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"The Music of Erich Zann" is a short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922. A university student is forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford. In a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named "Rue d'Auseil", he finds an apartment in an alm "The Music of Erich Zann" is a short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922. A university student is forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford. In a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named "Rue d'Auseil", he finds an apartment in an almost empty building. One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol with a local orchestra. He lives on the top floor and when alone at night, plays strange melodies never heard before.


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"The Music of Erich Zann" is a short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922. A university student is forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford. In a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named "Rue d'Auseil", he finds an apartment in an alm "The Music of Erich Zann" is a short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922. A university student is forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford. In a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named "Rue d'Auseil", he finds an apartment in an almost empty building. One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol with a local orchestra. He lives on the top floor and when alone at night, plays strange melodies never heard before.

30 review for La música de Erich Zann

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This has always been one of the Lovecraft tales I liked best, and I recently learned that it was the only story of Lovecraft’s that Robert Aickman—the English master of modern terror—liked at all. I can see why. Aickman favored obliqueness and indirection in his tales of the uncanny, and for once, in “Eric Zann,” Lovecraft does too, producing a small, understated tale of horror that keeps the adjectives and exclamation points at a minimum, and let’s the reader scare himself. “The Music of Eric Za This has always been one of the Lovecraft tales I liked best, and I recently learned that it was the only story of Lovecraft’s that Robert Aickman—the English master of modern terror—liked at all. I can see why. Aickman favored obliqueness and indirection in his tales of the uncanny, and for once, in “Eric Zann,” Lovecraft does too, producing a small, understated tale of horror that keeps the adjectives and exclamation points at a minimum, and let’s the reader scare himself. “The Music of Eric Zann,” first published in National Amateur (1922), is about a university student who becomes intrigued by his fellow tenant, eccentric old cellist Eric Zann, who plays strange discordant music late at night. The old man, after much reluctance, allows the young man to listen, but the music he plays for him is not the same stuff he plays when alone. Finally, one night, he does play his secret music, and the university man learns, to his horror, who and what Zann plays the music for. I like the entire story, but perhaps my favorite part is the beginning, with the nightmarish, distorted description of the decrepit old street (presumably in Paris) where the narrator lives. Although I cannot prove Lovecraft ever saw it, I suspect this passage owes something to the classic German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was released in the United States more than six months before Lovecraft composed his tale: I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d’Auseil. It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall. Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation. The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below. There were a few overhead bridges from house to house across the street. The inhabitants of that street impressed me peculiarly. At first I thought it was because they were all silent and reticent; but later decided it was because they were all very old....

