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Dictated dichotomies: Locating Scandinavian jazz.

Medb�e, Haftor



Scandinavian jazz is arguably the most established appropriation of the genre outside the United States, with a uniquely defined cultural identity stretching back to the early 1970s. The region’s repurposing of an acculturated American music has resulted in the imagining of a canon that exists independently to, yet inextricably intertwined with, the music’s American narrative.
Where the imagining of the Nordic jazz canon has afforded a supra-American point of difference, it has also placed demands on what the listening public and the music’s mediators have come to expect from Scandinavian musicians.
This paper will examine pressures brought to bear on the jazz musician through the prism of current jazz practise in Scandinavia. The Scandinavian experience represents a unique and interesting point of focus at a time when the region’s cultural exports are enjoying unprecedented worldwide interest and reception in the fields of literature (Stig Larsson, Henning Mankell, Sjövall & Walöö, Jo Nesbø et al), film (Von Trier, Dogme) and television (Borgen, Forbrydelsen, Broen/Bron).
Taken together, such distinctive takes on the fields of creative expression have given rise to an imagining of “Nordicness” that dovetails with perceptions of Scandinavia’s utopian ideals and utilitarian design sensibilities.
Within this highly stylised cultural landscape, Scandinavian jazz musicians often find themselves caught between distinct and heavily policed dichotomies. These will be discussed relative to: the canon – American vs. Nordic; education – Berklee vs. Trondheim Conservatoire; repertoire – standards vs. originals; aesthetics – authenticity vs. innovation; social function – “Happy Jazz” vs. serious; text and lyrics – English vs. mother tongue; performance – composition vs. improvisation; stylistics – acoustic vs. electronic; value chain – commercial vs. artistic; and in national identities – sovereign vs. Scandinavian.
Within these binaries, a multifaceted Scandinavian jazz scene will be discovered that challenges and explodes its all-too-often essentialised depictions.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Rhythm Changes 2014 - Jazz Beyond Borders
Start Date Sep 4, 2014
End Date Sep 7, 2014
Publication Date 2014-09
Deposit Date Sep 9, 2014
Publicly Available Date Sep 30, 2014
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-10
Keywords jazz; Scandinavia; rhythm changes; Amsterdam;
Public URL
Contract Date Sep 9, 2014


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