9th and 13th – the sound of possibility

This post is, in some ways, a follow-on to my last one – a three-minute guide to relationships.

We all know, but try our best to ignore, that life is fragile and unpredictable.

One minute we’re here, and those we love are. And one minute we, or they, aren’t.

And for most of us we’ll never know when that last minute will be.

And it’s the same with what we do with our life. Where it takes us. What we ended up doing. Who we end up being.

Most of us probably do our best to script our lives, but it’s a fool who thinks we have much genuine control. There are simply too many variables. Too many outside influences.

But isn’t that what makes life so great? Who would want to know the future? What would be the point of living if we knew what was going to happen?

It’s the unknown possibilities that make life exciting. And it’s why we must take chances – risks, even – whenever we can.

Stuart Maconie presents a radio show on BBC 6 Music on Sunday evenings called the Freak Zone.

It is, by design, a mixed bag of music.

Sometimes I really enjoy listening to it. Other times it drives me crazy and I have to switch off.

The worst piece of music I ever heard was a few years ago.

Someone, I forget the artist, had recorded some music and put it on a loop of analogue tape.

Then played it, non-stop, until the tape, inevitably, degraded.

The result was a very long track of the same piece of music, repeating again and again, progressively falling to pieces. In the end it was simply noise – and then silence.

It was a really nice idea. An interesting exercise in entropy.

But I didn’t want to listen to it. At least not for so long.

I was in the bath and my iPad wasn’t.

I toyed with the idea of getting out of the bath and stopping it. But, no, wait, surely it will stop soon? No one would play this for so long. Not even Stuart Maconie on The Freak Zone.

But it didn’t stop. For what felt like hours. It was like a CIA torture programme.

The prospect of trying to drown myself entered my head (no, not really).

But sometimes Stuart plays songs that transform my life.

A few months ago he played 9th and 13th, a piece written by Jonathan Coe, a novelist and writer, with music by Danny Manners. I was washing up at the time and at first I was only half-listening, but I quickly stopped what I was doing.

I just stood there. In the kitchen. Listening to it. For about 15 minutes.

When it ended, I wasn’t quite sure what had just happened. But I knew it wasn’t going to be the last time I heard it. And I’ve heard it quite a few more times since.

It led to a brief chat with Jonathan on Twitter and he seems like a really nice approachable man. I didn’t realise the piece came from a CD, of the same name, but once he told me I ordered it. It’s really nice.

But 9th and 13th is the clearly the stand-out piece. To be fair, it would be hard to top it.

Fundamentally it’s about life, the choices we make, and the impact they can have. How the smallest decision can have the most wide-reaching effect. No-one, certainly Jonathan I’m sure, is claiming the concept is new but the execution is sublime.

I hope you’ll make the small decision to listen, and I hope it affects you anywhere near as much as it has affected me.

It’s nearly 17 minutes long. But worth every single second. If you can sit down and give it the attention it deserves, I really don’t think you’ll regret it.

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