Lubomyr Melnyk - KMH (1978)


Lubomyr Melnyk's music sounds like nothing else. Melnyk acknowledges his debt to minimalism, and it's easy to see its influence -- rhythmic regularity, a steady pulse, and repeated patterns within a massive wall of sound that evolve over time, somewhat reminiscent of the effect of Reich's Eighteen Musicians and Eight Lines. Melnyk's music could never be mistaken for Reich's, however. One of its most striking attributes is its rhythmic complexity, which makes playing it a major feat of virtuosity; polyrhythmic patterns of three and four and seven and eight, for instance, going on simultaneously create an enormously rich contrapuntal texture, out of which new melodies are constantly emerging. The rhythmic patterns undergo continuous metamorphoses, so the contrapuntal relationships are in an ongoing state of flux. Melnyk's harmonies are nothing like Reich's, either. They range from multiple overlaid tonalities to the richly chromatic language of late Romanticism. The music has a feeling of a basic tonality, but a tonality that's so heavily ornamented with other tonalities that it's sometimes all but submerged. There are clearly defined modulatory shifts, and they keep the music fresh in spite of its relentlessly dense textures. The piece has a large-scale harmonic purposefulness in its movement from varieties of harmonic complexity toward a more conventional, sometimes ecstatic tonal clarity at widely spaced cadential points and at the end.Melnyk's performance boggles the imagination -- this is the kind of contrapuntal complexity characteristic of Nancarrow's Studies for player piano, yet he manages to keep the multiple melodic lines distinct and regular. His website claims he is on record for being the world's fastest pianist, sustaining patterns of 13.5 notes per second in each hand, and his performance of KMH makes that claim seem credible. (Unseen Worlds' release doesn't include the first 10 minutes of the piece; it begins with a gradual fade-in, which leaves the listener wondering how Melnyk gets his monumental opus off the ground. Bandura's release of the same performance is complete.) Audio Review called the original 1979 release of KMH "one of the ten most important albums of modern music." Any fans of minimalism and maverick experimentalism with an immensely attractive sound should check out Melnyk's phenomenal performance of his unique music.

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