Music on Bones

Packaging | Product Development | Identity
Editorial | Personal Project

An album box set of "Music on Bones" — records pressed onto x-rays celebrating the dissident actions of the Soviet Union's audiophiles.



What would you do for music? Would you spend all your savings on a pair of expensive headphones for great sound or endanger your computer for a suspicious LimeWire download? Would you risk your life? 

Music on Bones is a box set celebrating the ‘Bone Music’ of the Soviet Union, and the strong, colorful people who inspired it. During the mid-20th century, producing, performing, and listening to Western and Western-style music was forbidden. Undeterred, audiophiles risked everything to listen to the music they loved, creating an underground bootlegging movement, etching sound into x-rays discarded by local hospitals since vinyl was scarce. These improvised records were distributed in secret, often by members of a youth subculture, the Stilyagi, known for their bright, Western-inspired outfits and hairstyles. 


Historic images of Stilyagi youth courtesy of Messy Nessy Chic.



Boris Taigin and Ruslan Bogoslovski, two of the original x-ray record makers, faced fines and repeated stints in the gulag to create and distribute this music. Today, they represent Boris & Ruslan, the record company producing the Music on Bones box set. 


The Music on Bones album box set includes 3 albums with 12 multi-colored records, and an additional album of ephemera including a samizdat zine about the history of Bone Music and the Stilyagi, a record weight, lyric books, stickers, and a Certificate of Nonconformity certifying the limited edition box set.  


For the Stilyagi youth, color was synonymous with the vitality of the music they adored and so they often dressed in bright, clashing hues. As a nod to the Stilyagi, Music on Bones emphasizes a candy-colored palette that reflects their colorful style. The albums feature a gritty graphic texture, visually representing the grainy sound of the bone records. 



The primary typeface used is Korolev, developed by Rian Hughes, and inspired by an "anonymous alphabet seen in photos of the Red Square Parades”.  The anonymous alphabet that inspired this typeface also reflects the anonymous voices of many Soviet musical artists whose music was inscribed on bone records.  


Posters included in the box set (above and below) feature quotes taken from Pravda, a Soviet newspaper and other state-sponsored propaganda condemning this music. The quote above was directed at the Beatles' music, while the quote on the poster below was directed at their Soviet fans. 


Want to listen to some Bone Music? The band singing "Big Guitar" is unknown, but their music lives on. 

All credit the X-Ray Audio Project who digitized this recording and is working to preserve the legacy of Bone Music for future generations. 

The grainy quality of the recording is a result of the natural degradation of the bootleg records. Because the X-ray records are much thinner than traditional vinyl records, repeated spins under the needle mean that the material (and therefore the sound) breaks down with each listen.