Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Kate Kondratieva
Lubomyr Melnyk is a Ukrainian composer and the fastest pianist in the world, being able to play up to 19 notes per second with each hand. He has created his own piano technique known as ‘continuous music’.
What have you learned about yourself through the piano and continuous music?
Oh, well, that would take about two weeks to say because continuous music, the music I do, is an entirely new universe. Classical pianists have no idea how to play this music and have no idea of the meaning of this music. Also, the classical audience does not understand this music at all. They’re so used to being fed a certain type of music, so my music doesn’t mean anything to them. And so, when you ask me now, what has this music opened for me or what it means to me? The answer may not be quite possible to understand. However, I will try. This is a completely-completely different piano universe from everything that has existed before. There are so many things that this music has brought, it brought new dimensions not just to music, but also new dimensions into the pianist himself or herself. And so this I think is what your main question is, what kind of differences does it make for me? It opened up a universe that is not musical: it opened up the physical possibility to do things that were impossible to do for even the greatest classical concert pianists, because their bodies were focused on creating a certain thing – to play the Sonata, to play the concerto. Continuous music opened up a different universe where the pianist is creating the sound. The pianist uses the material that is in the composition. Let’s say, if you think of continuous music, like a cake, that you are going to bake or better a soup, that you’re making in the kitchen – I, the composer, gives you an idea of the ingredients. And so, in classical and traditional music, even in jazz music, you have to play this thing in a certain way, whereas in continuous music, you don’t. Every day you play it, it will be somewhat different but not completely different, because the soup still has to have a basic taste. But one day, you might make the soup with a little bit more of this or a little bit less of that. There’s an act of creation.
For this act of creation to happen every day the body of the pianist, and not just the fingers, but the entire body has to be transformed. Because in order to make these very small changes and very small decisions that I make when I’m creating music, or when I playing the music, it has to happen at a faster speed of time than any other music. The mind has to control many things. So the decisions happen in another dimension than what the fingers are doing. Part of my mind controls the fingers, part of my mind controls my hand, part of my mind is controlling my entire body, part of my mind is thinking about something else, and part of my mind is combining everything. For the body to be able to reach this enormous universe, which is huge, it has to be changed. This is what continuous music is about; all these things that I’ve told you about all the different things that I’m controlling: the touch on the notes, AND the sound of this. The ability to perceive the sound of the piano is different in metaphorical ways. For example, playing a certain type of piece. Now, before I go on, I want to mention that whatever I say is referring to one particular tiny little spectrum of playing the piece. It does not apply to everything. It just happens somewhere here, it will happen somewhere there or something. There is nothing that I say, which will adequately describe all the time when you’re playing.
Returning to the perception of the piano sound as a metaphor… I might change it in the same moment, one minute when I’m playing a certain group of notes, the rain might be falling with a certain speed on the ground and hitting the ground, and these drops are the touches of my fingers that touch the keys. I can change that touch not by thinking of the touch, but by thinking of the rain. And so I change the size of the raindrops, I change their speed. They’re still coming at 14 drops per second or 12 per second, or in extreme cases, much higher than that,…(( but after 14 drops of rain per second on the piano, there isn’t much more control it’s simply all bout the speed. So let’s ignore that and work on the rain falling on the keys where I can control it or any pianist that controls it. The speed, the pressure of the raindrops changes — Is there a wind coming in moving them around? That also changes the dimension. The continuous music has taught me to do things that pianists cannot even imagine, and have never been able to imagine. Because the music they were playing simply wasn’t made for that. Beethoven did not write his piano concertos with this stuff in mind. He had an aesthetic of beauty that he heard and that he gave to us, and it carries a certain form. Continuous music has different forms that pianists cannot comprehend yet.
Do you always know what you want to say through art?
I would say no. Whenever I play, it all changes every time. I think that’s the case for all of us. Every day is a whole new day. My music changes every time. It will never be the same. What I feel about how I play depends on my thoughts. It’s always different each day.
How important is your national identity to the nature of your art?
I think the fact that I am Ukrainian has changed absolutely everything. This music would not exist at all if I were not Ukrainian. Our distinguishing feature is that we tend to sacrifice ourselves. Ukrainians are self-sacrificing for things that are important to them. Parents sacrifice themselves for the sake of their children, a husband for the sake of their beloved, and so on. Let’s take Shevchenko as an example. There is no poet in the history of Europe or any country that would do what the Ukrainian poet would do. For the sake of truth and the power of his words, Shevchenko could not allow the Russians to destroy the message in his music. But if Shevchenko had been born in Germany, or England, or France, he would have done that. All of the artists in Europe and North America were always very careful not to go to jail. I mean, we have the example of an English writer, (Oscar Wilde) who did go to jail but not because of his art, but because of his sexuality.
People around the world have no idea of the Ukrainian nation, of our people, of our art, the greatness of our existence. They don’t know about Shevchenko, they don’t know about Ivan Franko, they don’t know our fantastic painters, phenomenal painters. They don’t know anything. This is not the fault of the people themselves. Although it might be, I don’t know. But anyway, back to your question. The people of Europe and North America have to understand that whatever beauty they find in my music, it is only because I am Ukrainian, and because as a Ukrainian artist, I was ready to make the sacrifice that was needed to find this music. No other artist would have done that. If I was French or English, or Dutch, or German or Italian, I would not have done this. There is something in Ukrainian people, this desire for creating, this respect for the beauty of art – this we don’t find in other people. I It’s something unique for the Ukrainian nation. I have always, throughout my entire life, been a Ukrainian artist, no matter where I live. I could live anywhere, I could live on the moon. If you take William Shakespeare, even if he lived in Africa or Italy, he wrote his plays in English. And no one would ever consider him an Italian writer, and the same goes for me.
No matter where I live – my music is Ukrainian music. Lubomyr Melnyk’s music is Ukrainian music and not the music of the country that I happen to live.
In a way I’m like a gypsy, I live anywhere in the world; this year I’m here, next year, I’m somewhere else. I feel that people should start to learn more about the Ukrainian nation and our history, and our people. And hopefully, my music may open some doors for them to start exploring the history of our artists.
Would you like to live forever?
I’m very afraid of living forever.
Because in a way human life is a prison. See, the first question you asked me, about what the piano and continuous music have taught me, and I told you that it would take weeks to tell you, and it’s true! Here we are again when you ask me about living forever. All people live forever.
Forever is a very strange word that we don’t understand. The piano has made me understand and it has shown me that I do not understand the word ”forever”, and nobody does. No one understands it.
I will tell you one thing about time. because of the terrible lies coming from scientists, from science, and the whole world ever since the time of Galileo, who brought the greatest lie to humanity, and started the whole process of this enormous materialization of the spiritual. He started it, and then it’s gotten worse and worse and worse. So people will be very upset, to hear what I’m going to tell, but let people be upset. Instead of being upset ,they should think about what I am going to tell you, and stop thinking like Galileo, like Darwin, like the scientists, and like Star Trek. They are all saying that: Time is the only thing that is forever – it has never begun and it will never end. If people ask you what you mean by time, they think that if a huge meteorite hits the world and smashes everything to pieces, then the universe will continue for millions and millions and millions and millions of millions of years. This is what people think of ”forever”. I don’t. Forever means past the end of time. And people think there is no past the end of time, that time is forever, but it is not. It will end in 1,000,000th of a second and it will end when the world ends. There is no time outside of the human being. We are the only ones who ‘possess’ time. Once the last human being goes ‘poof’ then all time will go ‘poof’. Not just time, but with it will go all the stars, all the planets – everything. Star Trek is one of the biggest lies that has been put into the human world. It plays a significant role and affects us because humans believe in space, they believe that in 200 or 300 years, everyone will roam the vast expanses of the galaxy on spaceships. People believe in that completely. Those are absolute lies. There is no Space and there will be no space once the time ends. The piano has taught my body to play the things I play. When I play – I don’t have fingers, I don’t have hands, I don’t even have a body. Finally, I begin to understand that there is a time, that there is life, that there is a person. So when you ask if I want to live forever, my answer is – I’m scared. I want to know what is after ”Eternity”. Forever is something that I know already. Do you understand? Haha. Who knows, maybe I have been living forever? Maybe we’re all living forever, and we just don’t remember it. I do not claim it to be true, I am simply saying that Eternity alone is not necessary and that it goes on to infinity.
So the idea of Star Trek and other related themes are just a way of escapism for humanity?
It’s a huge lie. It’s not even escaping, people truly believe it. It’s not fantasy and this is the problem. I have nothing against the series if it were presented as a dramatic fantasy, but it’s not. People really-really believe it. And they never ask questions, they never ask questions about how is it possible that this spaceship flies around for millions of years and never runs out of fuel or power. It never has a particular size, in one episode it’s tiny and it another it’s not. People don’t ask questions about it, they’re like little birds with their mouths open, only people open their brains to these ideas. Star Trek just pours this garbage into their brains (like into the mouths of little birds) This is connected to the lies of Darwin, to the lies of Galileo. We need some respected philosophers, some respected mathematician, some respected human being to tell the world to stop. Darwin is not making sense and I shouldn’t be the one to tell you. Any intelligent human being, who has a brain can read 4 pages of Darwin and realize that this is the biggest piece of garbage ever written. It’s absurd. This is not the question of, ‘Do you believe in God or do you not believe in God?’. On every page, he is saying the equivalent of ”3+3 = 18 and I have determined this with absolutely no evidence, and I am telling you this (so you have to believe me) because I’m Darwin”. This is insane. But you see, no one will listen to Lubomyr Melnyk, because who am I? A nobody. However, the world will perish because of these lies about the planet. They know that they are lying. Galileo knew that he was lying. He did not look at the evidence. He wanted to show something. Same with Darwin. He wanted to make a statement and he didn’t look at the evidence. As if they’ve seen the ocean for the first time in their lives and they tell the world, ‘I will write a book and tell you all about the world because I’ve seen it’. First of all, the ocean is completely dead, there’s no fish in it and it goes on forever. And it’s a muddy green color. The only evidence there is would be the colour, but that colour is only where he was standing. If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s a different color. If you’re in Hawaii, it’s a different color. Do you understand? He made all his books, everything was written with no evidence. He would write things that were true and then he would make up complete fantasies about why they were so true. With Darwin, it’s like you say that you have a black dog in your house and Darwin would say, “A black dog, oh, my goodness, this person’s hair is black their walls are painted black. Oh my god, the whole house is painted black!”. This is Darwin’s stupidity. It’s disgusting that people have taken this seriously, it’s mass hysteria. Millions of people have been told that this is a great piece of work. So they simply don’t even think to read it. But anyway, what is the problem with that that Star Trek… When people start believing in nonsense, visible nonsense, a terrible problem arises. We can see that Galileo was completely wrong. We can see this every day if we look at the sky because there are things that we can see that annihilate what Galileo has said, but nobody thinks that this could be and so people see it, but they don’t believe that their minds reject it. Same with Darwin, people see that this book is nonsense. It’s not a book about believing in God or not believing in God or the origin of the world or humanity. The question is – is, is this a rational book? Was it written by somebody rational? It’s not. It’s complete insanity and nonsense. You don’t have to believe in God, you don’t have to make any statement about God whatsoever. But because Universities tell you that Darwin is right, then you don’t even question it. Everyone knows that three and threes are six, (and NOT 16 !) but they will accept Darwin as a genius, they will ignore everything else. There is a monstrous kind of mechanism in the human brain and the soul, which when they see something that completely goes against propaganda, their brain will make them blind to the thing that they see is true and they will believe the propaganda. So when they read Darwin saying that three and three is eighteen, their minds will blind it out. They will pretend that Darwin never said it so that the propaganda will be fulfilled.
What is your perception of love? Has your capacity for love changed over the years?
I do not know what Love is like for a woman, but for a man love changes with age, whether at 25 or 50 – love changes. Now for me, love is something wonderful and completely new. I would say that this feeling is constantly growing.
This feeling of Love is wonderful in its absolute.
Everyday love gives us a new miracle. Maybe only artists feel it, and for others, it’s quite different. I do not know. For me, love is a huge thing. I still don’t understand how love works and I probably won’t understand it, but I know for sure it’s something wonderful.
What about your perception of beauty? Does your perception of beauty differ over time?
Yes. The concept of beauty has changed for me. The difference is not significant, not radical. In my soul, the root of beauty and love is always the same. Love is a gift for the soul. I think that people who live for the sake of money or power – they do not see beauty. Their soul cannot perceive beauty. Their eyes are closed. They want to see it, but what they see is not beauty. Money and power means hurting people, and as a result make the rich and powerful person blind to Beauty.
Beauty is what ignites the soul. It is a fire that goes from the soul to the world, and from the world back into the soul.
What was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced in your life?
This is very difficult to express. It’s impossible for the simple reason that
every moment of extreme beauty is rooted in extreme love.
And so it’s very hard to say one experience of that is greater than another one. But I can tell you that there are certain moments of beauty that are quite divine and transcendental. Or there’s beauty that found in films that is divine and transcendental. There’s transcendental beauty that can be found in books, in music, and all the arts, in paintings. But I think if you exclude art, then I think film and the beauty of women are the two living things that create the most intense experience of beauty; some films have moments of such indescribable beauty. There are moments of seeing a woman’s face that are completely indescribable. Whether one moment is greater than another, I cannot measure. I find it’s not possible to measure.
What film reality would you like to try and live in?
Well actually, none haha. Because even though there are films that touch me very, very deeply I would never exchange what I am and what I have, to be in the reality of this film. I think our reality is a great gift and something we cannot dare to exchange. Each person’s reality has an enormous beauty and power in it that belongs to us, each individually. It’s easy for me to say because I create music and I’ve devoted my life to music. But I think for somebody who’s striving for a buzz every day, maybe for them indeed this is not the reality they want. I can’t speak for others but for me, I would like to see changes in reality. But I’ve never seen a better reality in a movie. Not for me anyway.
