Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations

"Africa! Africa! Africa!" Black Identity in Marlos Nobre's Rhythmetron

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Daniel Piccolo (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Irina Stakhanova (Other)

Third Advisor

Sidra Lawrence (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Committee Member)


In this document I examine Brazilian composer Marlos Nobre’s ballet Rhythmetron, adding to the scholarly literature available on the contributions of Latin American composers to the percussion ensemble repertoire. Using archival, ethnographic, and text-based analyses, I inquire into the genres, instruments, and performance practices of the piece, as well as its critical reception. This history reveals that the colonial relationship with black sound has continuously been re-inscribed in Brazilian cultural artifacts, and that institutional biases are upheld when determining what constitutes Art music. Through its inclusion of the Afro-Brazilian genres of samba and maracatu, Rhythmetron invites us to consider the hierarchies of valuation that govern what constitutes Brazilian popular music, art music, and ballet, revealing racialized power dynamics. I utilize postcolonial theories of hybridity to demonstrate that Rhythmetron dialogues with the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s intent to reimagine and break racial expectations in the realm of classical ballet. This research reveals that what is guarded in our cultural memories is power-laden, and shows that more inclusive canonization practices can challenge existing narratives and create new ones.