THE COLLOQUIUM FOR UNPOPULAR CULTURE presents:
X-RAY AUDIO: A STORY OF FORBIDDEN MUSIC, COLD WAR CULTURE AND SOVIET BOOTLEG TECHNOLOGY
– lecture, demonstration and live performance
WHEN: Wednesday 6 May 2015, 7:15pm
WHERE: Lecture Hall 122, Department of Physics, 4 Washington Place [at Broadway]
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
‘The Age of the Bones’ was a period lasting about 15 years during which the sound of forbidden Russian and Western music became associated with images of the human skeleton. Many older people in the Soviet Union remember seeing and hearing strange vinyl flexi-discs when they were young. These discs had partial images of skeletons on them and were called ‘Bones’ or ‘Ribs’. In the post-war period, both the Soviet recording industry and its permissible musical repertoire were ruthlessly controlled by the State. A secret, risky and vibrant trading subculture in bootleg recordings of forbidden music arose.These were made on used x-rays sneaked out from hospitals, cut into discs, and engraved with the grooves of copied gramophone records. These beautifully ghostly and mysterious discs were the audio equivalent of ‘samizdat’ published works.
This remarkable story will be told by Stephen Coates using photographs, essays, sound and film with testimonies from surviving Russians. Aleks Kolkowski will provide a commentary on groove-based recording techniques. There will also be a very rare demonstration of recording direct-to-disc and from a special live musical performance with the use of x-ray plates and a vintage analogue record-cutting lathe.
More information: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jan/29/bone-music-soviet-bootleg-records-pressed-on-xrays
STEPHEN COATES is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, performs with The Real Tuesday Weld, and is author of the X-Ray Audio project. In 2010 he wrote and presented the eight-part radio series Sounds of Propaganda and the Cold War.
ALEKS KOLKOWSKI is a composer, recent London Science Museum sound artist-in-residence, and early recording researcher who has explored the potential of historical sound recording and reproduction technology, combining horned violins, gramophones and wax cylinder phonographs, to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music.