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at100   ‘Seaside’  -  John Tilbury, Dirar Kalash, John Lely, Christian Wolff

Compositions by Christian Wolff and John Lely, and improvisations played by

John Tilbury (clavichord), John Lely (electronics) and Dirar Kalash (oud)

1 - John Lely  ‘Line’ (2016)                                   3’41”

2 - Biyar ‘Adas  (improvisation)                             10’54”      Youtube extract

3 - Saqiya (improvisation)                                      6’45”

4 - Christian Wolff  ‘Tilbury 2’ (1969)                      3’42”

5 - Jarisha (improvisation)                                    13’28”

6 - Christian Wolff  ‘Tilbury 4’ (1970)                      5’14”

7 - al-Safirriya (improvisation)                                11’34”

8 - John Lely  ‘Line with Accompaniment’  (2016)    7’13”      Youtube extract

CD copies have sold out, but downloads are available from our Bandcamp page here

In late 2015 John Tilbury bought a clavichord, which is now in the conservatory of his house in the Kentish seaside town of Deal. This is the first CD on which John plays clavichord rather than piano. Fittingly for the hundredth CD on Another Timbre, the disc combines compositions and improvisations.

Christian Wolff and John Tilbury first met and worked together in the late 1960’s. At that time Christian composed a series of piano pieces for John with the general title ‘Tilbury’. For this disc John arranged two of these pieces for clavichord. ‘Tilbury 4’ is written in different parts for ‘at least two players’. In this recording two parts were recorded separately and then over-dubbed.

John Lely has been a frequent collaborator with John Tilbury since the 1990’s when they met at Goldsmith’s College in South London. Lely composed ‘Line’ for John’s clavichord specifically for this recording session. Having recorded the piece as a solo, John Tilbury suggested that they should also record a duo version with John Lely improvising an accompaniment on electronics, and that recording has become the final piece on the CD.

Dirar Kalash is a young Palestinian artist and musician currently living and studying in The Hague in Holland. John Tilbury came across him in early 2016 and suggested that he would make a good recording partner for the session. Dirar often improvises using electronics, but on these recordings he plays oud, a guitar-like instrument common in North Africa and the Middle East. We believe that it is the first time that this combination of instruments (clavichord, oud and electronics) have played together as a trio.

The clavichord is a very quiet instrument, and was played without amplification so that the other instruments had to come down to its volume. The recordings took place in the conservatory of John Tilbury’s house, and extraneous sounds often drifted in and became another layer of the music. Most frequent were the calls of seagulls, but other sounds included the low-flying aeroplane that passes overhead shortly after the start of the track entitled ‘al-Safirriya’.

The titles of the improvised pieces are taken from the names of former Palestinian villages near to the area where Dirar was born, and which were depopulated or destroyed in 1948 at the time of the creation of the state of Israel.

The recordings were made on 18th July and 4th October 2016.


“Bearing catalogue number at100, Seaside marks another important milestone for Another Timbre—the one hundredth release on the label's main imprint, some nine years after its first releases. To mark the event, Simon Reynell has issued music of which he is particularly proud, played by John Tilbury, John Lely on electronics and the Palestine-born, Hague resident Dirar Kalash on oud. The recording is the very first to feature Tilbury on his clavichord (which he acquired in late 2015) rather than his customary piano. For this reason, the recordings were made at Tilbury's home in Deal, Kent, in July and October 2016.

Fittingly, the music epitomises the Another Timbre ethos, straddling the boundary between composition and improvisation. Alongside four trio improvisations are two different versions of a Lely composition "Line"—the first featuring Tilbury alone, while on the second he is accompanied by Lely on electronics—and two Christian Wolff pieces written especially for Tilbury—"Tilbury 2" and "Tilbury 4"—here arranged by him for solo clavichord.

Together, the three solo pieces showcase the clavichord to good effect, allowing its distinctive plucked metallic sounds to be clearly heard, thanks to Reynell's first-rate recordings. While the instrument requires Tilbury to play very differently to his usual style on piano, his impeccable timing and phrasing shine through. Clavichords are notoriously quiet and need to be carefully recorded in order for every note to be heard, particularly when other instruments are present. As the duo with Lely demonstrates, Reynell gets the balance just right here, allowing the clavichord and electronics to co-exist as equals that complement one another.

The same is true of the four trio improvisations; the clavichord and the (considerably louder) oud could have been problematic together, but the recording ensures that never becomes an issue so that the two work well together, their similar qualities making them sound like a natural pairing, certainly one that succeeds. The improvisations and compositions are so well integrated together across the album that the distinction between the two pales into insignificance and the listener can just go with the flow, enjoying both equally.

