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And then there were nine...

Luke Kenny explores the mysticism and strange importance of the number nine among western classical music artists...

music Updated: Jan 09, 2009 18:22 IST

Today’s the first ‘nine’ of 2009. The number nine is quite a mystical and symbolic number of the numeric system. It has various applications in various fields of human consciousness. In astronomy, before 2006, we had nine planets in the solar system (Pluto is now a non-planet).

In religion, Ramzan occurs in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Buddhist rituals involve nine monks, and in Christianity there are nine choirs of angels in heaven. In Chinese culture, there are nine forms of the Dragon and the place Kowloon in Hong Kong literally means ‘Nine dragons’.

Mystic numeral
So with all this mysticism floating around, it is no surprise that evolved rock ‘n’ rollers of music history have been inspired in their own way to use the number nine in their creative endeavours. Let’s look at the interesting ones.

First up, The Beatles, (everything starts with the Beatles doesn’t it?) have a song called Revolution 9 which appears on The White Album. Not really a song but just a voice repeating, Number nine.. number nine.. number nine. John Lennon, who wrote the song, also released a solo recording called #9 Dream, which appears on the 1974 album, Walls and Bridges.

All around
Then there is the classic ‘50s song called Love potion no 9, by The Clovers in 1955. There’s also a movie by the same name with Sandra Bullock in it. And we must not forget the sublime, Cloud no 9 by Bryan Adams.. a really good song, I must say.

Jimi Hendrix wrote a song called If 6 were 9 for his 1967 album Axis: Bold as Love. The song was considered one of the ‘individualistic anthems’ of the ’60s, with the lyrics representing the counter culture vibe of the time.

Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt and Robert Plant all have albums called Nine Lives.

Mercyful Fate, Public Image Limited, Fairport Convention and Damien Rice, are varied genre artistes, yet they have all released albums with the title, 9. There are also many bands which have the word or numeral ‘nine’ in them. Most notably, Nine Inch Nails among other bands like, Stroke 9, Nine Black Alps and Nine IX Lives.

Curse of the ninth
One interesting thing to mention here is the ‘curse of the ninth’. In western classical music, the phrase refers to the superstition that a composer who writes a ninth symphony will die soon. Beethoven, who left his Tenth Symphony unfinished, is regarded in superstition as the first victim of the curse. I have no knowledge of any other.

Oh, by the way, today is also Jimmy Page’s birthday, so all you Led Zeppelin fans can spin a few tracks in his honour.

So there you have it, the mystical nine. I am sure the music fans will find ‘nine’ in much more music, so I leave you to it. I’m off to write a song with nine in it.. if I may say so.