Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Has He Lost His Marbles?

How many uses do you have for a marble? 2? Maybe 5 if you are lucky? I bet you would never think that a marble could make a  4 minute long song. Martin "MacGyver"Molin did just that. 

Molin is a Swedish electronica musician who was previously part of a band called Detektivbyrån, who won 2 Grammis awards (the Swedish equivalent of an American Grammy) as well as many other awards for their accomplishments. However, when the band broke up in 2010, Molin started working on a new project: a musical machine.

He wanted to challenge himself by trying to find a new way to mix technology with music. He states in an interview with Wired that he stumbled across the marble machine subculture and wanted to put a new spin on it. When he first had the idea, he thought," Marble machines always make music, but [he] was thinking maybe . . . that it doesn't make chaos, but is actually controllable in the sounds it make." After 14 months and 2,000 marbles later, he finally finished it: the Wintergatan Marble Machine. 

Source: YouTube

The video gained attraction and has over 38 million views. The machine has 6 different instrument: the vibraphone, bass guitar, cymbals, kick drum, high hat, and a snare drum. All it needs in order to play all of those instruments is one person turning the wheel. The song that the machine plays was originally composed on the piano and then Molin pieced each part of his machine to fit that tune. 

  Source: YouTube

All the parts of the machine were crafted by hand. He drew up the plans and cut every single part  for the machine. He drew out each part of the machine and then made each piece by wood.  It was a very tedious process and it was a "trial, error and failure method", Molin describes. He is currently on tour with the Wintergatan Marble Machine as well as his other new musical contraption; the music box. He knows that this machine is not perfect at the moment and he knows that he eventually has to fix it, but right now "all [he] wants to do is make music".

Molin's experience in creating the Wintergatan Marble Machine reminded me of Guildford's Alternative Uses Task. Instead of "how many uses can you think of for a brick?" it is now "how many uses can you think of for a marble?" (or in his case, 2,000 marbles). He exhibits divergent thinking, which is essential for creativity. Being a Pro-C creative helped his creative process as well. He was an  established electronic musician before he created the machine and he used this past knowledge in order to know which instruments needed to be added  and how to arrange the music for the machine. 
It is only with the help of his past experience that he was able to create such an extraordinary and unique musical instrument.  



  1. I remember discovering Molin a few months ago on the suggestion of a friend. I find it amazing that he not only created music with marbles and a machine, but that without watching the video, one might assume that this was created electronically using a computer. I had no idea that he had cut each piece of the machine himself or that he had originally composed this song on the piano. Even the ability to comprehend and plan for the sound differences between instruments is an accomplishment.

  2. Molin's ability to these unique instruments truly do break the boundaries on musical creativity. It is an abstraction of engineering ingenuity and musical intuition. I wonder what kind of thought goes through his mind as he is playing one of these machines. Is he thinking in the views of the machines mechanics, or in the visualization of the music. Is he thinking of the timing of each key, instrument, and piece, or the timing of the music. There is probably a combination of both ideas that goes through his mind. There is also another musician who makes music similarly to Molin. His name is Kurt Hugo Schneider and he made a remake of Candyman using a piano that uses actual MnMs. He also made a song for Coke-a-Cola that utilized only coke bottles as instruments. I highly recommend checking those videos out on youtube.

  3. I really loved learning about this. it's really cool how he took something such as the subculture and just took it a step farther. To create this it must have been extremely precise and he had to have had a basic knowledge of each instrument and each gear that went into it. I really loved the fact that to make the melody he used the basic idea of a music box and made it much bigger allowing for the longer melody. it's amazing that he made each piece by himself and that he found a use for marbles. As mentioned marbles don't have a lot of uses, but this gives it a new purpose and could start a new genre of music. I am fascinated to see if he will try another machine like this possibly adding more instruments. Seeing as he went through so many variations to create this one I don't think he would be completely happy to just stop at this one machine and I foresee many more pieces of music from this one man band.


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