"Two British musicians are recreating the underground Soviet practice of ‘pressing’ music onto x-rays, delving into its history while demonstrating the process in cities around the world. November will see the pair stage shows at two UK Rough Trade stores, as well as at Birmingham’s Vivid Arts media lab.
Stephen Coates, photographer Paul Heartfield and musician and vintage recording specialist Aleks Kolkowski have a passion for authentic Soviet sounds.
Later this year, Coates plans to release a book via Strange Attractor Press and an album with a twist: A collection of his own songs, each one printed on an x-ray of a different body part (made the same way as a vinyl record), which will together compose a whole human skeleton.
Traditionally a marauder’s symbol, skull-and-bones images lend themselves to this unique form of music piracy. The idea emerged in the repressive atmosphere of the Soviet Union, where enthusiasts traded banned and rare genres recorded onto x-ray plates. Censorship fostered an unofficial culture, where writers, artists and musicians forged channels to distribute their own and forbidden foreign music, mostly rock and roll and jazz.
While censored literature was easily reproduced by hand – ‘samizdat’ – music posed a greater challenge. The use of roughly cut x-rays – ‘roentgenizdat’ – peaked in the 1940s and '50s, before technological developments in the post-Stalinist period gave rise to new and better mediums. There was another reason too: by 1958, roentgenizdat had been made illegal in Russia, resulting in distribution networks being broken up and offenders imprisoned."
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