Soviet X-Ray Audio
208 pp., 9 x 9 in, 85 color illus., 22 b&w illus.
- Published: October 4, 2022
Stories of the secret underground Cold War–era Soviet music subculture that distributed forbidden music on used hospital x-rays.
During the Cold War era, the songs that Soviet citizens could listen to were ruthlessly controlled by the state. But a secret underground subculture of music lovers and bootleggers defied the censors, building recording machines and making their own records of forbidden jazz, rock 'n' roll, and Russian music, cut onto used hospital x-ray film. Bone Music is the follow up the acclaimed X-Ray Audio: The Strange History of Soviet Music on the Bone, delving deeper into a forgotten era when being a music fan could mean a lengthy prison sentence, or worse.
Who made these records? Why did they do it and how was it even possible? Foregrounding interviews and oral testimonies gathered over five years, Bone Music presents the stories of the original bone bootleggers, their customers, musicians, record collectors, and commentators, evoking a spirited resistance to a repressive culture of prohibition and punishment. It reveals that although Western jazz and rock'n'roll were important to the Stilyagi youth culture, the true rebel music was that of forbidden Russian émigrés, gypsy romances, and criminal tunes: the soul songs of a society brutally cut off from its culture.
Richly illustrated with dozens of new images of Soviet x-ray discs and sound letters, Bone Music details how the bootleggers worked, outlining the technical precedents of their techniques, situating their discs in a revised history of recorded media, and bringing a wealth of compelling new detail.