Saturday, June 25, 2016

Lubomyr Melnyk - The Lund-St.Petri Symphony (for Solo and Double Piano) - Double LP, Apparition Records 1981 (2 CDr reissue, 2008)

WARNING: if you listen to the two-hour Terry Riley String Quartet followed by Ukrainian composer Lubomyr Melnyk's "The Lund-St.Petri Symphony" your head will, without a doubt - either explode or cave in. I sure as HE(double hockey sticks) will not attempt such a feat, and that is fo' sure and certain. Do not be alarmed though; this music does have something to offer besides a week's stay at a psychiatric facility. This will certainly be the case if you are a devotee of minimal music. Melnyk writes virtuosic piano works, with notes that shoot with the speed of a modern-day gatling gun. He plays them himself, blazingly fast as is needed - the stamina required is something I cannot imagine. A great example, which is NOT minimalism but rather lyrical and beautiful with its violin accompaniment, is the "Concert-Requiem" for Violin & Piano. I urge you to check it out on youtube, it -really- is lovely and a different side of the composer: 

It is worth getting to know his music. It just happens to be, in this case, that the piano symphony is absolutely bonkers.

Lubomyr Melnyk has set two world records, documented on film and with full audio, at the Sigtuna Stiftelsen in Sweden. He sustained speeds of over 19.5 notes per second in each, and played between 13 and 14 notes per second for one full hour. (!!!)   This is according to his website as well as wikipedia. Realllllllllly impressive!

So Melnyk (b. 1948) often composes what he terms "Continuous Music" (I am guessing that he isn't fond of the well-worn word "minimalism") and this technique is practically trance-inducing, yet it is beautiful in a way that reminds me of ripples upon an ocean with the reflection of a blazing sun. The question is, for how long does one want to gaze before hypnosis sets in? Listening to this "symphony" in it's entirety is like getting really stoned and watching endless rainfall (I haven't tried this, but I think I am correct). I happen to like all of Melnyk's music that I have heard, but I cannot always take too much at one time of this large work. I will remind you again that Melnyk does compose smaller pieces that are more agreeable to the ears and mind, and really gorgeous at that.

Here "Continuous Music" is explained:

And, pasted here from Melnyk's site, just some excerpts from the joyously nutty and enthusiastic notes - screwy font and all - about the the composer, mostly in his own words I would think:

LUBOMYR MELNYK is one of the most innovative and fascinating pianists/composers of this century. During the 1970's he developed a totally new îlanguageî for the piano, called Continuous Music, and with it, a stupendous physical and mental technique that is totally unprecedented in the history of the piano.
Using this remarkable technique, ,Lubomyr Melnyk has set 2 world records for pianistic achievements:

the FASTEST pianist in the world --- sustaining speeds of over 19.5 notes per second in each hand, simultaneously, and
the MOST NUMBER of NOTES in ONE HOUR --- in exactly 60 minutes, Melnyk sustained an average speed of over 13 notes per second in each hand, yielding a remarkable total of 93,650 INDIVIDUAL notes.
This music has indeed given the piano a fresh new voice: never before has the piano shown such a brilliant face and such a beautifully tender îsingingî voice! --- creating a richly flowered landscape of overtones!
Lubomyr's artistry at the piano has in fact introduced a totally new dimension to the instrument --- as one critic put it î the piano was always meant to sound this way î ( Edward Bond of the Kingston Whig-Standard ).
Lubomyr Melnyk has shown a remarkable and religious devotion to the piano, always striving to discover new horizons in the physical process of playing the instrument. ñ and as a result, he has carried the art of the piano to unknown and uncharted territories ... where the mental and physical activities of the piano become blended in a meditative and metaphysical dimension!
Without regard for fame or fortune, he has steadfastly devoted his life to the pursuit of pianistic love and excellence, which in turn have created these marvellously magical and never-before experienced landscapes.
Once, asked about îfame and fortuneî, Melnyk replied : îWho needs money, when every piano is your friend?î
And indeed, love for the piano seems to be a very important part of this music --- and the piano responds ! People have often said that, during live performances, they heard trumpets, horns, entire string orchestras emanating from the piano ... for Melnyk's music turns the piano into a veritable orchestra of sound. (Unfortunately, this extraordinary sound experience is lost in the digital processing, since the overtones no longer can live freely in their high dimensions, but are, as Melnyk puts it, îplucked out like random feathers off a chicken, leaving the once so beautifully feathered surface, splotched and scabbed with tiny soresî. (see more about this problem in îSounds ën Thingsî)

But what exactly IS îCONTINUOUS MUSICî ???
Melnyk's Continuous Music is based on the principle of a îcontinuousî and unbroken line of sound from the piano --- this is created by generating a constant flow of rapid (at times EXTREMELY rapid) notes, usually with the pedal sustained non-stop. The notes can be either in the form of patterns or as broken chords that are spread over the keyboard. To accomplish this requires a special technique, one that usually takes years to master --- this technique is the very basis of the meditative and îmetaphysicalî aspects within the music and the art of the piano.
Moreover, in his earlier works, Melnyk devoted much attention to the overtones which the piano generates, but in his more recent works, Melnyk has become more and more involved with the melodic potential of this music.
Melnyk's earlier music was generally classified as îMinimalismî, although Melnyk strongly refutes that term, preferring to call his music îMAXIMALismî, since the player has to generate so many, many notes to create these îFourth Dimensions of Soundî.
Because his piano music is so difficult and requires a dedicated îre-learningî of the instrument, no other pianists in the world (so far) have tackled his larger works --- and so, his recordings are truly collector's items (both as LP-s and CD-s).
He has however recorded extensively for the CBC in Canada, as well as various European stations. He has performed and given lecture-recitals across Canada and in Europe.
From 1979-1987, Bandura Records released several LP albums of Melnyk' s works ... two of which were among the list of îmodern recordings you shouldn't be without î by The Village Voice.

Here's another article to check out: 

The Lund-St.Petri Symphony

1) single piano
2) single piano
3) single piano  TT: 45:23

4) dbl piano
5) dbl piano
6) dbl piano
7) dbl piano  TT: 46:04

Enjoy, possibly


Declan said...

Thank you for the introduction and links he is fascinating!

Tzadik said...

You are welcome! I hope people do not dismiss this post and the composer; this is an odd work and not to everyone's tastes (understatement!). But he writes beautiful and accessible music as well. A fascinating guy for sure.


Anonymous said...

If you'd like to try more, this fascinating concert was recorded this month -