Tilbury even manages to subtly slip some political comment in, as the four improvisations are all titled with the names of former Palestinian villages near where Dirar was born, villages that were depopulated or destroyed when the state of Israel was created in 1948. And, rather than a photograph of the seaside town of Deal, the album sleeve bears a photograph of the Palestine coast at Jaffa in 1900. On all counts, Seaside is a great success, a fitting album for an important landmark release for Another Timbre. Here's to the next hundred releases... “

John Eyles, All About Jazz

“On Seaside John Tilbury plays a recently acquired clavichord, a soft-voiced instrument with a bright and brittle sound. It gives a fresh slant to two piano pieces written for him long ago by Christian Wolff. Tilbury also advances with suitably tentative steps along London based composer John Lely’s lean and twangy Line, returning later to tread the same tightrope with accompaniment from Lely’s electronics. This music was recorded last year at John Tilbury’s home in Deal on the English Channel. Gull cries and other incidental sounds bring the outside in. But it is the seaside at Jaffa in around 1900 that appears on the front cover. Along with Lely, Palestinian multi-instrumentalist Dirar Kalash was Tilbury’s guest. The clavichord proves well-suited for dialogue with Kalash’s oud, an Arabic lute. Four improvised pieces develop in reflective, almost cautious manner, finding common ground. Lely’s tactful electronics act like welder’s flux, strengthening the bond. Instrumentally this is an intriguing departure from the beaten track, but each of these quiet and dignified improvisations has been given the name of a decimated Palestinian village, titles that clash with the music’s accord and weight it with intimations of past and present violence.”  

Jim Haynes, The Wire

The importance of place anchors Seaside, musically and conceptually. The album was recorded at clavichordist John Tilbury’s home in the English seaside town of Deal, and it bears both sonic and visual insignia of the sea. Take the album cover: at first glance, one might assume that it depicts the coast of Deal. The sleeve notes, however, reveal that it is actually a photograph of the coast of Jaffa in Palestine, circa 1900, near where oudist Dirar Kalash was born. Topographical commonalities become a way of connecting disparate places, much as the moments of synchronicity that occur in free improvisation become ways of connecting disparate musical approaches. In this music, connections are manifold but rarely obvious.

Timbral exploration drives the music here, and the album’s uncommon instrumentation — clavichord, electronics and oud — provides plenty of material for such exploration. John Lely’s contribution with electronics is subtle but vital, providing a gradually shifting backdrop that casts the diffuse clavichord and oud improvisations into relief and offers a sense of underlying cohesion. The clavichord is a notoriously quiet instrument with a limited dynamic range, so in order to blend effectively Lely and Kalash keep their playing quiet and spacious. This gives the album an elusive quality, as though part of its meaning lies in the silence, just beyond the threshold of audibility.

The album is divided into roughly equal parts improvisations and compositions (four of each), though that distinction doesn’t seem particularly helpful in parsing the music. All three improvisers display a sensitivity to sound at its most fundamental, granular levels, building their improvisations organically outwards rather than following any prescribed form. The nonlinear thrust of the improvisation bleeds into the compositions as well; on first listen it is difficult to discern which pieces were improvised and which composed. As if to underscore the porous nature of the boundaries between improvisation, interpretation and composition, the album begins and ends with two remarkably dissimilar renditions of the same Lely composition. The various ambient sounds that find their way onto the disc — squawking seagulls, an airplane passing overhead — contribute to the aleatory quality of the music and offer a further reminder of place.

Place, as a concept, also offers a way to bridge the sometimes formidably abstract nature of the music with ostensibly more universal considerations: identity, history, politics. These have long been central preoccupations of Tilbury’s, a prominent associate and later biographer of Cornelius Cardew who contributed to Cardew’s infamous 1974 polemic, Stockhausen Serves Imperialism. 43 years later, on Seaside, we find music and politics subtly but intimately intertwined. The album’s four improvisations all bear titles borrowed from former Palestinian villages near Dirar’s birthplace. These towns were depopulated or destroyed in 1948 when the state of Israel was established. Place, like music, can be an artifact of power.

As with other music in the AMM vein, this enigmatic, fragmentary music demands a considerable degree of patience from the listener, but the rewards offered here are unusually rich. If you listen closely, you might find yourself transported to a seaside vista in England, or in Palestine, or you might simply find yourself with a greater awareness of where you already are.”

Mark Mahoney, Dusted