Ukrainian composer Lubomyr Melnyk’s latest record, Rivers and Streams, is out today via Erased Tapes. The LP comes on the heels of a 40-year span that left Melnyk’s music largely unheard and unrecognized – though the time has hardly been unproductive.
Melnyk has spent his life learning and employing numerous practice techniques, both physical and mental, toward becoming one of the world’s fastest pianists. Today he is capable of playing an astounding 19 notes per second.
While developing his inimitable speed, Melnyk pioneered a style he calls ‘continuous music’ – a derivative of minimalism in which notes are cast perpetually, echoing the effects of an unrelenting stream of consciousness.
Both Melnyk and his new album are filled with a timeworn sagacity that might best suit a more wizened listenership, but the composer’s visceral soundscapes have found a larger audience in the ears of young electronic music lovers. Melnyk’s unlikely intrigue mirror’s the ardent attention given to the neoclassical, prepared pianisms of Nils Frahm (with whom he now shares a label).
And as is the case with Frahm and much electronica, Melnyk’s music relies on subtle change over long spans of repetition. He weaves a ceaseless deluge of breathtaking fluidity that belies the idea that single notes might ever be distinct, or that a single player could ever render such mighty rivers and streams.
Melnyk likens his modes of playing to the transcendent zones inhabited by Kung Fu masters. "You ask: 'Is it a state of mind?' It is not. It's a state of the body,” he told Resident Advisor in a recent interview. “The Kung Fu master can perform incredible feats because his body has disappeared. The master's body is almost like a translucent ghostly aura of energy and he is simply manipulating it."
The record is available today on CD, vinyl and in digital form.