STEPHEN COATES is a composer and music producer. He came across the subject of the X Ray recordings during regular trips  to Russia to perform over the last six years. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he is particularly interested in the interaction between sound and culture and has regularly worked with the BFI, Tate and Museum of London.

In 2010, Stephen wrote and presented an eight part radio documentary series for Resonance Fm on "Sounds of propaganda and the Cold War" investigating the way music and audio was used for political purposes in the West and the Soviet countries. He is currently researching Soviet musical history for radio broadcast.

His arts label Antique Beat curate public arts and literary events in addition to publishing music and hand-made merchandise. Their 'Salon for the City' runs monthly at Westminster Arts Library.

For more on Stephen go here

PAUL HEARTFIELD is one of London's most experienced and respected portrait photographers. He has worked extensively in the music industry, photographing many international bands and musicians over the last decade.

He is the regular portrait and archive photographer for the Houses of Commons and Lords in Westminster and has photographed most of the senior British politicians of the last few years.

For more on Paul go here

MARK PILKINGTON is the founder and curator of Strange Attractor 
Since 2001, Strange Attractor has carved out a unique cross-media platform for a diverse host of authors, anthropologists, historians, scientists, sorcerers, artists, film-makers and musicians. Strange Attractor events and exhibitions have taken place at venues all over London, including the Horse Hospital, Conway Hall, the ICA, The Little Shop of Horrors, The Theosophical Society, Maggs Bros and Luminous Books. 

From 2003, Strange Attractor Press have taken Strange Attractor's mission to print with four acclaimed Strange Attractor Journal anthologies, Phil Baker's biography of Austin Osman Spare, the  Wellcome Trust's 'Medical London', Mike Jay's 'The Influencing Machine', 'Welcome to Mars' and 'The Bright Labyrinth' by Ken Hollings, 'London's Lost Rivers' by Tom Bolton and 'Trip or Squeek' by Savage Pencil 

For more on Mark go here

ANTIQUE BEAT are a London based Arts label specialising in boutique music, events and products.  They have a history of curating and producing specialist arts events - often in in unusual locations. 

Their current monthly Salon for the City series has been running for two years at Westminster Arts Reference Library in central London.
Their recent 32Londoners on the London Eye event, co-produced with A Curious Invitation has been described as 'one of the most ambitious literary events ever produced in the capital'. IN 2015 they will release a compilation of the music of Mikael Tariverdiev, one of the greets of the Soviet Era film composers.

For more information on Antique Beat go here


"The Age of the Bones" was a period lasting about fifteen years during which the sound of forbidden Russian and Western music was completely associated with images of the human skeleton. It was a period of what might be called "roentgenizdat" - the audio equivalent of the "samidzat" private publication of banned written works.

In the Soviet states during the pre-glasnost era, many modern Western bands were banned for all sorts of reasons including 'neo-fascism', 'mysticism' and even 'obscurantism'. Much Russian music was also banned for a variety of other reasons. But a vibrant, secret and risky trade grew up in what became known as'Bones'or 'Ribs'. These were medical X-Ray fluorography sheets illegally obtained from hospitals, cut into discs and embossed with the grooves of bootlegged gramophone records - a kind of medical version of a DJ dub plate. The quality was poor and the discs wore out quickly but the cost was low, just a couple of roubles compared with the fabulous cost of an actual Western LP.

To hear a Bone recording go here

There are many stories to be researched about the people who made these recordings and how or why they did it. Some of them not only bootlegged the discs themselves but also copied the machines that made them in order that the process spread and persisted. They were often people who were fired up with a passion to share music, who risked and sometimes lost their liberty at a time when not only the private copying of music was an offence, but even listening to certain songs could land you in gaol. 

Despite the inevitable imprisonments and clamp downs, the culture of the Bones persisted right up to the mid-sixtes when reel-to-reel tape recorders became common enough for this laborious real time process to no longer be necessary. 


