted this Olivetti Lettera 32 sitting on a shelf in the fellow’s workshop:

Typewriter Sighting! Olivetti Lettera 32!

Typewriter Sighting! Olivetti Lettera 32!

and, what looks like at least 2 other typewriters on the same shelf! He's a secret son of the Revolution! :D

and, what looks like at least 2 other typewriters on the same shelf! He’s a secret son of the Revolution! :D

And now, with the caveat that it needs more cowbell, Wintergatan introduces themselves to the world:

and, of course, watching the above video, I catch a glimpse of something that looks a lot like the carrying case for an Olivetti Valentine…


Updated: March 7, 2016 — 11:04 am


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  1. This guy would be lots of fun at a type-in. What an incredibly cool machine. I am unclear on the physics involved in balancing that enormous moving contraption on those teeny spindly legs. Also: use of the accordion outweighs lack of cowbell.

    1. He remarks on the spindly legs in the second “How It Works” video, saying that he made the legs spindly because he likes the look, but that the machine is so top-heavy that it often will start rocking and the balls will hit wrong and go all over the floor. I noticed that the band likes to color-co-ordinate things to a fault, including ruining a beautiful crash cymbal by spray-painting it to match the machine. :D

  2. The thing reminds me of a Linotype.

    1. PS: It sounds and looks incredibly awesome!

  3. I’ll bet he owns a Facit too. :)

  4. The band, Wintergatan, use typewriters in some of their tracks, and one is titled “Valentine”. The music from this marble machine is also available as a download from Bandcamp. Love it!

      1. Ha! of course, that explains the Valentine case. They are One of Us! :D

  5. That-brick.who.never:sponge

    They regularly use typewriters on stage. For example in the live starmachine2000 they use the typewriter instead of the projector feeder mechanism that is in the album version.
    Martin even explains in a facebook post that he really likes the sound of the typewriter.

  6. Wintergatan frequently uses typewriters as instruments

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