Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Deborah Schwartz Kates

Second Committee Member

Melvin L. Butler

Third Committee Member

Marysol Quevedo

Fourth Committee Member

Steven F. Butterman


Conceived by the playwright, novelist, and scholar, Ariano Suassuna (1927-2014), and officially established on October 18, 1970, the Movimento Armorial emerged as an artistic manifestation that proposed to create an erudite art form rooted in folk traditions to express the local color of the northeast region and the national identity of Brazil. Building on ideas introduced by the sociologist Gilberto Freyre and the members of the Escola de Recife (Recife School), Suassuna posited that the cultural and ethnic amalgamation between native Amerindians, African slaves, and Iberian colonizers was crystalized in regional Brazilian folklore. In his views, this folk art epitomized the heterogeneity of the region giving the northeast its distinct flavor. He proposed that regional idiosyncrasies served as the foundation for the construction of Brazil’s national identity. In this thesis, I use the Armorial Movement as a window to explore the intersections of music, literature, and politics and investigate the intrinsic mechanisms that allowed regional identities to become interwoven into the fabric of brasilidade. I analyze a vast body of regional literature to illuminate the construction of northeastern identity through the lens of alterity, exoticization, miscegenation, and nostalgia. By juxtaposing the ideological propositions of groups such as the Armorialists in the north and the Tropicalists in the south with the political agenda of the military government (1964-1985), I examine the interregional competition to define Brazilian identity. Furthermore, I turn to the aesthetic conflicts between concert and folk music within the Armorial Movement, exemplified by the propositions put forward by the classically-trained Armorial Chamber Orchestra and the popularly-oriented Armorial Quintet. Here, I clarify how each group differently used the rabequeiro as the personification of northeastern identity. Using Cesar Guerra-Peixe’s Concertino for Violin and Chamber Orchestra as a case study, I explain how music sonically evoked the northeast region. My work problematizes the dichotomic notions of tradition and modernity, central and margins, north and south, and rural and industrial, which are commonly used to explain the construction of regional and national identity. I do not perceive dichotomies as contradictory forces and I do not attempt to define or reconcile opposing views. Instead, I see dichotomies as part of a symbiotic process whereby contrasting views actively participate in the construction of one another. The strife between opposing ideas to define brasilidade opens a metaphysical space in which regional and national identity are constantly shaped, negotiated, and contested.


Movimento Armorial; Ariano Suassuna; Cesar Guerra-Peixe; Construction of Brazilian National Identity; Music, literature, politics; Northeastern and Southern identity

Available for download on Friday, May 08, 2020