The Epic, Meditative Stillness of Lubomyr Melnyk's 'Corollaries'

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In the late 1970s and '80s, Canadian composer-pianist Lubomyr Melnyk developed a meditative performance practice in which unbroken streams of notes, aided by generous use of the keyboard's sustain pedals, create hypnotic and continuous sheets of sound. Building on the shifting pulses and economy of material of American Minimalism, the intriguing, resultant sound—“Continuous Music”—is one of deceptive simplicity: the lulling hum of overtones and resonances that constitute Melnyk’s sonic world is actually an intricate matrix of spiraling notes and arpeggios. 

For “Corollaries,” Melnyk met with the young composer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick, a sometimes member of the Danish rock group Efterklang. Broderick’s own music is in many ways an extension of Melnyk’s sound—minimalist matrices of notes, a slow-motion and snowballing approach to compositional shape, a chilling and mesmerizing sense of disconnection colored with strong whiffs of Romanticism. 

Straddling the worlds of composed and improvised music, the collaboration is powerful meditation-as-performance. There are no abrupt changes in texture, the music oscillates glacially between chords and when there is a trace of melody, as in the sublime and Lisztian The Six Day Moment, it feels like a revelatory event. Elsewhere, as in the guitar/piano jigsaw of Nightrail From the Sun, the music hangs suspended in space, slowly morphing but never actually changing and eventually, through the magnetic pull of detailed repetition, opening your ears to the most minute changes in texture or rhythm. 

The record was produced by Broderick and co-mixed with fellow Erased Tapes pianist-composer Nils Frahm, and their distinct close-miking technique lends the music a remarkable sense of intimacy, bringing out every nuance of the instrument’s sound: the hammer hitting the strings, the somehow audible film of dust coloring the keys. And again, because of the apparent simplicity of the music, those slight sounds—the faint clicking in the background of Pockets Of Light, for example—become essential elements of the music, emerging from and returning to the meditative haze of blurred notes and repetitions.

“Corollaries” closes with Le Miroir D’Amour, the record's warmest moment and arguably its only instance in which drama takes precedence over lost-in-thought meditative cool. The naked sound of Broderick’s yearning, Celtic-twinged violin is slowly overtaken and eventually buried in the suffocating tide of Melnyk’s sustain pedal-driven low-end. During the music’s final moments however, the haze clears to reveal the [still] held notes of the violin—an eye-rubbing “I’m still here” moment at the end of an epic, frozen-in-time meditation.

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