David M. White
playwright. director. scholar.
Here’s a few links to articles about roentgenizdat:
- Roentgenizdat: Sentimental Songs on X-Ray
- Roentgenizdat: X-Ray Bones Jazz Recordings
- Samples of roentgenizdat: banned Western music engraved onto…
- Rock on ribs
Records on bones typically cost about 1.5 rubles…very inexpensive.
Up to 3,000,000 records may have been distributed on X-ray up through 1958.
Here’s a few more references:
- Joshua Rothman, “You spin me right round, like an X-ray,” The Boston Globe, 20 March 2011.
- “Jazz on Bones: X-Ray Sound Recordings,” Street Use, 28 August 2006.
- Artemy Troitsky, Back in the USSR: The True Story of Rock in Russia, (Omnibus Press: 1987).
And here’s a link to a collection of photos and a video. If you click on the image of the X-ray being cut, you can see a video of them making a new Dance on Bones recording.
This interview on NPR about Dizzy Gillespie’s work as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S..
There’s also a book by Lisa Davenport: Jazz Diplomacy: Promoting America in the Cold War Era
A website detailing specific jazz ambassadors from the Meridian International Center’s exhibit: “Jam Session: America’s Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World” (2008)
An article from the New York Times: When Ambassadors Had Rhythm
A blog post critiquing the practice of Jazz Diplomacy in the 21st century.
And a blog entry by students at London Metropolitan University on “Public and Cultural Diplomacy 3:” Jazz Diplomacy and the Cold War
Hearing “Joplin, Missouri” sung by Russians during two different renditions of “Route 66” one at Griboedov 7 and the second at the Jazz Philharmonic Hall. As many of you know, Joplin is my hometown and each time this was sung, it made me feel a little closer to home, even though I was very far away.
- Having “JAZZ IS NOT DEAD!” screamed at me from a moving car while walking to the summer garden. Boris, who was responsible for my finest car ride through the city (we listened to Frank Zappa and Iggy Pop, admittedly not jazz, but truly music that bridged our language barrier), spotted Makbal and I walking on the sidewalk and with his car filled with ladies in their finery, rolls down the window to proclaim that jazz is indeed alive. It made my heart jump.
When Lera Gehner told us after her concert, “Thank you for giving me your eyes. Your energy [during the show].” Our role as audience members is not to be underestimated.
Meeting with Andrei Ryabov on the jazz boat. Andrei is an incredible guitarist who lived in the U.S. for many years and he’s been back in SpB practicing guitar 5 – 6 hours a day in preparation for his return to the U.S.. Makbal called him and woke him up to get him to meet us and I found myself talking to him for an hour: about jazz, about Salinger, about his sons who are still in the U.S.. I hope I meet Andrei again, more precisely, I hope I get to hear him play.
Finding the photo of Gennady Golstein playing with Zoot Sims in the Jazz Museum at the Jazz Philharmonic.
- Coffee with Valeri on my next to the last day (we had talked about it since my first night) when he told me: “In Russia we are always working toward freedom, in America freedom is where you start.”
Wearing booties to tour the palaces at Peterhof, halls that had been walked by the likes of Catherine the Great, countless Tsars, Romanovs, and dignitaries. Not only were the booties attractive, they allowed you to “skate” across the floors.
Getting a photo-op with one of the cats that lives in the Peter-Paul Cathedral, “We don’t have mice,” proclaimed our tour guide. There are cats living in many of the museums (they try to keep the number under 60 at the Hermitage).
Learning about “Jazz On Bones”: the practice of cutting records on old X-ray slides during Soviet times. I found examples of …On Bones at the Museum of Political History (left) and the Jazz Philharmonic Hall (right). It was a great way to cut bootleg recording, as David Goloshchokin said miming the bootlegger with a record in his coat, “Hey buddy, you want some Glenn Miller?”
Seeing JAZZ outside the Jazz Philharmonic for the first time.The lost cave drawings of Petersburg on the tunnel into the Theatre Academy where I met with the playwriting grad students.
The graffiti at the Hat Bar.
The night I stayed up writing at the Hat Bar with my new fountain pen only to get back to my hotel, look in the mirror, and find myself covered in splotches of ink.
So many walks through SpB at night with friends. This is a city that becomes ethereal when darkness overtakes and the buildings are lit. Of course you have to wait until after midnight for the twilight to disappear.
The visit to the Museum of Political History: a bifurcated museum telling a complicated story…
The museum was filled with compelling displays articulating some of the most difficult times in Russia’s history and unique self-guided ways of exploring the political history of Russia. Several of the displays in the renovated museum gave a vivid illustration of life under Stalin. One could also tour the old displays in the museum, prior to the renovation, which presented a museum in a unique dialogue with itself. There were also a few displays that caught me by surprise, and some that needed to be documents, or otherwise you just wouldn’t believe me.
A fake ham used to conceal a firearm
The revolutionary writer’s retreat:
The view across the Neva River from the Peter-Paul Fortress.
Some buildings along Nevsky Prospect
The Cathedral of Spilled Blood in the twilight
Some buildings around town
The church near The Hat
Summer Garden in Petersburg.
The big cathedral that used to be the Museum of Atheism during Soviet Times.
Fellow Fellows on the Kvadrat Jazz Cruise
According to the television monitor mounted into the seatback in front of me, I am writing this at 31,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean and am still 2,487 miles from my destination. Strange to think that two weeks ago I was flying this exact path with little to no idea of what lay ahead of me.
