Research Output
Cultural identity and creative autonomy in Nordic jazz.
  Historians and educators have traditionally presented the relatively short evolution of jazz in a linear, epochal fashion. Applications of this model are often limited to the music’s domestic evolution, paying little or no heed to activities outside the USA. Even where the existence of non-American jazz is acknowledged, it is more often than not excluded from the parameters of historiography and critique.
Over the past forty years the Nordic contribution to the music has in many ways come to mirror the multicultural melting pot that first spawned jazz at the beginning of the 20th Century. The ‘Nordic sound’ is identified as such despite having firm roots in the American tradition coupled with a ‘receptive ear’ to global influences. In championing ethnically and stylistically diverse fusions under the ‘Nordic sound’ banner, labels such as ECM and Rune Grammofon have established an alternative imagining of the genre. The hybridized outcomes of such projects have confounded traditional conceptions of the jazz tradition, challenging discourses of historical succession and genre identity.
Despite deeply conceived individual national identities, the relative proximity and freedom of movement between the Nordic countries and their neighbours has enabled significant transnational cultural exchange. The sum of such exchanges are arguably more defining to an emergent and evolving jazz than is the case in the USA, where a stronger focus is often given to the reclamation and refinement of the music’s domestic heritage. This paper will use practice-based and academic research to show how an American musical form has been reinterpreted to enable the expression of cultural individuality, at the same time encouraging stylistic crossover and innovation.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    01 September 2011

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    780 Music


Medbøe, H. (2011, September). Cultural identity and creative autonomy in Nordic jazz. Paper presented at Rhythm Changes: Jazz and National Identities conference 2011, Amsterdam NL



Cultural identity; American jazz; Nordic sound;

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