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4 from 116 citations 

Last updated 18th April 2024

Biography

Melbye earned his doctorate in Cinema and Television from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He has published two monographs, Irony in The Twilight Zone and Landscape Allegory in Cinema. Melbye has also produced music for popular television shows including Friday Night Lights, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and One Life to Live.

He is currently functioning as a UKRI/Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Music and Design Arts at the University of Huddersfield. His fellowship project is entitled “Crime-Jazz Diasporas: African American Music in Overseas Cinema.”

He is also a US Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow.

Research Expertise and Interests

A fundamental aspect to my research has been a genuine impulse to compare and contrast varied artistic media in both American and transnational contexts--toward a raised awareness of social consciousness and its permutations. At the same time, I am interested in audiovisual media’s ability to manufacture and/or reinforce cultural biases through its visceral and/or therapeutic effects.

My ongoing UKRI/MSCA fellowship project at Huddersfield traces the transnational influence of postwar American crime films and TV series for their musical aspects by examining their cultural impact on British, European (French, Polish, Italian), and Japanese cinemas—and their influence on Hollywood in turn. My research explores how the urban crime genre is assimilated and reimagined in terms of modern jazz’s potential to signify primal impulses gendered as ‘masculine’ violence and ‘feminine’ sexuality. I argue that as jazz became more erratic, rhythmically complex, and dissonant, so did its exploitation in these cinemas become more psychological—toward ‘horror jazz’ film scores to which even African American composers contributed. The anticipated book and video essay series will raise academic and popular awareness of crime-jazz ‘diasporas’ emanating from the globalized distribution of Hollywood mainstream products as well as ‘counter diasporas’ of foreign art house films in the USA. My perspective provides a more nuanced understanding of American and overseas audiences’ cultural ambivalence toward these films in ways both universal and idiosyncratic.

Research on jazz in American cinema has focused on its cultural correspondence to issues of race and the white mainstream perception of otherness as inherent to African Americans. The transnational aspect of my project advances a broader perspective on the complex media-manufacture of cultural identity in terms of racial otherness. The visual component of ‘audiovisual blackness’ has been amplified by jazz on a global scale, even where no black musicians or characters are visible. The perception of negritude per se as masculinized and/or feminized should be understood, then, as a multisensorial media contrivance requiring further study. 

My book Irony in The Twilight Zone: How the Series Critiqued Postwar American Culture (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) explores the thematic use of irony in the original Twilight Zone anthology series and similar television programs, with reference to concurrent Cold War science fiction films and literature. My work here historicizes methods of social critique according to irony’s philosophical groundings in Schlegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and especially Richard Rorty. Embarking from this trajectory, I argue the series functions as an aggregate system of ironic communication, whose metaphysical, moral universe mobilizes a critique of 1950s America’s characteristic fears and weaknesses. The book is peer-reviewed favorably in both Journal of American Culture and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.

My previous book, Landscape Allegory in Cinema: From Wilderness to Wasteland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), explores the topic of landscape in avant-garde and mainstream cinema from the silent era to the present. I identify cases where natural settings transcend their conventional roles as backdrop and become outward manifestations of inner subjective states. The study examines the critical history of landscape depiction in literature, painting, and photography, from medieval allegories like Roman de la Rose to the European Sublime, and from the American Hudson River School and Poe’s landscape sketches to Steichen’s Pictorialist images. I trace these trajectories of influence to the appearance of psychological landscapes in cathartic films of the 1960s and ‘70s such as Zabriskie Point and El Topo. The study was nominated for Theatre Library Association’s Wall Award and is peer-reviewed favorably in Film & History.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Critical Studies, Cinema and Television, University of Southern California

Award Date: 8 Aug 2006

Master, Critical Studies, Cinema and Television, University of Southern California

Award Date: 10 Aug 2002

Master, English and American Literature, California State University, Los Angeles

Award Date: 12 Jun 1999

External positions

Professor and Head of Film and Media Studies, University of Tyumen

20192022

Associate Professor of Film and Television, United International College

20162018

Assistant Professor of Visual and Digital Production, Effat University

20142015

Research Expertise and Interests

  • Film Studies
  • Film Music
  • Media History
  • Television Studies
  • music and identity
  • Music and the Moving Image

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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