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BONE MUSIC ... what would you risk for the music you love?

The ​​X-Ray Audio Exhibition

August 14 - September 5 2021
Thursdays - Sundays: 12pm - 8pm
Admission free
Registration in advance is not required. Current general hygiene rules apply (entry only if vaccinated, tested, recovered; with face mask; keeping distances). Furthermore, we use the Corona-Warn-App and the Luca-App for contact tracking.

In the USSR during the cold war era, the music people could listen to was ruthlessly controlled by the State. But a secret underground subculture of music lovers and bootleggers defied the censor. Incredibly, they built their own recording machines and used an extraordinary means of copying forbidden jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and banned Russian music to risk making their own records.

BONE MUSIC is curated by the X-Ray Audio Project (UK), Stephen Coates and Paul Heartfield, in association with Cardboardia (RUS) and buero doering – Fachhandel für Ereignisse and supported by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds and the Bezirksamt Lichtenberg, Amt für Weiterbildung und Kultur.

© X-Ray Audio Project / Paul Heartfield
© X-Ray Audio Project / Paul Heartfield


The Bone Music exhibition produced at Villa Heike tells the tale of a unique underground phenomenon that existed in the USSR between the 1940s and the 1960s where underground technology, forbidden culture, recycling, Cold War politics and human creativity intersect.

It was a time when a daring subculture of bootleggers re-purposed X-ray film to make recordings of forbidden foreign jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and Russian émigré songs.
The exhibition immerses the audience in their world with historical artefacts, ephemera, sound, films and installations and explores their activities that were both a defiant act of cultural protest and one of ingenious enterprise. 

© X-Ray Audio Project / Paul Heartfield
© X-Ray Audio Project / Paul Heartfield


Look forward to two more exciting events accompanying the exhibition! Until September 5, you can get to the bottom of the unusual history of music on X-rays. The BONE MUSIC exhibition is open Thu-Sun from 12-8 pm. The question of what people risked for “their” music back in the GDR will be the focus of the open day at the  Hohenschönhausen Memorial on August 28. Curator Stephen Coates will explain the history of BONE MUSIC in more detail, while the musicians Christian Kunert and Salli Sallmann, who were formerly imprisoned in Hohenschönhausen, will play and record live on an X-ray. On September 3, you will have the opportunity to visit the free exhibition at the Lange Nach der Bilder Lichtenberg until midnight.

© X-Ray Audio Project / Paul Heartfield
© X-Ray Audio Project / Paul Heartfield


The exhibition venue Villa Heike has its own history as part of the restricted Stasi zone during the GDR era. BONE MUSIC in Berlin seeks to make connections with the city and the GDR’s own history of cultural censorship. As part of the call “Music, imprisonment and censorship in the GDR – What did you risk for “your” music?” in cooperation with the Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen, you can become part of the project yourself. Tell us your stories about music, imprisonment and censorship in the GDR. What did people risk for “their” music in the GDR? What were you willing to do? What experiences did you have with unwanted music, its smuggling and censorship? Which illegal concerts, recordings or other meetings particularly influenced you?

“I took this soft, flexible record in my hands and looked at it through the light, and I saw the image of bones. Immediately, this fascinated me. Then I put the record on my mother’s gramophone and I heard a voice singing. I was stupefied. I asked him, “Who is this?”” –
Kolya Vasin, b. 1945, Leningrad, bone record buyer

© X-Ray Audio Project
© X-Ray Audio Project

“It was Freedom, Freedom in music. We were young. It was my energy. I am a culture trader. Maybe God told me to do it. I hate official culture and I love culture that comes up from the underground. I have done it all my life and I will continue to do it until the end” – Rudy Fuchs, b. 1937, Luga, bone record bootlegger


  • August 13, 6pm - 8pm

    Vernissage and press tour

    Participation in the vernissage and curator’s tour is by invitation only. Press registrations are possible until August 12. Please contact us via:

  • August 14, 2pm - 10pm

    Opening event Bone Music

    We cordially invite you to the open-air opening event of the exhibition BONE MUSIC in the courtyard of Studios ID, entrance via Freienwalder Straße 14. Take part in exclusive curatorial tours and experience the extraordinary process of how a live music performance is recorded onto an X-ray and reproduced as a “BONE MUSIC” record. There will also be exciting discussions and films on the topics of music, censorship and repression. There will be selected foods and drinks. Admission is free.


