Ukrainian pianist/composer Lubomyr Melnyk is best known for his groundbreaking continuous music technique, which involves playing extremely rapid, complex patterns of notes, often while holding down the sustain pedal in order to produce overtones. The result is a dense cascade of sound that can be trance-inducing for both the performer and the listener. Melnyk has gone on record as the fastest piano player in the world, as he has been able to sustain over 19.5 notes per second in each hand, as well as more than 93,000 individual notes in a single hour. While his music recalls the mind-bending complexity of Conlon Nancarrow’s studies for player piano, Melnyk’s melodic compositions never sacrifice grace or heart for the sake of technical ability. In addition to his solo piano works and performances, Melnyk has also composed orchestral and chamber works.
Melnyk was born in Munich, Germany to Ukrainian parents in 1948. His family moved to Winnipeg, Canada in the early 1950s in order to flee the communist expansion. After graduating from St. Paul's College in Winnipeg with a degree in Latin and Philosophy, and earning an M.A. in philosophy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Melnyk moved to Paris and played piano for modern dance classes. While in Paris, inspired by the minimalism movement and frustrated with what he viewed as a lack of innovation in the previous three centuries of piano playing, he developed his technique. He moved back to Canada in 1975 and began composing works, as well as presenting lectures on continuous music throughout Canada and Europe. His debut album, KMH, was issued by Toronto-based Music Gallery Editions in 1979, followed by the double LP The Lund – St. Petri Symphony (Apparition Records) in 1981. Also that year, he published Open Time: The Art of Continuous Music, a book explaining his method. Numerous LPs of his music were released through Bandura Records, or self-released as cassettes.
Despite his prolific release schedule and his record-setting abilities, Melnyk’s work largely went unnoticed until the 21st century. Avant-garde classical label Unseen Worlds reissued Melnyk's debut album in 2007 (minus the first ten minutes of the original recording, as the beginning of the master tapes had been damaged), and the release received critical acclaim. This led to additional releases on labels including Hinterzimmer (Windmills) and Erased Tapes (Corollaries, Evertina, Rivers and Streams), as well as a collaboration with guitarist James Blackshaw titled The Watchers (Important Records). In 2016, Melnyk made his major-label debut with Illirion, released by Sony Classical.