Though brutalism is a controversial term, most people agree that the 20th-century style is characterized by rigidness and the rule that the form of a building follows its function, not vice versa.
Iranian sound artist Mo H. Zareei, who goes by mHz, uses industrial parts to create instruments modeled in a similar style. He recently built three “sound sculptures,” Rasper, Mutor, and Rippler, that were specifically inspired by brutalism. These instruments are utilitarian and stark to look at, decorated with nothing more than the bare parts they are made of.
Rasper generates noise by scraping spring steel against a plastic disk which is rotated by a small electric motor. Mutor uses more of these motors and then modulates their sounds to change the pitch and timbre. Rippler then uses a linear actuator, another kind of motor and amplifies its noise by letting it hit a thin piece of steel, forming a minimalist percussion instrument. Each of these instruments highlights their noise by flashing a fluorescent light. The instruments are controlled by an Arduino chip that’s been altered to understand MIDI inputs.
When Zareei’s instruments play together their noise is harsh and propulsive, sounding like a warehouse rave for robots. The strict grid-like structure of the music stays true to brutalist architecture, known for its ordered pragmatism. Since completing these instruments, Zareei has made a compilation of 10 sound installations in a video called “machine brut(e),” which can be viewed above.