Canadian/Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk (b. 1948), composer and father of the “continuous music” technique on the piano, has been recording and performing to a restricted audience since the early 1970s. But the 2007 reissue of his 1978 début album by the Unseen Worlds record label (KMH – Piano Music in the Continuous Mode) as well as his recent collaborations with a younger generation of musicians – The Watchers (Important – 2013) with 12 string English guitar player James Blackshaw or Corollaries (Erased Tapes – 2013) with Nils Frahm (piano) and Peter Broderick (violin & voice) – have however helped introducing his mesmerising free-flowing piano music to an entirely new audience.
Influenced by the music Terry Riley or Steve Reich and originally devised in the early 1970s, “continuous music” is the outcome of a passionate and lifelong dedication to the practice of the piano with the discipline of a Zen master. But whereas many minimalist composers would strive towards a gradual elimination of the superfluous notes or a slowing down of the tempo, “continuous music” suggests “maximalism” (Melnyk’s own words) and abundance.
The flurry of notes produced draws magical overtones from the instrument and sometimes emulates the sound of two pianos played simultaneously. A musical equivalent to the stream of consciousness narrative mode (depicting “the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind”), continuous music turns each performance into a transformative experience for both the musician and the listener.
When I started doing continuous music, nothing else was important. I did not need to eat. Well, I had no money so I couldn’t eat, but nothing else was important. There was absolutely nothing else. When I heard the piano putting out this sound and I felt my body as I was doing it, it was like I entered another universe. No pianist on earth can even comprehend what a physical and spiritual and emotional pleasure it is to do continuous music. It’s like your soul can fly. Interview
Following the lavish instrumentals on “The Watchers” and “Corollaries”, the musician returned to solo piano with two EPs released one year apart:
Three Solo Pieces
Released in November 2013 on Unseen Worlds record label, the Three Solo Pieces EP provides a modern and exhilarating snapshot of continuous music over three new compositions for solo piano. Finding his stride within the first ten seconds into “Marginal Invitation”, Lubomyr Melnyk captivates instantly with staggering cascades of notes, recurring patterns and delightful twists and turns.
Released in December 2014 on the London-based Erased Tapes record label as a follow up to “Corollaries”, the Evertina EP stands in total contrast to the complexity of “Three Solo Pieces”. Described as a “short musical interlude”, “Evertina” focuses more on melody with another three compositions and sees Lubomyr Melnyk experimenting with the upright piano.
The piano for me has so many different faces, so many personalities and wonders, it is like life itself, ever-changing yet always holding to a permanence of beauty. Like butterflies that never fly in a straight line but always carry their loveliness with them in their multi-angled paths. Lubomyr Melnyk