Songbook’s bone records on display

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The Great American Songbook Foundation’s most unusual display has fittingly found a home at Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in Carmel.

Forté Sports Medicine is a title sponsor for the exhibit, which features bootlegged copies of early rock ‘n’ roll, blues and jazz recordings that were etched into used X-ray film for underground sharing among music fans in the former Soviet Union, where Western music was illegal. Although the film is cut into the disc, with a cigarette used to burn a spindle hole in the center, the images of ribs and other bones are still clearly visible.

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The display of bone records at Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in Carmel. (Photo courtesy of Great American Songbook Foundation)

In 1958, an American doctorate student, Richard Judy, joined one of the first exchange programs with Moscow State University. When he arrived in the USSR, he quickly discovered that Russian students were listening to American music available on flimsy X-rays from back-alley merchants. Judy was fascinated by the bone records and bought several during his time in the USSR. The Indianapolis doctor donated six or seven bone records to the Great American Songbook Foundation in 2013. After Judy died in September 2020, his wife, Jane Lommel, donated the rest of the 18-record collection.

“Prior to the donation of the Judys, I was not aware of bone records,” said Michael Feinstein, founder of the Greater Songbook Foundation. “It was extraordinary to learn not only about the history but the technology and how they figured a way to bring music to the Soviet Union in the 1950s. It’s amazing how music, culture and history all conflate.”

Feinstein said connection with Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics shows how art can be a bridge.

“I didn’t know art could be repurposed for anything,” Feinstein said.

Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics CEO Marty Rosenberg said his company was looking for something that resonates with the community besides sports.

“We have X-rays and we’re an orthopedic group,” Rosenberg said. “We have an opportunity to partner with a local organization with a national footprint. We’re an independent group and this is the spirit of independence. There are so many unique ties, it’s been the perfect partnership.”

There also is a display in the south lobby of the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. There are 18 records in the collection.


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