Virtuosi, man. What to do with ‘em? Sit open-mouthed a few feet away as fingers move faster than the naked eye can register? Allude to “wankery,” in some form, as if instrumental prowess is little more than glamorized musical masturbation? Sure, a number of shredders apply their dexterity in bouts of hilarious self-service. Some, though, work to unlock otherwise unavailable harmonies or rhythms with their legendary digits, fitting their speed and precision into wider compositional frameworks. Lubomyr Melnyk’s style of “continuous music,” which finds the Ukranian composer exploring the piano’s keys at maximum velocity across improbable stretches of time, channels his virtuosity into post-minimalist compositions of extraordinary beauty and elegance. Although more than 60 years old, the man who once set world records for piano performance (19.5 notes per second per hand [!]; 93,650 individual notes in one hour [!!!]) has not yet slowed his roll, and a recent slew of new releases, collaborations, and reissues has earned him more love from listeners than ever before.
In 2013, Melnyk has performed as a duo with fellow mega-shredder James Blackshaw for Important Records, and released the Corollaries LP with UK contemporary classical/avant-garde hub Erased Tapes. Melnyk’s next album Three Solo Pieces continues his relationship with Unseen Worlds, who reissued his style-defining 1978 opus KMH: Piano Music in the Continuous Mode on CD in 2007. “Marginal Invitation,” one of the Three Solo Pieces, demands close listening of the macro- and micro- varieties. Measure by measure, Melnyk’s playing astounds: individual notes reach us with infinitesimal separations between them; left and right hands lay out a shifting rhythmic grid that slides into new chordal configurations after each phrase lives in the mix for its own moment. Zoom out, and whole measures of consistent 1/32 notes fuse into discrete chunks, yielding phantom melodies and overtones that float above Melnyk’s handiwork as a rarefied layer of slo-mo harmonies.
Three Solo Pieces arrives in November. You can preorder the album on LP or CD now.