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The PDX Music Scene Project

PortlandThe music scene of Portland, Oregon has become one of the most interesting and diverse scenes in the world. Musicians from across the genres are combining to create musical ventures that excite and inspire musicians in the area to be innovative and original.  

The PDX Music Scene Project (PDX after the Portland airport code, commonly used in place of the city name) is a project that explores how the city sustains a music scene.  Through a variety of ethnographic methods such as interviews and mapping the study will explore how Portlanders live music as a city-wide culture. This project is led by Sam Murray as part of his PhD.

PDX Music Scene blog


Here is a brief introduction about the project from Sam:

Mapping PDX
In her work on the Liverpool music scene Sara Cohen has furthered the ethnographic method of using mapping as a way to collect data. Cohen details the use of her maps as part of The Beat Goes On exhibition at the World Museum in Liverpool:

‘Museum visitors using the map interactively were invited to reflect on this density and diversity and consider where live music happens and why: why live music might thrive in a particular urban area, for example, and what might have made that area a “good place” for different and enduring music scenes’ (Cohen 2012a, p.591).

Cohen used the maps to stimulate discussion and provoke though about music’s relationship with place. This places the interpretation of the maps in those who read them to use the interactive materials to create their own opinion on what constituted the Liverpool music scene and where things happen within it. At the exhibition people could use the maps to explore places but could not put their own input on it. Cohen built on this idea in a further study where she asked musicians to create their own, often hand drawn, musical maps of the city (2012b). Whilst participants would draw maps they would describe to Cohen the relevance of each point on the map.                
PDX gig
The map for this project will build on Cohen’s ideas (2012a, 2012b) and create a more interactive graphic representation of music’s relationship with the geography of Portland. The map will allow anyone to place a map pin to a place they feel is important in the city’s musical life, past or present, and allows them to attach images, videos and written thoughts to the pinned place.

It is expected that many people may choose the same places such as a venue but everyone may have entirely different experiences of that pinned place, for example a venue could be the place someone met a partner or for another person the place where they saw their first band. Another possibility is that people may have multiple memories for the same pinned place, this may display a sense of loyalty to that particular place be it a coffee shop or a record shop. This loyalty may be installed as a result of previous experience at the pinned place.

If you live in Portland, or have lived there or simply passed through and have a musical memory of the city please feel free to add it to the map when available.
Street drums
During the length of this PhD based project a documentary will be produced about the Portland music scene. It will follow various scene members to tell the city’s story and will mix interviews and performances from a variety of genres. For this element of the project we are looking for people to contribute whether it is by appearing on camera, contributing a song for the soundtrack (for which we can give full credit for), suggesting people or locations to get in touch with or even to tell us good places to shoot.

If you are interested in contributing the documentary please send an email to

Project updates
Sam is using Tumblr to post regular updates on the research project. Follow at