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A walk with… Lubomyr Melnyk

May 7, 2013

Originally posted on The 405

Lubomyr-Melnyk

Recently I returned for the first time in quite awhile to the leafy area in which I grew up, a place that of course helped formulate who I am today and my general existence.

As you do I took a lengthy walk around old neighbourhoods and previously well-travelled countryside, with my head swimming in nostalgia and foggy memories stirred by the sights and ever-circling train of thought, past events merging and separating into one another like in a non-sequitur dream state. Lubomyr Melnyk soundtracked this experience and it could not have been a better introduction to his stunning work.

The classically-trained Ukrainian composer plays what he calls “continuous music” that he has been developing since the 1970’s – a wholly sui generis piano-playing technique producing an immersive, flowing feel amid a very contemporary style. Complex note patterns are played at such a rapid level reaching a mind-blowing 19 notes per second and for a long-period of time, that the resulting sound achieves an almost zen-like quality.

Anyways back to the walk. Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive so the old adage goes and this is true for a bucolic aimless walk – the journey is where it’s at, fuck your destination. This is all mirrored in latest album Corollaries that nestled firmly in my headspace – the repetitive, hypnotic note-playing producing a sense that time is but an irrelevance, collapsing deeper into a freefall of trenchant thought. It’s tempting to categorise the sound in Max Richter territory as it’s evocative of a similar feeling, but does not have the ‘blockbuster’ payoff that Richter often utilises, whose work tends to build towards something. Here the pilgrimage is enough in itself for Melnyk. Left foot forward. Right foot forward. And again. Once again. Walking without thinking as you ever do, the body using an independent mind of it’s own. At times I didn’t know if three minutes had passed or 30, and it didn’t even matter. A fragment of memory has been captured by ‘Nightrail From The Sun’ for eternity I’d think due to the unique vernacular of his creation. The only breaks in this cycle occurring upon seeing what used to be a previously tranquil, untouched field haw now transformed into a sterile new-build housing development, snapping the mind into action in an atavistic plunge of brain activity. “It’s not a house anymore” Deerhunter once sang, deep in a yearning kind of sentiment. The opposite was true here.

Melnyk produces an introspective euphoria that cuts right through to the soul in an indeterminable fashion, thus it’s of no surprise to see the 64 year-old on the wonderful Erased Tapes and fits in comfortably with their avant-garde romanticist ethos – with the album recorded and produced by Peter Broderick plus additional help from Nils Frahm. Why can’t all classical music be like this? Do check out his enthralling “kung-fu” approach to the piano (as he states in this video piece for the BBC) in Corollaries if you haven’t done so yet; and the man himself is to play a special double-show at The Village Underground on 20th May alongside American contemporary artist Gregory Euclide, who will be “live painting” to Melnyk’s music.

Head here for more info and to get your tickets. Buy the LP on CD and/or vinyl from Erased Tapes.

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