    2:15 pm – Live Music – Rasha Nahas

    3:00 pm – Welcome & Short Introduction “The Story of BONE MUSIC” with Stephen Coates and Björn Döring (English/German)

    3:15 Uhr – Panel: “Songs, Censorship and Freedom: Past and present” (English) with Jasmina Lazovic (Freemuse) and Rasha Nahas (musician), hosted by Stephen Coates (musician, curator)

    Why was music censored in the Soviet Union and the GDR? Did it ever work? What is the state of music censorship in the current age? Can music still act as a form of protest? The panel and audience discuss these and other questions around the subject of cultural freedom.

    4:00 pm – Live Music – Jungle Jazz

    4:00 pm – Curator tour with Stephen Coats, English

    4:30 pm – Film screening ROENTGENIZDAT – ‘The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone’, English with German subtitles, 25 min

    5:00 pm – Panel discussion: “Music, imprisonment and Censorship in the GDR” (German) with Gilbert Furian, hosted by Raffaella Jungbauer (rbb).

    6:30 pm – X-Ray Cabaret: Live recording of the performances by Rasha Nahas, Jungle Jazz Band and Joel Gibb, cutting of an original BONE MUSIC record.
    7:30 pm – Live Music – Joel Gibb (The Hidden Cameras)
    8:00 pm – Curator tour with Stephen Coats, English
    8:30 pm – Film Screening, Raving Iran, documentary, 2016, English with German subtitles, 1:24 h
  • August 21, 12am - 8pm

    Lichtenberg day „Erlebe deine Region“

    The exhibition BONE MUSIC is part of the special Lichtenberg day “Erlebe deine Region” (Experience your region). Admission is free.

  • August 28, 11am - 7pm

    Tag der offenen Tür der Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen (Hohenschönhausen Memorial Open Day)

    “We wanted to be free – music and imprisonment in the GDR”.

    What did people risk for “their” music in the GDR? What were you prepared to do? What experiences did you have with unwanted music, its smuggling and censorship? Which illegal concerts, recordings or other meetings particularly moved you? On August 28, the Hohenschönhausen Memorial is organising a whole day on the topic of imprisonment and music in the GDR. Among other things, Stephen Coates will present the history of BONE MUSIC and during a concert by the musicians Christian Kunert and Salli Sallmann, who were formerly imprisoned in Hohenschönhausen, a new X-ray record will be recorded.

  • September 3, 12am - 12pm

    Lange Nacht der Bilder Lichtenberg (Long Night of Pictures Lichtenberg)

    During the Long Night of Pictures Lichtenberg you can visit the exhibition until midnight. Admission is free.

Registration in advance is not required. A restriction of the number of visitors is carried out in accordance with the applicable Infection Protection Ordinance. 

About X-Ray Audio Projekt

The project is devoted to the history of music recorded on x-ray. It has evolved into an ongoing research initiative that has produced an online archive, an award winning film, BBC radio documentary, several publications and broadcasts in addition to the BONE MUSIC exhibition and live events.. For more information see

Stephen Coates is a music producer, writer and broadcaster. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he is particularly interested in the interaction between music and culture. He founded the project after coming across x-ray recordings when travelling to Russia to perform in 2013. He is the author of ‘X-Ray Audio: The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone’ (2015) and the upcoming ‘Bone Music’ (2021).

Paul Heartfield is one of London’s most experienced 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.

“The project is a labor of love researched over many years, an archive of samizdat creativity, cultural resistance, daring entrepreneurialism. It uses forensic snapshots of physical bodies in order to shed light on a spellbindingly obscure subgenre of discography, and as a portal into a little-known but imaginatively intoxicating chapter in postwar communist history.” –
Sukhdev Sandhu, Professor of English, Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

News (German)


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