My motor troubles have had me thinking about that aspect of the instrument; been wondering what it means to YOU.
It's a funny thing; one of the last truly mechanical effects being used in contemporary music; that and the B3 with a Leslie are the only ones I can think of.
In my college years I didn't much use it; my teacher didn't, preferring to put a clean tone through chorus or tremolo pedals to get what he called a similar effect. My understanding is that Gary Burton hasn't used his in decades, and I seem to recall reading somewhere that Red Norvo stopped using it because Benny Goodman accused him of missing a note that they then realized was swallowed up by the motor.
It does make it hard to express really fast or really highly articulate lines sometimes, I'll give you that. But in recent years, I've been less and likely to get through a whole tune, let alone a whole gig, without turning it on. It's kind of the sound of the instrument, and I want it both because I like it and because I know lots of people who hire me to play VIBRAphone are not expecting to hear just a metal marimba, or a baritone glockenspiel.
In the last few years I've gotten really into varying the motor speed tune to tune, section to section, even note to note, or in the course of one note. Sometimes it really works, sometimes it's a bit indulgent and busy; working on consistency in that area.
What's it mean to you? IS it part of what makes the vibraphone the vibraphone?