The Crank Ensemble had its beginning on the summer solstice of 2005. Artist Larnie Fox had been invited to present a sound installation at the "Garden of Memory" event at a columbarium (a repository for human ashes) in Oakland, California. He had planned to construct a group of small motorized sound sculptures with contact microphones that he could control and amplify, but the motor noise was bothersome. So, he built a group of very low-tech hand-cranked instruments, and invited friends and acquaintances to play them. The people who volunteered for that first event are the Crank Ensemble.
A hand-cranked instrument is a mechanical version of a loop. The instruments are made from inexpensive materials: plywood, coat-hangers, rubber bands, springs, bones, feathers, found objects and piezo microphones. By amplifying and layering the sounds they produce it is possible to create a wide range of rhythms and sound environments. A conductor, usually Larnie, but not always, controls the pace and mixes the sound on a mixing board. No effects are used.