Unlike today’s Hipsters wearing skinny jeans and riding fixed gear bikes, the U.S.S.R. had their very own type. During Stalin‘s reign, the ‘stilyagi‘ group emerged – a hipster movement that was dedicated to music. Whether it be jazz, boogie-woogie or rock and roll the stilyagi were obsessed with all music and wanted ways to reproduce and distribute western music.
As means of hearing this music were scarce people had to become inventive and so the solution was to create their very own presses of songs on exposed X-rays, eventually being dubbed ‘bone music’.
As vinyl was scarce in the Soviet Union, the hipsters would dive into the waste bins at hospitals in search of discarded X-rays that were both in vast quantity and inexpensive. Using a wax disc cutter the stilyagi would attempt to copy the Western record and then etch a copy of an album into the X-rays, that were each cut into rough circles, using a cigarette to create a hole in the middle to use on the turntable.
The process can be caught in the opening scene of ‘Stilyagi’ (2008), a Russian cult film:
Before long a whole underground network had been established called the ‘roentgenizdat’ or ‘X-ray Press’. Sadly, this was short lived as the Soviet officials passed a law making the process illegal in 1958, breaking up the largest roentgenizdat ring in 1959. This of course soon ensured the ingenious methods were snuffed out in the early 1960s, under orders to destroy any evidence found.
Perhaps this method isn’t completely gone however, with vinyl sales slowly rising and the return of physical music methods in the ever growing digital era.
For those of you that enjoy TED talks, check the video below: