By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
There was a time when minimal music was banished to artist lofts and dance studios in the seedy part of Manhattan, far from academic institutions and Carnegie Hall. There, practitioners as diverse as La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley refined their individual sounds. But as the seventies bled into the eighties, so did this music gradually budge toward mainstream acceptance. So totemic were these minimalist composers that it still took another 20 years for composers like Tony Conrad and Charlemagne Palestine to finally have their own profound works shine through. Add to that revitalized list Ukrainian-born pianist Lubomyr Melnyk.
While of a similar strata as the above, Melnyk's vision of such mesmeric minimal music was tempered by his training in harmony as well as by his physical prowess to set world records (at the time) for number of notes in a second (19.5) and most individual notes in an hour (93,650). Deeming it "Continuous Music," his recently reissued debut, KMH, is an ecstatic—albeit exhaustive—listen. Imagine Reich's "Piano Phase" as jacked up by Cecil Taylor (or if you're more classically inclined, Franz Liszt) and you have an idea of the melding of meditation and bewilderment.
Over the course of this 50-minute composition, Melnyk creates swift, cascading arpeggios before fixating on a pattern, allowing the notes to accrue layers, the overtones becoming ocean-deep in the process, gorgeous and sparkling—and therein lies the peril, as listeners can't help but be swept up in the undertow and ultimately overwhelmed by this decidedly un-minimal music.
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