Origin Stories: Lubomyr Melnyk

A ‘huge river of sound’

Supplied photo: Alex Kozobolis

Lubomyr Melnyk is known for his “continuous music” style of piano playing. The rapid note-playing method was developed over many years of classical piano practice.

“I wasn’t that good as a classical performer, but I was quite advanced as a classical pianist. Without that training, I don’t think I would have managed the breakthrough into continuous music, which is a higher level of piano playing,” Melnyk says.

Having achieved a certain degree of proficiency as a classical pianist, Melnyk quickly attained the style of classical music he had intended.

“My main goal with the music was to break through into another dimension, another realm of piano playing. This is what continuous music revealed to me. It happened quite quickly,” Melnyk says.

Born in Ukraine, Melnyk moved to Winnipeg as an infant. Currently residing in central Sweden, Melnyk considers Winnipeg as an artistic city with a great spirit. He has returned here on occasion.

“I really enjoy (Winnipeg). Good things come out of small places. Cities get too big, and Winnipeg is small and liveable,” he says.

Melnyk explains how his musical interests and the influence of other performers and composers shaped his own method of playing and performing.

“This ambiance of music like (that of) Terry Riley and Steve Reich had a tremendous influence on me. I really loved the spirit of their music. I wanted to bring that into the classical world. It was very connected to my desire to play classical music using modern elements. Combining those two resulted in continuous music,” Melnyk says.

The innovative pianist’s musical technique propels him into a spiritual state as he rapidly tickles the ivories.

“It was a totally new way of using the hands on the piano and using the mind and the body. It’s very much more spiritual. (It’s) something much more akin to the martial arts as opposed to what classical pianists do,” Melnyk says.

In an interview with Redaktion Niusic, Melnyk described his continuous playing technique as the first time someone has come along to “release the true voice of the piano” since its birth 300 years ago.

“The piano has been waiting dormant for someone to bring life to it, and this is what continuous music does. The speed is needed to create the symphonic sound. You need a lot of notes to create this huge river of sound,” Melnyk says.

Around 1968, Melnyk left for Europe after living in Winnipeg for 20 years. Being Ukrainian, he describes feeling something like a magnet inside his soul, pulling him to Europe, making him abandon North America.

Melnyk has family in Ukraine. He was recently asked to play at a benefit concert for Ukraine in Cologne, Germany and has been approached to participate in other such endeavours to raise funds to help the Ukrainian people.

“There’s another project in the works to take a truck with a built-in stage for me to travel to various cities. I know that all Ukrainian artists are deeply engaged in trying to help our people,” Melnyk says.

“I’m hoping that one good thing that comes out of (the Russian invasion) is that people realize that Ukrainians are (a) separate people. We’re a separate nation. We’re different from the Russians the way the Finnish are different from Estonians. It’s a different language, a different people. This has not been clear to the world,” Melnyk says.

Published in Volume 76, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 17, 2022)

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