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Sound-based Brutalism: An emergent aesthetic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2016

Mo H. Zareei*
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand School of Music/School of Engineering and Computer Science, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
Dugal Mckinnon*
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand School of Music/School of Engineering and Computer Science, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
Dale A. Carnegie*
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand School of Music/School of Engineering and Computer Science, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
Ajay Kapur*
California Institute of the Arts, The Herb Alpert School of Music, 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, California 91355, USA


Cold, stripped-down, monochrome, pixelated, iterative, quantised, grid, pulse, glitch, noise: taken together, these words imply a growing aesthetic connection within a body of experimental and independent (or non-academic) sound-based artworks produced in the past few decades. Although realised in different mediums and belonging to different artistic categories, such works are connected through a certain aesthetic sensibility. Nevertheless, since the majority of these works have thus far received little scholarly attention, a framing discussion of the aesthetic principles and features that link them is overdue. This article examines this emergent phenomenon, accounting for the particular aesthetic features that connect such sound-based artworks, arguing for a more specific terminology to adequately account for this aesthetic across the various practices in which it is observed. Rejecting ‘minimalist’ as a descriptor, this article calls for an aesthetic frame of reference derived through Brutalism, understood as a crystallisation of key features of modernism and its various movements. The first author’s work is presented as a conscious effort to create sound art redolent of Brutalism, locating this work in the context of the revival of Brutalism in recent years, which, as will be argued, can be expanded to works from a wide range of contemporary artists and musicians.

© Cambridge University Press 2016 

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