Beyond listening

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you love music, and that you use it to help, heal, transcend and enhance aspects of your life. Whether it’s to numb and nullify, to empower, enrage or simply to accompany your walk to work, music has the power to affect mood. For many, music acts as a conductor that enables you to soar outside of yourself or achieve a meditative state. But how often does the power of music extend beyond the realm of listening? Can the act of making music achieve a similar transcendence?

Lubomyr Melnyk thinks so. Up until recently, Melnyk was a little heard of music mystic. A German born Ukrainian, Melnyk spends his life between Canada and Sweden, and is the founder of what he calls ‘Continuous Music’. Continuous Music is a style that developed from his time at the Paris opera, where he was charged with playing the piano to accompany hours and hours of dance practice. Melnyk not only created a new style but a new technique to achieve it. Described as rivers of sound, Melnyk’s hands play two independent melodies as the sustain pedal is permanently held. This technique creates the sonic illusion that other instruments can be heard, an oboe, a string section, basso continuo. The endless flow and accumulation of melody builds to create layers of harmony that defy the limits of a single piano and a single player.

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The music and its technique grew together, since the nature of Continuous Music — giving both freedom and time — allowed the player to sink deeper and deeper into both his own body, and into the instrument itself. Continuous Music changes the player physically, mentally and spiritually : the heart beat is altered, the hands and fingers become soft and pliant, even weightless, the arms become totally flexible and water-like.’ 

Holding records for being the fastest piano player alive, and playing the most notes in one hour, the music alone is not the key for Melnyk, it’s the act of playing that truly sets Continuous Music apart from being a mere past time. Much like a monk who has practiced his art for many years, the art of Continuous Music can bring about a meditative state that lets the player reach a sublime state of mind and presence. If ever there was such a thing as a music ascetic it would be Melnyk. He has devoted most of his life to his art and his belief.

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In 2013 Melnyk, after thirty years of sacrifice for his art, was picked up by Erased Tapes. It is his first release on a UK label. Teamed with the talent of Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm and Martyn Heyne the 2013 release Corollaries will hopefully get heard by many. To buy his back catalogue visit www.continuouspiano.com, to buy Corollaries, visit www.erasedtapes.com in April.

During the classes, the dancers would move across the huge floor in long unending and repeated rows, and I had to create music for them, so I took Haydn and Terry Riley and put them together to create these unending spatial sounds in pure and simple harmonic structure. My hope was that the metaphysical character of the music would help the dancers enter the other world.’ Melnyk interview on www.rhythmplex.com

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