9th and 13th…

Picture of book jacket
9th and 13th
Jonathan Coe
ISBN: 0141022752

I live on the corner of 9th and 13th, and I promise you, it’s not a good place to be. It’s not a place where you’d want to linger. It’s the sort of place you pass through; the sort you move on from. Or at least, that’s what it is for most people. For everybody but me.

I can’t believe I’ve been living here for more than eighteen months now. I can’t believe that every morning, for the last eighteen months, I’ve been woken up by the rolling of shutters at the Perky Pig Diner and BBQ just across from my apartment. Shortly after that happens, the noises will start downstairs: furniture being shifted, trucks driving in and out right underneath my bedroom, the throb of their revving engines so insistent that even when I try to block it out by putting on my headphones and turning the keyboard’s volume up to Max, even then I can still feel it through my feet. I live above the business premises of the Watson Storage and Removal Company: which makes sense, in a way, because like I said, this is a transient place, a place for people on the move, a place for people who are getting ready to pack up and leave.

9th and 13th. Do you know what that sounds like? You can find out for yourself, if there’s a piano anywhere nearby. Start with … start with a C, if you like. Way down on the keyboard, two octaves below middle C. Hold it down with your little finger, and now stretch your fingers, really stretch them, more than an octave, until your thumb is on a D. Now play the two notes, and listen to the interval. You’ve got your 9th. It’s slightly rootless, already: those two bass notes that don’t quite agree with one another. There’s an audible sense of indecision. And now, with the thumb of your right hand, you play a B flat. This adds a kind of bluesy overtone, turns the ambiguous statement of those two notes into a question. It seems to ask: where are we heading? To which the next note – another D – adds nothing except emphasis. Now the question seems even more urgent, but when the F is introduced, it changes everything. All of a sudden the chord feels hopeful, aspiring. There’s the hint of an upward movement, the sense that we might be about to arrive somewhere. And then, finally, we add the A, so that we have our 13th interval at last: and listen to how plangent it makes it sound, how wistful. This chord is aching to resolve, to settle on something: C major would be the most obvious place to go next, but it could be A minor, or F major seven, or … well, anything. It’s so open. As open as a chord can get. Brimming with potential.

9th and 13th. The sound of possibility.

Published by: Jez Stevens

Jez is an artist specialising in video projection and installation with an interest in sound art, noise and drone music. He has received several commissions to commemorate historical events and figures including Erik Satie, Henry VIII, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and The Victoria Cross. Jez currently runs and curates a quarterly event called SHNDG which features circuit bending, noise, experimental and electronica artists the event often includes live video performance and live film score work. Jez is also a specialist in reclaimation and restoration of antique and vintage glazing, doors and structural joinery.

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