The X-Ray Audio Project

"They are images of pain and damage overlayed with the sounds of pleasure, fragile photographs of the interiors of Soviet citizens inscribed with thematic they secretly loved"

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, were called 'Bones' or 'Ribs' and originated in the Cold War years of the Soviet Union.

In an era when the recording industry was ruthlessly controlled by the State, music-mad bootleggers had found an incredible alternative means of making illegal copies of forbidden recordings - they repurposed used X Ray plates obtained from local hospitals. 

It was an act of cultural resistance, technical ingenuity and human endeavour.

image: paul heartfield

The X-Ray Audio Project is telling this amazing  story of forbidden music, cold war culture, bootleg technology and human endeavour with an online archive, a book, an award-winning documentary, live events and a major travelling exhibition. The project is supported by Arts Council England and has received a large amount of PRESS and media coverage.

Go HERE to see images from our exhibition

Go HERE to watch our TED talk and other films about bone music and the Soviet x-ray bootleggers 

Go HERE to see and hear images and sounds of  Bones discs 

Bones Discs-5059.jpg

Go HERE to order the special limited edition of our illustrated book about the x-ray discs and the people who made, bought and sold them.

Follow the links for our BONE BLOG, NEWS, EVENTS and more.

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We came across and began to research this story in travels to Russia over the last few years.  For a musician and a photographer and lovers of all things vinyl and cold war, we knew we had to tell it.  As well as the story of strange, ghostly flexi discs, it is a story of how much music can matter. Thanks to all those who have helped us, supported us, provided us with images, sounds and stories.


If you have stories to tell or discs that we can include in the X-Ray audio Project, please get in touch


STEPHEN COATES creator of the X-Ray Audio project, is a composer and music producerHe came across the subject of the X-Ray recordings when travelling to Russia to perform as The Real Tuesday Weld over the last six years. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he is particularly interested in the interaction between music and culture.

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. With Paul Heartfield he has been researching and interviewing the story of the X-Ray recordings in Russia researching as part of a series of projects on Soviet musical history..

For more on Stephen go here

PAUL HEARTFIELD is one of London's most experienced and respected portraitists. 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


ALEKS KOLKOWSKI is a composer, sound artist and early recording researcher who uses historical sound recording and reproduction apparatus and obsolete media to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music.

Maxim Kravchinskij - Author and broadcaster

Rudolf Fuchs - surviving creator and distributor of X Ray recordings

Artemyi Troitsky - Pre-eminent Russian music journalist


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 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 great Soviet Era film composers.

For more information on Antique Beat go here


For production assistance: Maxim Kravchinskij, Galina Shtanko, Nick Markovitch,  Alex Budovsky, Sergey Chernov, Sergey Korsakov, Marina Tsurtsumia, Laysan Gilmanova, Nix Stewart, Irene and Andrey, Nicola Stewart, the UK Arts Council. For generous permission to use images and recordings: Aleksandr Khrisanov, Alexandr Moskalenko, Anatoly B, Andrei Arntgolts, Andrei Minkin, Ilya Shirokiy, Justinas  Shimkauskas, Nickolay Markovich  Kurganoff, Sergey Stavitsky, Valeriy, Yuri Bernikov  Yuriy Boyarintsev, Yuriy Gladkov, Gregory Kachurin

The X Ray Audio Project is a UK ARTS COUNCIL supported project researching and publishing this unique story of musical and cultural history by:


Copyright X-Ray Audio 2016. Rights to all text, materials, images and recordings remain with their respective owners and must not be copied, reproduced or re-posted without permission.