News #40

The Crank

Grooves Up Close

This one-off wax cylinder features a recording of a crank slowing being turned at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery (I work here and it’s often featured on dungeon/prison tours). The recording is a succession of unsettling creaks, groans and scraps the device makes whilst in use, evoking the torment and monotony inmates had to endure.

It’s named after a contraption that often utilised as a form of hard labour in Victorian prisons. The device most commonly features a large drum containing four paddles connected to a handle that an inmate would have to turn thousands of times a day. Its only purpose was to exhaust and punish.

The wax cylinder and crank both date from the 19th century and are now very much obsolete technology; the sound source as well as the method of sound reproduction compliment each other rather nicely.

Three 6 x 4” black and white photographs accompany the cylinder depicting the crank itself and display panel featuring an inmate using the device. All information is rubber-stamped onto a 2.5″ x 1.5″ piece of pale yellow. Only one copy was made and unfortunately it’s not for sale, however you can listen to the digital recording below…

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