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Musical Clock Museum in Utrecht

Jason’s only got one rule for guest editors and it’s, “If you’re going to post about Utrecht once, you have to post about Utrecht three times,” which is a bad rule imo and problematic for me because I don’t know anything about Utrecht except they got bones full of drugs there and a doorbell for fish.

Luckily, I am American and did the American thing of texting the only Dutch person I know when I saw the fish doorbell was opening up for the year, because obviously everyone from the Netherlands will already know about the fish doorbell. He didn’t know about the fish doorbell, but he did used to be an intern at the Musical Clock Museum in Utrecht, which is a museum focusing on self-playing instruments and musical clocks. The Museum Speelklok appears to contain the second largest such collection in the world behind the Musical Museum in Brentford, which has them beat on self-playing instruments, though it’s not clear how many musical clocks they’ve got at MM. Regardless, the Utrecht Musical Clock Museum appears delightful and you should visit after visiting the fish doorbell.

Thanks to Logan and Marc in the comments for pointing me to Wintergatan. The marble machine in the video below is exhibited at Museum Speelklok.

(Jason previously wrote about Martin Molin’s Wintergatan projects in 2020, which were inspired by Martin’s visit to Museum Speelklok in 2016.)

Discussion  10 comments

Marc B.

I really want to go there eventually - it's exactly up my alley. I heard about them from Wintergatan's marble machine project that I've been following for years. ( The original Marble Machine was a huge hit ( and Martin is now designing a 3rd version of it and that museum hosted the original machine for a bit back in 2017. I'm a huge fan of that whole project, if you couldn't tell. :)

Logan Rhyne

Came here from RSS just to make sure that Wintergatan was in the first comment and am so very glad not to be disappointed. Following Martin since that initial video in his Quixotic quest to slay the marble machine dragon and play "tight" music while learning the entire field of engineering from first principle trial-and-error has been a minor internet subplot of mine for years at this point.

Aaron CohenMOD

Thanks Logan and Marc! I updated the post.

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Jacob Mul

They were well known for having the Thunderbirds theme playing on their organs, but maybe more appropriately for today, here’s the Ghostbusters theme playing:

Also check out their explanation of how to play a violin without fingers:

It’s effectively a history museum of musical automation, which you can, with some imagination, relate to current IT developments.

Jacob Mul

And here’s a Wintergatan video on the violins:

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Kevin Miller

This is a short train ride from Amsterdam (my home) and it's charming as all get-out. You'll sometimes see one of these self-powered musical machines on an open-air market, with the operator shaking a jar of coins inviting people to donate.

Daniel Dunnam

After watching every Wintergatan video for years I made a pilgrimage to Utrecht specifically to visit the Speelklok museum. I didn't think it was possible, but it exceeded my expectations.

Subsequently I also visited Siegfrieds Mechanisches Musikkabinett in Germany which was also fantastic, and now is home to both the original and second version of Martin's Marble Machine X.

Tim Brown

“If you’re going to post about Utrecht once, you have to post about Utrecht three times,” which is a bad rule imo


Aaron CohenMOD

Not because Utrecht is bad, to be clear.

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Mark Gould

We were briefly in Utrecht last year, and visited the Speelklok museum without knowing anything about it beforehand. It was as fantastic as everyone else has said in comments already. We had a tour led by a very knowledgeable young woman, who also played many of the machines as we went round. It was fascinating to learn about the machines that are a very Dutch cultural phenomenon. The orchestrions are particularly spectacular.

The experience was only improved later on by coming across a street organ being played and dragged round the city centre. Not a museum exhibit, but a living example of the machines on display.

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