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July 2007 - Transcending Pop

Deanna’s Inspiration

A Couple of Songs

There is poetry. Words with wings, language at its purest. And there is music. The expression of ecstasy, the sound of the heavens. Somewhere between them lies songwriting – the impure spawn of the two. It has always been considered a “lesser art” – especially when it comes to pop music, which covers a vast field that includes everything from the bump and grind of Britney Spears to the contemplative musings of Joni Mitchell.

However the process of creating music is often similar to other forms of art. They all share a need to connect, a desire to make art that lifts you up to a higher place where something in the world feels pure and true and good and right. And in those instances, the line that separates Richard Serra from Bruce Springsteen; P. J. Harvey from Virginia Woolf; Johnny Cash from Andy Goldsworthy disappears. This kind of pop music is transcendent. Though it often addresses despair – loneliness, loss, longing – it isn’t negative. In fact, there is a kind of joy that takes place when we hear it – a boiling away of everything that is insignificant. We marvel at it in the same way we marvel at a perfect poem or a perfect painting.

What triggers artistic inspiration? Songwriters are writers who form observations around a melody and beat. Often in that process, it is the lyric that suffers. It is frequently mangled and manipulated to the point of meaninglessness. But there are songwriters who give great attention to lyrics. Like the brilliant poet Elizabeth Bishop, Leonard Cohen is known to work and rework verses for years. And there are many other songwriters who consider themselves wordsmiths as much as tunesmiths.

Pop music used to be considered a serious force of change in society. Has the music itself changed or is it that we live in a society that is too busy and too steeped in consumerism to care? Has pop lost its power or has the power shifted from gifted songwriters to manufactured idols?
Many brilliant bands emerged from the alternative music scene of the 80s, but some critics have charged that alternative music and its punk predecessor opened the gates too wide and set the bar too low. How are punk and alternative different from mainstream music? Is it fair to say that hip hop music is the new mainstream? What’s on your playlist?

Please join us on the 17th to discuss all that. For this session we decided to steer away from visuals, and make it more of a “listening party”! Deanna plans to start by playing one of her favorite Leonard Cohen songs: Tower of Song, and close with two of her own – September Snow and Mornings.

When: Tuesday 7/17/07, at 7:00

Where: Tremont Music Hall, 400 West Tremont Ave. Charlotte 28203

Singer-songwriter Deanna Lynn Campbell is one of the best known names in the local music scene, having been repeatedly selected the Best Vocalist as well as Songwriter by readers and critics at Creative Loafing. To find out more about her and her music, check out her website: You can also listen to some of her songs at her myspace page

Thanks to Tremont Music Hall for offering up their venue. Tremont is famous for hosting everyone from Green Day to Stereolab to Henry Rollins. Keep in mind, that as cool as Tremont is, it is not Freon cool – there is no air conditioning, so dress accordingly! They will also be keeping the space (and more importantly, the bar!) open for us late. So don’t be in a hurry to get out after the session.

Leave a Comment

  1. I am wondering about the following statement from the first paragraph above, regarding songwriting: “It has always been considered a “lesser art” – especially when it comes to pop music”

    My question – Is this statement backed up by research or just the writer’s perception…

    Who considers songwriting a lesser art? Certainly not any of the Music Departments of the unversities here and throughout the world. At least not the one I attended!

    Also, as for whether pop songwriting is considered a lesser art, my answer would be: If a song is well written,it is well-written. The style is not relevant.

    By Lea McLaughlin
  2. Here is some soulful acousti-pop.

    By Matt Stover