Was there ever a moment in your life when you were fed up with music?
Never. That’s not possible.
Music is more than beautiful. It’s more than beauty. Music is a divine gift and it’s always desirable.
So that can never happen, that cannot be.
Did you reach an idea of happiness? What does happiness consist of for you?
I’m not that happy, but I’m not unhappy either. There are good things in my life and things that are not. There are a few things I miss. For example, I want more people to love this music and see and feel its beauty. I know that in Ukraine people attend my concerts. There they feel, hear, and perceive that beauty. If more people are attending a concert anywhere, it does not mean that these people feel my music. I would say that only in Ukraine do people feel it. I would like for the whole world to learn from Ukraine and Ukrainians, to listen and feel my music. That would make me happy. I would like to open a school where I teach the piano and work with people to allow them to improve themselves. Playing the piano requires making your hands and your body alive. If I could share my knowledge and teach people to treat music a little differently, I would be tremendously happy.
Your art is complex and deep and nowadays people are more into overall simple things. Does it concern you on some level? Do you think everything must have a deeper meaning in art?
Well, that’s two or three questions all together haha. I am very worried that there is a great imbalance now in music. There has always been a beautiful balance in the western world of people who listen to classical music and people who did not, people who listened to music on a simple level. Now, people under 50 or 60 years old, almost don’t listen to classical music, whereas 60 years ago, at least, I don’t know, 15 or 20% of people under 60 listened to classical music, maybe more. But it’s quite a huge change now. 95% of the people are listening to very simple music. Some of it is horrible simple, some of it is not so bad. The problem is in the imbalance. It’s not that the music that they are listening to is bad, it’s the imbalance. But there is one thing that is troubling me, although it’s not simplistic. I think your question could be expanded. It could include what I see happening to the human perception of music. And I see it relating to what you call overly simple. There is another facet that you, perhaps have not noticed, but this is the fact that more and more people are becoming hateful towards musical instruments and people only want to hear electronic music. If you look at film soundtracks and music featured in TV series 20 years ago, then most music was instrumental. It was either music by the orchestra, or it could even be jazz or rock music but it was always music that was played on an instrument. Now that is very rare and everything is now done through electronics. This is, of course, because it is easier for the composer – he simply sits with a computer and buys himself a pack with samples and a bunch of different sounds and starts working with that. It’s very simple and you don’t have to pay for real musicians. Let’s forget about the mechanics of why that happened but the main problem is that people have now become addicted to electronic music. They feel hatred when they hear musical instruments: they don’t want to hear a guitar, they don’t want to hear anything. They want to hear electronic. Even if they listen to a singer singing, half of the background sound is electronic; it’s not real musicians, it’s not real instruments. In some cases, it’s 100% electronic behind the vocals. This is a problem because it means that we’re turning into electric machines. This is connected to the fact that people are addicted to their laptops or computers, to their telephones that are all operating at 50 or 60 hertz. The body is starting to become addicted to hearing and having 50 or 60 hertz constantly being fed into each person’s body. So while this is not overly simple, I think it is a huge problem. Why is music overly simple? Because people cannot listen to complex music, which is instrumental music. There are many things to appreciate when there’s an orchestra playing, or a big band or something, whatever. Electronic music is generally extremely simplistic. It may have a lot of little details and things in the background that you don’t quite notice but the whole basis is just monotone. It’s simply one type of thing or two chords that flow from one to the other, back and forth, like a wave that’s putting people to sleep. So, yes, it’s a problem. And now I forgot the other part of your question haha.
No worries haha. Do you think it’s necessary for art to always have a deeper meaning?
I don’t know. I think each person, each soul will go to what they naturally want to look for. But art is a great thing, it helps each human being to grow in some way. Art is there for many reasons, but one reason is to help people grow so maybe some people are ready for deep meanings in the art, while others aren’t. But it doesn’t matter because everyone is on the same road in the sense that we are all perceiving art and it’s making us feel things in our soul, in our hearts, in our beings. So that’s good. Whether it’s deep or not, is not for me to decide. Art doesn’t have to be deep, but I think in a sense, all art is very deep, it depends on a person’s perception. A person may not see the depth, but that might not matter and they may like it anyway.
Finally, how would you like your work to echo in the culture?
I do not know. I think my music should be perceived apart from anything else. When I write or play, I don’t think about other people at all, or how it will affect anyone. I got to the point that I only do what I want and love. Neither other music nor art has any influence on me and my creativity.
01-02/08 - London, United Kingdom 11/09 - Cologne, Germany 04/10 - Kyiv, Ukraine 05/10 - Rivne, Ukraine 06/10 - Lutsk, Ukraine 07/10 - Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine 08/10 - Chernivtsi, Ukraine 09/10 - Ternopil, Ukraine