World's fastest pianist credited with pioneering 'continuous music'

A Ukrainian composer, who claims to be the world’s fastest pianist, says tinkling the ivories quicker than the human ear can hear is a surefire route to nirvana

Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk works his fingers at a dizzying 19.5 notes per second. He reckons the result what he calls “continuous music” is the first innovation in piano playing for more than three centuries.

Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk frequently slips into a trance during performances. He can play three-hour-long compositions by solely relying on his memory. Pic/AFP
Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk frequently slips into a trance during performances. He can play three-hour-long compositions by solely relying on his memory. Pic/AFP

“The concert pianist is like a propeller aeroplane, but the continuous music pianist is like a jet plane,” said the 65-year-old pianist, “It’s an enormous difference.” Melnyk is credited with pioneering continuous music, a technique based on lightning quick notes that create a tapestry of sound.

According to him, nothing has happened with the piano since 1650. What Scarlatti was doing, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev were still doing 300 years later. “With my skill, finally something new has happened in the world of the piano. It’s terrible to think I could be the first and the last to do this.

In continuous music, you can’t make a mistake because you are living the music with the piano. My fingers disappear. All I hear and experience is the actual music, the sound, the piano. I’m barely aware, my mind is racing and I’m just flying through this landscape. It’s beyond nirvana,” says Melnyk.

It is not, however, possible to hear all 19.5 notes. “The ear cannot hear that, you cannot actually discern the notes at that speed. The natural speed set by nature for pianists is between 13 and 14 notes per second.

“I’ve actually fallen asleep while I was playing the piano and kept playing. I’m not claiming my music is as beautiful as Beethoven or Chopin. But I think it’s important that it exists,” he says. With all the fervour of an evangelist, Melnyk says he is desperate for others to share the joy he feels as his hands work a blur on the keyboard.

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