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Sound-based Brutalism: An emergent aesthetic

  • Mo H. Zareei (a1), Dugal Mckinnon (a1), Dale A. Carnegie (a1) and Ajay Kapur (a2)


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.


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