A 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 Lubomyr Melnyk is working his fingers at a dizzying 19.5 notes per second, and reckons the result - what he calls “continuous music” - is the first innovation in piano playing for more than three centuries. “The concert pianist is like a propeller aeroplane, but the continuous music pianist is like a jet plane,” Melnyk, 65, told AFP in an interview ahead of his first ever appearance in Tokyo. “It’s an enormous difference.”

Melnyk, whose parents fled his home country after World War Two, is credited with pioneering continuous music, a technique based on lightning quick notes that create a tapestry of sound. “Nothing has happened with the piano for 300 years - since 1650, nothing,” he said. “What Scarlatti was doing, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev were still doing, 300 years later. “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.” Melnyk, whose long silver hair swishes as he talks, says classical pianists are often gripped by fear ahead of a performance because each piece has to be note perfect. But, he says, that’s not a problem for him. “In continuous music you can’t make a mistake because you are living the music with the piano. My fingers disappear.