Music and Design | Hear The Musical Instrument That uses 2000 Marbles

by Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice

What was initially supposed to be a two month project, turned into a 14 month long endeavor. A true feat of engineering, musical composition, and sound design. The Wintergartan Marble Machine, constructed by Swedish music maker, Martin Molin is a hand-crafted wooden instrument that when triggered by pulleys and levers, moves 2,000 marbles through it's funnels and tracks to produce sounds of a kick drum, bass guitar, vibraphone and other percussive devices.  

The performance brings together current aesthetics of midi based musicians playing dance music while drawing on the long and venerable history of marble machines and automated analog music. Each piece was carefully constructed using 3D software and its central wheel is capable of programming a 32 bar sequence while changing keys. I can only imagine the patience, focus, and creativity that it took to full develop this incredible instrument. 

Here's a clip of Martin building his machine:

A lesson in Design

One thing that strikes me is the amount of iterations, research, and experimentation required to construct this machine. When approaching a design challenge it's important to embrace uncertainty and be agile while maintaining a long term vision. By prototyping possible solutions in a rapid way, using lean methods and a healthy dose of enthusiasm, one can arrive at insights (short term gains) that make an impact on the long term vision. A huge win can come when you are surprised by the outcome of these inquiries. For example, Martin finds that duct tape alone does not satisfy his need to mute the sound of the marble landing on a wooden plank and discovers that the combination of duct tape and felt does the trick. 

Taking a step back and looking at a system holistically is also a huge lesson here. Even though each part of the machine has it's own intricacies, the overall goal and user experience was kept central to the process. Another great example of how design thinking helps solve problems, and amplifies impact. 

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