Here is a very special release on Quagga Curious Sounds – ‘The Crank’ – an electrically-recorded two minute wax cylinder with a running speed of 160 RPM that is suitable for playback on a majority of clockwork cylinder phonographs.
It’s named after a contraption that was often utilised as a form of hard labour within 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.
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.
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…