Yesterday was my final day of jazz in Russia, at least for the time being. And it was an incredible day. The day began in an un-jazzy fashion, but worth mentioning nevertheless. A couple of my fellow Fellows accompanied by the always charming Anna (and her equally charming mother) went to see the production of ANTIBODIES at the Baltic House Theatre. This production concerned the murder of an antifascist youth by a group of fascists and was as perplexing as it was compelling. They used video in remarkable ways to create (or should I say re-create) the story from the perspective of the murdered boy’s mother and girlfriend, the murderer’s mother and friend, and a security guard and other people who played a role in the story. The piece was written by a journalist and the whole team used theatre to make the story very present and
extremely poignant. Our post show discussion was preempted by a deluge of rain and a sprint back to the Metro stop that looks like a UFO. According to Daniel, one of my fellow Fellows, it is proof that aliens are responsible for Metro technology—and I can say that the efficiency and cleanliness of the Piter Metro belies a blessing from another planet.
After the show, I rendezvoused with Makbal for the coda to this adventure…a visit to the main hall of the Jazz Philharmonic (JPH) and a chance to see the Leningrad Dixieland Band on their home turf. The three hour long performance delving into the heart of Russian Dixieland was an experience not to be missed. The musicians were wonderful, playing tunes with both Russian and English lyrics, and wailing away on horns, clarinet, banjo, bass, drums, and piano; but the real surprise was the audience. Again I found myself in a mixture of twenty-somethings out to dance and the older set in their fur-draped finery. The atmosphere Goloshchokin has created at the JPH is timeless and transports the audience into another time and place. We sipped tea and snacked on pastry, all the while being entertained by the oldest band in Russia. Founded in 1957, some of the members of the current lineup have been with the band since ’64. These are musicians with a sense of history, not just of the music, but also of Russia and the ebbs and flows of the jazz scene.
As we exited the JPH around 10:00 p.m. the sun was shining and it wasn’t raining. Ok, you may be saying, so what?! Well, Makbal and I took it as a sign…a sign to go and find the trees that Gennady Golstein and others had planted in honor of American and Russian jazz musicians. We took the Metro to an island in the Neva River and then began our walk…not a short walk…to a bridge that would take us to another island. It was about 11:00 p.m. and the sunset was spectacular. As we stepped onto the other island, we passed the old actor’s home (founded by a wealthy actress as a retirement center for aging actors), and proceeded to where Google and indicated the trees might be. As we approached the guards at a gate protecting a dance club (it’s all we could surmise from the throbbing dance beats), no one knew what the heck we were talking about. “Jazz trees?” You could see the puzzlement cross their faces. Defeated, we turned back and began walking back toward the old actor’s home.
The clock was ticking…it was 11:20 and the last Metro left at midnight. A taxi couldn’t get us home because at 12:30 or 1 a.m. the bridges of the city are raised and we would be trapped on the island. I would miss my plane!
True adventurers Makbal and I pressed on. She remembered something Gennady mentioned earlier about the old actor’s home. We swiftly walked past the home (away from the bridge!) and I began to see small signs underneath trees. Could this be it? A house party was happening inside the wrought-iron fence and Makbal and I stepped into the yard. “Are these the jazz trees?” Makbal inquired in Russian. The men mumbled various non-committal denials, but we decided to check it out anyway, pushing on into their yard. I must admit, it felt dangerous…darkness was encroaching and we were clearly trespassing on land with a big group of intoxicated locals and packs of wild dogs running in the street (I’m not kidding about this, they chased and attacked cyclists).
As I approached the first sign, it was in Cyrillic. What was it? And then…a trombone etched into the metal. I sound out the Cyrillic: To-mee Dor-see. TOMMY DORSEY!
We had found the Valley of Jazz. A place where the Russian jazz great paid homage the all the great jazzmen of the world. I whoop with glee and run from sign to sign, flashes as I take photos. Suddenly a woman who was at the party Stella approaches Makbal and tells her that she will show us the real forest of jazz. We journey back into the woods and there are literally dozens of signs. Dozens of trees. A forest in which the music lives in the earth, in the breeze. As Stella showed us around, I had tears in my eyes. This was the ground in which both of our traditions had literally taken root, and now here I stood at this nexus…
I take as many pictures as I can. Oh crap! The Metro! We bid a hasty “Do-zvidanya” and “Spasiba-bolshoi” (apologies in advance to Russians for my American spelling of these words) and begin to trot back toward the Metro. Could we catch a bus? A cab? No. Nothing.
Makbal is nervous. I can tell. I am nervous. I’m sure she can tell. So we do what my mother always told me not to do…took a dark path through the woods where a bunch of cars were parked alongside the road with their hazards on. What’s the worst that could happen?
Luck. Luck happened. The path brought us out on the road where the Metro stop was located. We made it to the Metro by 11:50…the nick of time. As we sat on the Metro, smiles on our faces, we knew that we had earned our ending. The journey was complete. From Day One to Day Fourteen I had been immersed in jazz. On nights when I was tempted to go out with my fellow Fellows, Makbal would remind me: You are here for jazz. And so I was.
We said good-bye on the train. A quick hug and Makbal told me to “be a good boy.” I said that I’d try. My eyes were tearing up and as I stepped outside the Metro car I turned to wave good-bye. Makbal smiled and I knew that my Virgil, my Beatrice, had released me. Now I would have to find the jazz myself, inside myself.
And so I will….
There will be more blog posts as I continue to digest the copius CDs and books that I am bringing home, but this is the end of my adventure. I am so grateful to the Likhachev Foundation, to Lena, and Makbal, and everyone involved for their generosity. I am returning to the U.S. a changed human being, with a deeper understanding not just of Russia and jazz, but of my own country and myself.
My joy is in getting to know Russia through the people and music there. I am thrilled to have met so many friends. I hope to honor them all with the work ahead.