Exploring the Experimental in Portland Music

Vortex Music Magazine

“It’s a wild time to be in Portland because there’s so much experimentation going on and it’s really beautiful.” Discover our city’s experimental music sanctuaries, where nothing is off limits and diving deep is celebrated.

Cross-genre collaborations have always been a staple of Portland’s music scene. The openness of artists to work with one another, to prioritize community over competition, is something that’s made our creative community attractive to outsiders and fruitful for those who become insiders.

CLICK HERE to join the Vortex Access Party—you'll get a copy of the mag delivered to your door each quarter! Cover illustration by Dylan Marcus McConnell of Tiny Little HammersCLICK HERE to join the Vortex Access Party—you'll get a copy of the mag delivered to your door each quarter! Cover illustration by Dylan Marcus McConnell of Tiny Little HammersMany studios, venues and gathering places engender this ethos, but a few distinct locales and groups explicitly incubate multimedia cross-pollination by providing space especially for the sounds and experiences that live at the fringes of the established club and dive bar scenes. These are homes for those who flirt with the unconventional and seek to push boundaries.

Often seen as abstract, niche or challenging, there are plenty of local musicians and fans who crave these outside-the-box endeavors. Bastions of contemporary art and performance like NoPo’s Disjecta and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, with its storied annual Time-Based Art Festival, have laid the foundation for newer explorations into sound installation and modern composition with Variform, imaginative events and series at Holocene, and more-than-just-labels like PJCE Records (which also aligns with its own 12-piece Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble) and Beacon Sound, which recently relocated its record store and label operations to the heart of SE Portland along Grand Avenue and now features an improved event space. Countless more underground spaces and basements also fan the flames.

“It’s a wild time to be in Portland because there’s so much experimentation going on and it’s really beautiful,” says the Creative Music Guild’s artistic director Mike Gamble.

The following articles will explore these pockets of experimentation, from the artist-run, education-emphasizing synth library S1, to expert improvisers at the Creative Music Guild, to the “anything but ordinary” contemporary chamber music of Third Angle New Music, with shirts proudly declaring: “Warning: Experiences May Vary.”

These are our experimental sanctuaries, where nothing is off limits and diving deep is celebrated.

S1: The Imaginarium of Sound and Music

Creative Music Guild: Expert Improvisation on Display

Third Angle New Music: Pushing the Boundaries of Contemporary Chamber Music

Explore more of the experimental in Portland music in our latest issue.

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