In our time and culture, when a song can be copied and shared with a mouse click, when the mass pirating of music is almost acceptable and when almost nothing is forbidden, it is fascinating and salutary to contemplate an era long before Spotify, before mp3s, before cds and before tapes, when much music was only available "on the bone".


The people we are working with for the research and creation of the project are: 

Artemy Troistsky - Russian historian, journalist and academic at Moscow state University.  Author of various books and articles on 1950s and 1960s culture in Soviet Russia

Aleks Kolkowski - researcher and lecturer in historical sound recording and reproduction technology and supersonix artist in residence at the Science Museum

Igor Morozov and Maxim Kravchinskij - Russian filmmakers and journalists 

Rudolf Fuchs – surviving creator and distributor of X Ray recordings


Here is a recording made of music cut onto an X Ray plate. Whilst the plates were often used to make bootleg copies of Western jazz, swing and early rock and roll (the vast majority of which was banned by default), a lot of Russian music was also forbidden. This might be because it was deemed politically  unacceptable or just because it was made by Russian emigres.

Soviet composers generally needed to be officially sanctioned. other musicians could perform and possibly record works by these but not their own - no matter what the lyrical content. And certain rhythms were unaccountably banned too (famously, the foxtrot) because they were deemed to promote uncontrolled behaviour.

The X Ray plates did not have a long lifespan and the sound quality was often poor and deteriorated quickly.As part of the X Ray audio project we intend to document the making of a new 'Bone' of specially composed music on a new plate with early recording expert Aleks Kolkowski.

N  E  W  S

JULY 2014
The X Ray Audio Project will feature in this Autumn's BBC 4 series 'The Echo Chamber' prior to a full radio documentary.

JUNE 2014
The X Ray Audio Project has received ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND funding.

We are currently researching toward publication in 2015

A selection of the authors' X-ray recordings are currently showing at London's contemporary Russian GRAD GALLERY in the "Work-and-play-behind-the-iron-curtain" exhibition.

We will be PRESENTING the project at:

THE HORSE HOSPITAL - 18 September 2014

We will be EXHIBITING the project at:

THE HORSE HOSPITAL - 25 - 31st August 2014

With further events to follow.

For more information contact us 
For more information on the authors go here

B  A  C  K  G  R  O  U  N  D

Many older people in Russia remember seeing and hearing strange vinyl type discs when they were young. The discs had partial images of skeletons on them and were called 'Bones' or 'Ribs'. 

In an era when the recording industry was ruthlessly controlled by the State, an alternative source of raw materials was found to make illegal recordings - used X Ray plates obtained by bribery from local hospitals. 

For more on the story of the X-Ray recordings go here.

To hear a Bone recording go here
For more information on the people we are working with go here


P  R  O  J  E  C  T

X Ray Audio is a UK ARTS COUNCIL funded project researching and publicising this unique story of bio-medical and cultural history in the UK by:
  • Writing and producing a high quality book with STRANGE ATTRACTOR PRESS for publication in 2015. The book will contain photographic images, essays and a selection of audio examples  of the range of forbidden content the discs contained.
  • Interviewing and recording surviving Russians involved in the creation and distribution of the recordings.
  • Photographing and collecting a selection of high quality, examples of the discs for posterity. 
  • Engaging with academics and experts in the field to uncover and understand the various technical and cultural aspects relating to the use of the X Ray plates.
  • Writing and commissioning relevant essays to illuminate the subject and its contemporary relevance for the purpose of public education
  • The production of a short film documenting the process of creating a new 'Bone' with a specially commissioned piece of music and contemporary x-ray plates.
  • Creation of a website devoted to the publication and a collection of images of the X Ray recording.

The project will mainly be carried out in 2014 – the official year of Russian and UK cultural collaboration. It has an unusually wide range of audiences because of its unique cross-disciplinary subject matter. These include those interested in the histories of:
  • - Musicology
  • - The technology of audio recording
  • - Forbidden or banned works
  • - Cold war Soviet culture
  • - Copyright
  • - Recycling 
  • - Reproduction