Background: American Studies and Jazz Studies
I received my PhD from the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen (UCPH) in December 2007 with the dissertation Between History and Hearsay: Imagining Jazz at the Turn of the 21st Century. In this I seek to investigate American representations of jazz from 1985 till 2005. Over the last thirty years, jazz has increasingly been invested with cultural capital and as this position has grown stronger, so has the claims to the right to define the boundaries and meanings of jazz as an American art form.I argue that the jazz tradition is being consciously “imagined” at the center of American culture through discourses of canon, metaphor, and myth, often resulting in definitions that invariably preclude dialogue as well as simplify the complexities and heterogeneity of the music. By scrutinizing the national discourses within the US jazz community, I aimed to also illuminate larger contexts of national imaginings in American culture.
In 2009 I received a 2 year postdoctoral grant from the Danish Research Council for the Humanities (co-funded by the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, UCPH for one additional year) to pursue a research project on jazz as a cosmopolitan vernacular. This project has evolved into a complex and multifaceted enquiry into jazz as a both an American and transnational practice and art form as well as the nature and practices of the cosmopolitan and the local, which continues to underpin my work.
My jazz research led to my participation in the 3-year Trans-European research project Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities (RC), funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area’s (HERA) theme, “Cultural Dynamics: Inheritance and Identity.” As principal investigator for Denmark I have been responsible for Work Package 5, “Cultural Dynamics and Social Transformations.” This explores the cultural dynamics of jazz and the relationship between jazz practice and its social settings and how they, in turn, influence social ambience, e.g. in the form of public manifestations of cultural or historical remembrance; jazz festivals, archives, venues, school curricula etc. The project ended September 2013, but the links forged will continue to benefit my research and inform future collaborations.
Current Research: Transnational jazz cultures
As jazz migrates across national, ethnic, and cultural borders its dialogic movements form what Appiah calls “conversations across boundaries.”Thus, I engage jazz as a unique interdisciplinary prism through which I investigate the way discourses and narratives are formed around national and transnational identities and more importantly, how the interplay between these categories enable us to rethink them.
On one hand jazz is an American vernacular art form that has arisen out of a set of distinct historical and cultural circumstances. On the other hand it is also, in both its origin and form, a diasporic and hybrid art form, which has become cosmopolitan in its global dissemination. Furthermore, jazz is subject to a continued vernacularization as it enters local music cultures. Homi Bhabha points to the element of translation that lies inherent in this process: “to vernacularize is to ‘dialectize’ as a process; it is not simply to be in a dialogic relation with the native or the domestic, but it is to be on the border in between, introducing the global-cosmopolitan ‘action at a distance,’ into the very grounds — now displaced — of the domestic.” Thus, he suggests that the vernacular and the cosmopolitan are two sides of the same coin.
In my research I suggest that jazz performs a double movement as it becomes part of a local music culture. While it as an American art form is a “domestic” – or a domesticized cosmopolitan – that becomes vernacularized, translated into say a Danish or Chinese “dialect”, it is at the same time also an American vernacular that displaces and disrupts the – Danish or Chinese – domestic. In turn, as these new forms travel back into the American soundscape via an increasingly globalized music consumer practice, this puts the definition of jazz as “America’s classical music” – and its accompanying narratives of nation and belonging – under pressure.
My most recent research focuses on jazz festivals as a way to engage in a transnational setup – that is: with a simultaneous and comparative focus between the vernacular and the cosmopolitan. And here, jazz festivals offer a unique setting that is both local and international, where local musicians and audiences meet and interact with visiting musicians and audiences. As one musician stated during an interview, “jazz festivals are like sped up melting pots.” Also, surrounding the festivals is often a large body of discursive material such as programs, previews, reviews, interviews etc. In this discursive material, questions of nation, tradition, transnationality, and belonging are often made quite explicit. The research thus relies on two sets of data: an ethnographic set, consisting of participatory observation, recorded video and sound, interviews with musicians, audiences and organizers; and a set consisting of the discursive material.
The festivals functions as ritual that, as Christopher Small argues, is “a form of organized behavior in which humans use the language of gesture […] to affirm, to explore, and to celebrate their ideas of how the relationships of the cosmos operate, and thus, how they themselves should relate to it and to one another.” I investigate jazz festivals with the concept of musicking – music as a verb, rather than a noun – in mind, looking at the behaviors of audiences and performers alike, as well as all the surrounding discourses.I am particularly interested in inner city jazz festivals as simultaneously disruptive and constructive in the urban landscape. They provide a contact zone not just between audience, performers, and those at the fringes of the festivals, those just passing by in their daily routines, but also between different soundscapes. Here Steven Feld’s concept of acoustemology becomes relevant to a sense of space as embodied and experienced through sound. As Feld argues, “as a sensual space-time, the experience of place potentially can always be grounded in an acoustic dimension.”
 Kwame Anthony Appiah. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (London: Allen Lane, 2006) xxi.
 Homi K. Bhabha. “Unsatisfied: Notes on Vernacular Cosmopolitanism.” In Text and Nation: Cross-Disciplinary Essays on Cultural and National Identities., edited by Laura Garcia-Moreno and Peter C Pfeiffer, 191-207 (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1996), 202.
 Joseph Daley, interview by author, July 3. 2009
 The empirical basis for the research is a series of case studies of selected jazz festivals, some of which have already been undertaken (festivals marked with *). In the Americas I am focusing on New York (3 festivals: *The New York Jazz Festival, *Visions Festival, and *Winter Jazz), *Detroit Jazz Festival, and Montreal Jazz Festival. In Europe I have concentrated on *Copenhagen Jazz Festival (DK), *London Jazz Festival (UK), *North Sea Jazz Festival and *Mai:Jazz in Stavanger. One of the benefits of working with jazz festivals is also that they are concentrated events that often take place during the summer and therefore offer little disruption during a semester of teaching.
 Christopher Small. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998), 95
 Steven Feld. “Waterfalls of Song: An Acoustemology of Place Resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea.” In Senses of Place, edited by Steven Feld and Keith H. Basso, 91-135 (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1996) 97.