A secret record collection, stored on x-rays

A secret record collection, stored on x-rays


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2014

While researching my BBC series on Music and the Jews, I discovered in the National Sound Library in Jerusalem a series of recordings cut by an ethnomusicologist in the 1930s onto the surface of discarded hospital x-rays. The emergency solution had been devised by Robert Lachman, frustrated by a German ban on exporting shellac to Jews in Palestine. The x-rays still play perfectly when placed on a turntable.

Now I hear that the same method was used by rebels in the Soviet Union in the 1950s to duplicate and disseminate forbidden western recordings by Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington and more. Every x-ray was a potential samizdat record. See them here.


samizdat xray


  • Allan Evans says:

    The wife of Hungarian poet Mihaly Babits ordered a local record shop to record Bartók any time he was playing piano for Hungarian radio. The owner had to use discarded x-ray plates and once he bought a second machine, was able to capture performances without a break. Luckily they were published, as they contain parts of his Second Piano Concerto, works by Brahms, Liszt, Mozart, Bach, Chopin.