Lubomyr Melnyk at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight saw one of the most unique talents in contemporary music take to the stage. Although this was my first exposure to his music (apart from some Youtube videos) it was obvious from the beginning of this show that many of the people in the audience were long time followers of Lubomyr Melnyk, and quite rightly for he is as his promotional script tells us “one of the most extraordinary pianists and composers of our day.”
Normally when writing a review of any musician I try to separate the music and the artist a little, stay away from too much personalisation and concentrate on the performance that they have brought to the stage. With Lubomyr Melnyk that division line is not possible as his personal philosophy on life and his music are so interwoven with one another as to be inseparable.
This evening saw a relaxed and at times jovial Lubomyr Melnyk with his audience (but don’t mention Spotify to him) and before each performance piece we were given a little bit of his own personal thoughts on life and often a detailed story of the work about to be performed too and the works are extraordinary pieces that really need no explanation as his compositions have the power to speak directly to you, and “Butterfly” and other works were simply at their best with Lubomyr Melnyk choosing wisely due to the size of the venue not to use any electronic amplification on the wonderful concert piano that The Queen’s Hall has. The very special, and at times almost spiritual, space of this venue when special music like this is being performed is a very rare thing indeed. Lubomyr is right, electronic amplification does make very subtle changes to the way we hear sounds, and this music should be heard as it is from the piano and the air around it.
The longest work performed in this set also had the longest story introduction to it, the sublime “Windmills”. Can a windmill have a conscious identity and a soul? With music like this to speak for it perhaps.
Lubomyr Melnyk also gave a very small introduction to the audience of his principles of “continuous music”, and this is the point where his personal views on our metaphysical existence and music, well more than music, sound, harmonies and frequencies merge into one where man, piano and sound dissolve into something very different from normal existence and enter their own new harmonic plane of existence. Wherever this music and these sounds are taking Lubomyr it is obvious that the longer the performance piece, the longer it takes him to come back into “our space” again. It is a little bit like watching someone break that layer of surface water as they move from one realm to another.
It’s not often that I meet someone that I would like to just spend many an afternoon talking to, but for me Lubomyr Melnyk is one of these rare people, and although we would have disagreements on many of his thoughts, on others we seem to be in agreement, and the concept of sound being a basic building block of creation with enormous power is one of them, and it is a concept that many older religions of this world hold to be true. We also seem to be in agreement that there are spaces out there, other realms that we cannot experience in our normal existence and that sound is one of the doorways to some of these spaces. Lubomyr Melnyk is for me certainly right in his belief that we have as people all too often lost our connections to a larger metaphysical universe and, in doing so, lost ourselves all too often as a result of this.
Opening tonight’s performance was award-winning experimental composer Michael Begg. The promotional text describes Michael’s music as “located in the place where formal composition and electronic erosion meet; a liminal space coloured by longing and discomfort”, but perhaps it would be far easier to describe it as simply “sublimely beautiful”. There is no real description to Michael’s music tonight, it had to be experienced on a personal and emotional level, and like Lubomyr Melnyk, Michael’s music has at times an almost spiritual quality to it. Two very different performers with very different approaches this evening, but each using sound as a key to unlock a door to somewhere that only sound can take you to.
Review by Tom King