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  • Ian C. Scott

X-RAY MUSIC CONTRABBAND


X RAY MUSIC CONTRABBAND

Imagine to be on the back of a closed store in Leningrad during 1946. You look around trying to not seem suspicious and with the money ready in the pocket of your coat waiting to buy from a bootlegger... A gramophone record of jazz music.


During the Soviet Union Stalin forbade a lot of art that was coming from outside Russia, this included music like tango jazz and rock. It wasn't forbidden only to listen to it but also to play it and you could be sent in the gulags for this.


The man on the back of the shop was Ruslan Bogoslowski [photo on the blog cover] and the man who sold the record was Stanislaw Philo a Polish man who had a Telefunken recording machine. From that moment Bogoslowski became friend with him and started studying very carefully how the machine worked and then decided to build his own one. He took pieces of gramophones, tools and whatever he had at hand and reached to recreate his own recording machine, but the problem was where to find vinyls to record on. In that period you couldn't go into a shop and ask for virgin vinyls or any other type of plastic device to record music on as if they were newspapers, so here came the genius... X-RAYS!


The Soviet Union decided that the hospitals had to get rid of old X-rays because they were inflammables and dangerous. They were thicker than the ones we have nowadays and they were made of two layers: one was the photographic layer and the other a transparent protective over-layer. They were perfect for the needle of the recording machine to make the groove of the record on it and also handy to fold and hide them until you arrived home. So Ruslan tried to make his copies with them and it worked! The word spread and the request became massive and also other people made their own recording machines, and the black market now was made of music recorded on skulls, hands or shin bones x-rays.


Unfortunately the word spread so much that in the 50' Ruslan was sent in the gulag for 5 years, also many other smugglers involved in this black market were imprisoned. Apart from copying existing music there were also composers that recorded their own compositions and they were convicted with 5 plus other extra years, because they recorded without the approval of the soviet union and because of that many composers didn't put they're name on the records to avoid being caught.


Fortunately Ruslan didn't die in the gulag, actually when he was released he started again copying music and he was caught and imprisoned another two times and continued until the law changed and there wasn't anymore the need to copy records.


This piece of history came from an incredible research by Stephen Coates that I want to thank. Also if you or your friends are passionate about vinyls you can also buy one of these x-ray records on the web!


And to paraphrase Stephen Coates, when you will go on your mp3 with your thousand songs library, think a second what had meant for many people to have the opportunity to listen to those songs.


Thanks

Ian



References:

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/x-ray-audio

  • Stephen Coates: TED TALK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49aWAHqi200

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