Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Ribs Recordings

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Ribs Recordings - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Ribs, also known as music on ribs, jazz on bones, bones or bone music are improvised gramophone recordings made from X-ray films. Mostly made through the 1950s and 1960s, ribs were a black market method of smuggling in and distributing music by foreign and emigre musicians that was banned from broadcast in the Soviet Union, such as Pyotr Leshchenko or Alexander Vertinsky, or Western artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Ella Fitzgerald and Chubby Checker.

Real medical X-rays, purchased or picked out of the trash from hospitals and clinics, were used to create the recordings. The X-rays were cut into 7-inch discs and the center hole was made by burning it with a cigarette. According to Russian musicologist Artemy Troitsky, “grooves were cut [at 78rpm] with the help of special machines (made, they say, from old phonographs by skilled conspiratorial hands)”; he added that the “quality was awful, but the price was low, a ruble or a ruble and a half.” The disks could really only be played five to ten times.

The clandestine approach to circulating banned popular foreign music eventually led to a law being passed in 1958 that forbade the home-production of recordings of “a criminally hooligan trend”. The “hooligan trend” is referring to the stilyagi (from the word stil’ meaning style in Russian), a subculture within the Soviet youth who were known to embrace Western styles of dress and dance.

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