Future of Music: Interview with Amanda Ray
By Catherine Otten, 2011
[Note from Glen Hiemstra… I love this interview that Catherine did with Amanda Ray, musician, writer and artist. What caught our attention when she contacted us was her concept that images of the future matter, and that we lack positive images. That fits precisely with my approach to futuring. Check out Catherine’s interview, and Amanda’s work.]
I recently had the opportunity to interview musician Amanda Ray about her experiences and goals. She is an impressive artist with a great outlook on the future of music.
- How did you first get into music?
Well I think music got into me! It has always been apart of my life and at the age of 14, I found my voice to express it. While studying music and lyrics at home, I created my own musical notations. This inspired me to study theory and the business side of the industry at Georgia State University, School of Music where I studied along side Chris (Ludacris) Bridges and studied copyright law under John Mayer’s lawyer.
- How did you become a sci-fi writer?
I’m not really a sci-fi writer, I just became bored and annoyed with seeing the same apocalyptic images of our future. I also started to wonder if there would be any repercussions to our collective perception of a dire future. And I wanted a story that explored these ideas, so I just started writing it myself.
- How did you come about combining the two seemingly unrelated artistic forms?
Since I didn’t know anything about writing a novel or script, the easiest way for me to tell the story was through my music. No one’s really doing concept albums anymore and I thought this would be something interesting and different. I love writing and singing songs about philosophical concepts and it’s juxtaposition to the moody jazz vocals and electronic, experimental sounds. Although challenging for me, I believe there shouldn’t be anything I can not write about and as a singer, there shouldn’t be any lyric I can’t make sound beautiful.
- What is the story of Surraeon?
Well Surraeon (pronounced Surr-a-on) is a word I created that means surreal age and it’s a story that explores questions of mankind’s ability or inability to perceive and create a favorable future. Keeping the main ingredient, barely surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, a man finds an advanced race of humans living beneath the surface of the earth. Desperate for answers, he undergoes a series of dream experiments to better understand the people of Surraeon and their culture, but discovers more about himself than he’s ready to accept.
- What are your goals for Surraeon?
Well I have several goals for this project. But the first is to raise enough money to make a killer concept album, and follow it with the film version and maybe a broadway play. But my ultimate goal with this story is to inspire people and to start a dialog of how we see our future. To provide a broader perception of the future to people, especially in developing nations and be inspired to create change. As well as show the effects of collective consciousness. Lastly, this story also takes place in a cave which is one of my favorite places to go in the world. And I would like to promote the natural beauty and mystery of caves. Caves represent a tangible environment that is a fertile ground for imagination and are a great location for this cerebral sci-fi story.
- How will you express this through music?
This story will be told with descriptive lyrics and a cinematic soundtrack that will transport you into the world I created. There’s one song that I’ve already written where the intro has sounds of wind, dunes and footsteps on gravel along with a sci-fi flavored synth that sets the stage for a particular scene in the story. Although it’s not finished, I plan to use the song lyrics to tell some of the major scenes and some to tell the overall story.
- I understand that you are incorporating new technology into your music by using an interactive glove which plays sounds in your live shows. How does your glove work and where did you come up with the idea?
I first saw some videos of other artists experimenting with controlling sounds with sensor gloves and although it’s nothing new, it was new to me and I was instantly hooked! I’ve always been drawn to creating sound and have been doing it for years but this was different, I knew this would be the perfect backdrop to the experimental direction my vocals and music was headed. Some people designed and created their own virtual device to trigger sounds. And some, like me use an interactive glove that traditionally is used for gaming, to trigger virtual sounds. I found someone to create a program specific to my needs which will be used as an added effect in my live shows.
- From your point of view, what is the future of music?
I think the future of music is bright, but I don’t think there is a future for the music industry the way we knew it. Like everything, change is the only constant. And I feel like technology has given us a clean canvas in which to create our dreams. Without corporations telling you who to like and listen to, we will see who the real creative artists are. It can be very challenging, but artists are forced to get creative with how they sustain themselves with their music. It’s not about copies anymore, in this device addicted world, it’s about access! And although I can go on and on with predictions, it’s really everyone’s guess to what the future holds in music. With respect to the record industry and corporations, it’s been a VERY long time since artists have been able to create without a mold, without a formula and without expectations.
We’re living in a DIY industry now and I think it will spawn a new generation of artists who will not be bound by the traditions of the music industry, and will be free to create and market music in new ways. And I don’t think anyone will specialize in just one area, they will know and be a part of every aspect of their art. We will also see more fans involved with their favorite artist music. Online fundraising campaigns such as Kickstarter and Indie Go Go will inspire other companies to help artists raise funds for their projects. This will and is, cutting out the middle men and even more financial gate keepers such as grants. Any artist who’s even considered going down the grant road, understands how annoying and long the process is. Unfortunately, it still boils down to who you know, who likes you and if you fit into their mold or category. I also think that artists will start joining forces more in the future. Building websites that are genre specific or just several bands all on one site, selling access to music, concert videos and blogs.
- How are you inspiring positive change through your music?
By creating honest, sincere music from the heart! Providing a window to an experience that we crave but are afraid to live. It’s not about creating a fake perfect utopian society but broadening our perception of where we see ourselves in 30 years. With thought provoking lyrics and moody cinematic music, it is my goal to create a soundtrack for our journey to perceiving a more favorable future.
Writer: Catherine Otten was a Program Manager and Administrator for Futurist.com in 2007 and again in 2010-2011. We lost her to cancer in 2016. An avid outdoors woman and mountain climber, Catherine was especially passionate about the environment.