Marble-Based Music Engine Is A Mechanical Masterpiece

A one-man band, made with Rube Goldbergian skill.

byWill Sabel Courtney| PUBLISHED Mar 4, 2016 5:15 PM
Marble-Based Music Engine Is A Mechanical Masterpiece

You that guy with way too much time on his hands? Like, say, the dude who made an exact 1/10th scale replica of the Statue of Liberty out of popsicle sticks? Well, let us introduce you to a fellow named Martin Mollen, the man who painstakingly created this mechanical musical instrument based on the movement of marbles.

The "musical" part of it, basically, is a collection of instruments we've all seen before—a xylophone, a drum, a bass guitar, and so forth. What makes it remarkable is the intricate combination of gears, levers, belts, and other moving parts that the musician (or engineer? What do you call somebody using this thing?) manipulates in order to coerce a tune out of it. A hand-powered crank circulates roughly 2,000 metal marbles through a series of chutes and pulleys, ultimately spitting them out, in an exacting pattern, onto the various musical instruments. The...let's call him an operator, can then manipulate levers to shunt the marbles in different directions, changing the flow (and thereby, the tune).

The result of all those thousands of man-hours designing, constructing, and refining this wooden monstrosity: A sort of "music engine" that wouldn't look out of place beneath the hood of a 19th Century automobile. That fact that it can only play a handful of songs, and moreso can probably only be played successfully by a single person on the planet, somehow makes it even cooler.

On the other hand, as of this writing the video has racked up more than four million YouTube views in less than 72 hours. So if the goal was to convince people to notice it, then yeah, it makes sense. Hey, we're a car site, and even we're writing about it.