September 2, 2006 1:09 PM   Subscribe

X-ray records are records etched into discarded x-ray film. State censorship and lack of resources were the mothers of invention in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and apparently millions of these records were made. Without this crucial conduit of illicit western music, perhaps there would have been no Plastic People of the Universe and no Velvet (Underground) Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Mostly, though, these are just the coolest picture discs ever.
posted by snofoam (10 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
See also In Praise of Vulgarity.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2006

This is amazing. I'd be interested in knowing how they managed to make the records. Where'd they get the equipment to "press" (if that's how you do it) them? Seems sorta high tech of Samizdat. Anyway, great post.
posted by MarshallPoe at 3:01 PM on September 2, 2006

I saw a documentary on x-ray records a few years back on Japanese TV. A guy went to Russia in search of them, and found some people who had a few in their attic. This is an amazing little sub-chapter in the history of recorded music. And they are really beautiful, for sure. I'd hope there'd be some sort of travelling exhibition of these things sometime. I wonder where the biggest collection is?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:44 PM on September 2, 2006

Strange that the X-rays would be discarded. A radiologist told me about a big NYC hospital heist (details forgotten) that involved stealing all the X-ray archives because they contain significant amounts of reclaimable silver.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:23 PM on September 2, 2006

Those are amazing. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2006

If millions were made, you'd think they'd show up at flea markets in Eastern Europe. Though x-ray film isn't that thick, so maybe they only have limited plays in them like acetates?

Either way, I want some.
posted by jack_mo at 6:21 PM on September 2, 2006

Oop, I should RTFA properly: the one-sided x-ray disks costed about one to one and a half rubles each on the black market, and lasted only a few months.
posted by jack_mo at 6:24 PM on September 2, 2006

MarshallPoe : "Where'd they get the equipment to 'press' (if that's how you do it) them? Seems sorta high tech of Samizdat. Anyway, great post."

Well, according to the article, they used a modified phonograph to "press" (by which I suspect they actually mean "cut") the records. I don't know much about it, but basically you convert your phonograph, from taking vibrations and turning them into sound, into converting sound waves into physical vibrations, which are passed to a cutting head, which sits on the record which is spinning. The cutting head then cuts the groove into the record, reproducing the sound that is made. So, unlike a "real" record company's record press, which can press X number of records per minute, with a record cutter like this, a 30 minute record takes 30 minutes to cut. Basically, a few tweaks and additional parts added to a phonograph turn it from record player into a record creator. Inventive/creative, but not really "high-tech".
posted by Bugbread at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2006

Sorry, "taking vibrations and turning them into sound" is a bit awkward ("sound is vibration!"). I meant "taking physical vibrations (like those of a needle) and turning them into sound".
posted by Bugbread at 6:34 PM on September 2, 2006

I found out about these a week ago and I searched, but haven't been able to find, a source for these on the internet – I want to buy one!
posted by blasdelf at 11:03 PM on September 2, 2006

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