Call it stress, or pressure, or "bad vibes:" Some so-and-so will stomp into a room, slink onto a plane or roar down the freeway, and the rest of us can't help but sense the radiating waves of anxiety, anger or frustration.
Like most of us, pianist/composer David Lanz sees (and experiences) such tension every day."We're putting all this attitude and energy into the air," Lanz says. "We've created a very stressful society." But Lanz believes that through meditation, personal spirituality and maybe a little music we can counter much of that negativity by radiating some calmer, better-natured waves of our own.
Simply put, it's difficult to think of anyone who is doing more to help others loosen up a bit.
Lanz's Narada recordings, like the recent "Cristofori's Dream," which has spent a remarkable six months at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's New Age album list, are gently dominated by soothing, luminescent songs.
A physician could prescribe a Lanz CD in treating some over-stressed patient: "Listen to this tonight and call me in the morning."
"I'm just trying to do what I can to alleviate some of that," Lanz said in a telephone interview in advance of his May 20 concert in the Capitol Theater with fellow keyboard artist David Arkenstone.
Lanz, 38, is a Seattle native and lives there still. He has played piano since age 4 and parlayed his interest in pianos and synthesizers into a mildly successful career in the '70s, especially with an adventuresome rock group called Brahman, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"We were signed with Mercury and had one album," Lanz recalled. "It was an ambitious group, very progressive - the first theater rock band on the West Coast. We had a mimist, two keyboard players."
And five composers. Lanz was 21 at the time, "and I thought I'd made the big time." But internal conflicts killed Brahman. "It was a good 10 years later before I got on track again and plugged it back in," he said.
For several years he played cover versions of rock hits in nightclubs, always with bands. Frustration set in after awhile. Although he'd always said he'd never play in a piano bar, he finally did in the early '80s - "and that turned out to be a great gig," a creative cradle for Lanz.
He played jazz, blues, Billy Joel, Mose Allison and, eventually, some introspective compositions of his own.
His serene music caught on. Lanz was again a hit, starting to find his own New Age niche. Narada signed him and he recorded his first two albums, "Heartsounds" (1983) and "Nightfall" (1984), both featuring him soloing on acoustic piano.
Subsequent albums explored New Age territory with other musicians: "Solstice" (1985) featured both Lanz and Michael Jones on piano; the exquisite "Woodlands" (1987) showcased Lanz with Eric Tingstad on guitars and Nancy Rumbel on woodwinds; and on "Natural States" (1985) and "Desert Vision" (1987), he and guitarist/co-producer Paul Speer offered an evocative aural mix.
The latter two albums were created as "soundtracks" of sorts for videotape productions exploring the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest and of the Four Corners areas, including striking scenes from Utah's Canyonlands.
Lanz said his music has evolved gradually from those first solo piano outings. His accessible, satisfying sound stands in contrast to some of the other music that has come to be labeled "New Age."
He and Speer liked the moods and ethereal spaciness of that music - but not wholeheartedly. They added more rhythm and filled out the melodies, giving their compositions beginnings, middles and ends.
"We write `songs,' " Lanz said matter-of-factly.
Lanz is inspired by nature, by meditation and by the very act of creating. He said he has become a down-to-earth craftsman, working from the heart, but on a pragmatic level.
"A lot of New Age thinkers, and those with a holistic way of looking at things, are starting to realize you can't sit up on a cloud all the time. . . . Well you can, but you're not doing anybody any good," he said.
His pragmatic creativity doesn't mean Lanz has given up on dreams. After all, dreams sometimes come true.
One of his was to really succeed as a piano player, to truly make the piano his instrument.
His album "Cristofori's Dream" broadcasts his success.
From the lyrical title piece to his gentle, affecting remake of Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," the collection thoroughly documents the pianist's growth from his days in rock bands and soloing in a piano bar.
And in making the album he has helped revive the reputations of Procol Harum's Matthew Fisher, who added his haunting organ to the new version of "A Whiter Shade of Pale," and of Bartolommeo Cristofori (1655-1731), a contemporary of Bach who built harpsichords in Florence, and whose innovations give him a good claim to being the father of the modern piano.
Lanz is helping to do for Cristofori what Mendelssohn did for Bach. Bach's reputation was rather muted and in decline until about 1827, when Mendelssohn kicked off a revival of the master's works that continues to this day.
Lanz had never heard of Cristofori until he read Judith Oringer's "Passion for the Piano" and became interested in the origins of the piano. Cristofori's soft pedal and other innovations "produced a quantum-leap factor," Lanz said.
"Cristofori would be really surprised, I think, to see his idea of the harpsichord, to see his dream today . . . to see all the wonderful music that has been created."
Including the enchanting works of David Lanz.