Pianists to play Ann Arbor Aug. 27Written by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
Pianists Liz Story and Lisa Downing had a lot to say about the pressing nature of their instrument.
“If you’re studying harmony at a conservatory, you always study it at a piano or a keyboard because there it is: It’s visually set out, the relationship of this information,” Story said.
“The geometry is there, it’s black and white, nothing in between,” Downing chimed in.
“It really is the piano, not the electric keyboard. A friend of mine put it this way and it always makes me laugh because there’s a real physical sensation that really isn’t there with the keyboard, and as my friend put it, ‘The difference between when you’re playing a keyboard instead of a piano is like trying to have tantric sex with a plastic doll,’ ” Story said and laughed.
“There’s a real sensation and that’s what I really love about the piano, is that very sensual quality of playing it.”
Downing recalled her first encounter with the keys when her family visited friends and she was about 18 months old.
“I reached up over my head and moved my fingers down and there was sound coming out, and oh, my God,” she said during a call from her Colorado home. “I remember my parents taking me out of there, turning out the lights. And I’m thinking: There’s a magic thing in there that when you push it down sound comes out! Why is everyone not in there all the time?”
Story’s career blossomed when she decided to play at a restaurant to improve her sight-reading.
“I got all this music together, and I get to this restaurant, it was a very dark restaurant, and the piano they had was this old upright, and the entire front casing of the piano was missing, which basically means there is absolutely nowhere to put music,” Story said during a call from her Los Angeles home.
“And I totally went into a state of panic. Can I put the music on the floor? No, it’s too dark, I can’t see it. I was flipping out. And the manager walked up and said, ‘OK, I want you to start playing and I don’t want any applause,’ meaning don’t play really loud. So I sat down and started making things up.”
Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, heard her playing and signed her. Story’s dazzling debut, “Solid Colors,” followed in 1983.
Downing drew inspiration from Keith Jarrett and George Winston, then heard Story.
“When I heard Liz’s music, it’s like that’s the music I hear in my head. She’s a woman and if she can do it, I can, too,” Downing said. “I found her on Myspace and called her.”
The two struck up a friendship about seven years ago and started touring together.
Story and Downing will play at 8 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $25. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
“Night Sky Essays” from 2011 is Story’s most recent release. She is re-recording some of her material.
“After so long performing the pieces, you play them differently,” she said.
Downing’s latest, “A Delicate Balance,” came out in 2009. Her next disc, “The Wisdom of My Shadow,” is expected next year.
“[The new disc] has sort of a dark fantasy kind of flavor in the mood of maybe the ‘Twilight’ trilogy. So there are some vampires and dragons and that kind of stuff going on with my music lately,” Downing said.
Tags: Ann Arbor, Ark, Colorado, dark fantasy, dragons, George Winston, Keith Jarrett, Lisa Downing, Liz Story, los Angeles, pianists, piano, tantric sex, Twilight, vampires, Will Ackerman, Windham Hill Records