Get ready to be impressed. It’s no secret the Wintergatan Marble Machine is an amazing feat of audio technical wizardry. The Marble Machine music box is the brainchild of Swedish musicians Evelina Hägglund, Martin Molin, Marcus Sjöberg and David Zandén of the band Wintergatan and can be seen in all glory below.
Wintergatan music combines acoustic and digital elements to produce a complete arrangement that is planned ahead of time and executed through an intricate system of gears, stops, pickups and instruments. All told, the machine uses 2000 marbles on a conveyor system to drive the mechanics and a pair of “programmable” wheels holding Lego Technica pegs to drop marbles.
Wintergatan is the Phoenix reborn from the ashes of experimental instrument project Detetivbyran. The sound fits a modern trend of digital/acoustic composition woven into a strong melody and driven by railroad percussion and a steadfast beat. Wintergatan’s style is at once intricate and deliberate while maintaining foundational roots in bass and percussion. The musical style is something of an ephemeral digital pulse, reminiscent of bands like BMSR, Disasterpeace and has a fun upbeat feeling like Ratatat or Daft Punk with a decidedly acoustic/manual feel.
The entire music box operates on a hand crank conveyor and funnel system that is geared at a 1/64 ratio, allowing for 64 measures before a phrase repeat. Being that the music box relies on gravity to drop marbles through gates to their precise locations, it all balances out via two levels and adjustable legs on each end. It even has such advanced features as a complete system mute, timing adjustment screws, and ensemble levers to change the composition on the fly.
The melodic tones are produced via Vibraphone plates with oscillating resonance chambers below to produce vibrato after each marble impacts. Marbles can be allowed to fall via the programming wheels or manually pulled for custom musical phrases.
Contact microphones drive percussive sound via impacts from marbles falling on touch pads and snare sounds cleverly crunch out via a small chamber containing basmati rice. The crash cymbal makes a sizzle due to modified wires attached via drilled holes, and the bass guitar sounds are tuned to E and G one octave apart with an open fretboard for chord changes via manual manipulation.
Watch the video detailing the mechanisms below. At the end of the day, this is an impressive work of art, technically, visually and above all…musically. Beautiful!