Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rotating ribs

Back in the 1950s, stilyagi (hipsters) in the Soviet Union went to great lengths to bootleg jazz and rock 'n' roll music. It was before the advent of the tape recorder and vinyl was scarce, so they salvaged radiographs from hospital waste bins to press records. They would use manicure scissors to cut the x-ray into crude circles of 23-25 cm in diameter and use a cigarette to burn a hole in the middle of each. Russian musicologist Artemy Troitsky explains that a special machine – for instance a modified phonograph – was needed to cut grooves in the disks. The quality of the so-called bone music was awful, but the black-market price was low. Says author Anya von Bremzen, “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan — forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

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