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Brutalist Architecture Informs a Series of Sound Sculptures

Sound artist Mo H. Zareei finds poetic beauty in blocky buildings.

A series of monolithic blocks of concrete and glass comprise the Ekbatan apartment complex in Tehran, Iran. There, the current Wellington-based sound artist, Mo H. Zareei, grew up adoring the “gray Lego-like giants." They were Brutalist structures, as Zareei explains on Streaming Museum, but he loved their "strict geometries," and the "poetry," he says, of their parallel lines.

Most people, especially artists, aren’t so kind to Brutalist architecture, which has come to symbolize totalitarian bureaucracy. But for the last several years, Zareei has been working on combining his interest in Brutalist architecture with sound sculpture and noise. For him, brutalism intersects the type of sound art and music that has influenced him, particularly in his recent series of 10 sound sculptures pieces, titled machine brut(e). Zareei showcases the sound art in a new video, which features three sound sculptures—Rasper, Rippler and Mutor—playing ten distinct installation pieces.

“Each piece incorporates a different combination of the sound-sculptures and is composed as a one or two-bar long pattern that goes through an endless loop,” Zareei tells The Creators Project. “Strictly metric and pulse-based rhythms are used as a sonic metaphor for the grid-based and geometric structure of Brutalist architecture. By using nonstop repetitions of one or two-bar long loops, the piece draws attention to the very essence of its constituent sonic material and every detail and nuance of their noise, in parallel to the validation of material in Brutalist architecture.”

Zareei’s goal with the constant repetition is to create a “temporal monolithism” that matches Brutalism’s block-like aesthetics. The repetition is also designed to produce an “instant audible structure” that links to the imagery of Brutalist buildings.

“The physical placement and distribution of the sound-sculptures in each composition has also been taken into account meticulously, abiding by the strict geometries and highly ordered visual aesthetic of Brutalism,” Zareei adds. “Therefore, each piece is developed not only as a work of sound art, but also a sculptural composition. To further highlight the visual Brutalist aesthetic, a block of raw concrete (béton brut) is emblematically featured in all ten compositions.”

While the sounds heard in the ten audiovisual pieces might at first seem merely noisy and harsh, there is a hypnotic allure and a poetry to them. Much like the music of IDM masters Autechre, there isn’t simply beauty in the repetition and geometry of the audio, but in the tonal qualities of the sound. So, much like Brutalist architecture, there is a depth to Zareei’s machine brut(e) that isn’t immediately accessible, but most certainly there.

Click here to see more of Mo H. Zareei’s work.

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