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Great eerie story here! A first person narrator is listening to a viol player who's playing very strange notes and music. He tries to befriend with the sinister chap and finds himself in a very uncanny surrounding full of bizarre sounds and effects. What is going on in his room? Why does he never again find this house in Rue d'Auseil after he fled it in horror? Classic Lovecraft and a very mysterious dark story here. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    The Music of Erich Zann - subtle, enigmatic, philosophic, among the finest tales penned by author H. P. Lovecraft, a well crafted work of literature that must be read with care in order to extract that special Lovecraft nectar contained therein. The tale is short; ever single sentence counts. As enticement for you to set twenty minutes aside to read (or listen to an audio book available on You Tube), I'll offer seven Erich Zann snapshots - each of my comments linked to a direct quote: "But that I The Music of Erich Zann - subtle, enigmatic, philosophic, among the finest tales penned by author H. P. Lovecraft, a well crafted work of literature that must be read with care in order to extract that special Lovecraft nectar contained therein. The tale is short; ever single sentence counts. As enticement for you to set twenty minutes aside to read (or listen to an audio book available on You Tube), I'll offer seven Erich Zann snapshots - each of my comments linked to a direct quote: "But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour’s walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by anyone who had been there. I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d’Auseil." --------- Our narrator is a student studying metaphysics at the local university. The story unfolds as he reflects back on the very strange happenings in and around where he took up residence - in an upper story flat along the Rue d'Auseil. "The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch." --------- Where do we draw the line between realism and the fantastic? The buildings as described bring to mind the impossible geometry and architecture depicted by artist M.C. Escher. If the student perceived, truly perceived the preposterous bends in the houses, he would be alerted that something most definitely is off, a law of nature violated. Seen in this way, the music of Erich Zann would be an extension of the street's freakishness. "Thereafter I heard Zann every night, and although he kept me awake, I was haunted by the weirdness of his music. Knowing little of the art myself, I was yet certain that none of his harmonies had any relation to music I had heard before; and concluded that he was a composer of highly original genius. The longer I listened, the more I was fascinated, until after a week I resolved to make the old man’s acquaintance."---------- Weirdness of the music. First off, a viol is a renaissance instrument with frets like a guitar and strings like a violin or viola or cello. However, with a viol, the musician holds the bow in an underhanded position. Here’s a musician playing bass viol – notice the viol itself held by the inner legs (no cello peg), hand position on the bow and the guitar-like frets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7S07... The viol also comes in different sizes - here's the smaller treble viol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqxlf... and here's a viol consort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_E87... Upon hearing the music of Erich Zann, the student desires to not only meet the old man but receive an invitation to come up to his attic room to watch him play. “He was a small, lean, bent person, with shabby clothes, blue eyes, grotesque, satyr-like face, and nearly bald head” ---------- In classic H.P. Lovecraft fashion, Erich Zann’s presence mirrors the oddness and quirkiness of the street and his music. As we read further we can infer Zann’s grotesque, satyr-like face just might be the influence, at least in part, of a mysterious force pressing in on him. “He did not employ the music-rack, but offering no choice and playing from memory, enchanted me for over an hour with strains I had never heard before; strains which must have been of his own devising. To describe their exact nature is impossible for one unversed in music. They were a kind of fugue, with recurrent passages of the most captivating quality, but to me were notable for the absence of any of the weird notes I had overheard from my room below on other occasions.” ----------- That is strange – the music of Erich Zann is different depending on where a listener is positioned in relationship to the musician. Is this a similar phenomenon to the pitch of a train’s whistle changing as the train moves down the track? But Erich Zann always plays his music in the same room. The mystery deepens. “As he did this he further demonstrated his eccentricity by casting a startled glance toward the lone curtained window, as if fearful of some intruder.” --------- Ah, the student is given a glimpse of what truly might be happening – an unseen something, a not-easily defined force could be working in opposition to Erich Zann and his music. “He was trying to make a noise; to ward something off or drown something out—what, I could not imagine, awesome though I felt it must be. The playing grew fantastic, delirious, and hysterical, yet kept to the last the qualities of supreme genius which I knew this strange old man possessed. . . . At this juncture the shutter began to rattle in a howling night-wind which had sprung up outside as if in answer to the mad playing within. Zann’s screaming viol now outdid itself, emitting sounds I had never thought a viol could emit.”--------- What's happening? Is this the power of a black hole-like fourth dimension pressing down on both the music and Erich Zann? Is Erich Zann’s playing keeping some diabolical force at bay, hampering its influence, preventing it from overtaking our vulnerable three-dimensional world? A concluding observation: How clear is the student's perception? Is he predisposed to distorting what he sees and hears? Does he take great abnormalities and reduce them to fit within his manageable, limited categories? Think of his reaction to those M.C. Escher-like distortions. Are we, in turn, much like the student in reducing our world? Reflect on this question as you read an excerpt from a novel, Robert Sheckley's Mindswap, where the same question is examined: 'However, under the continued and unremitting impact of the unknown, even the analogizing faculty can become distorted. Unable to handle the flood of data by the normal process of conceptual analogizing, the subject becomes victim to perceptual analogizing. This state is what we call "metaphoric deformation". The process is also known as "Panzaism". Does that make it clear?' 'No,' Marvin said. 'Why is it called "Panzaism"?' 'The concept is self-explanatory,' Blanders said. 'Don Quijote thinks the windmill is a giant, whereas Panza thinks the giant is a windmill. Quijotism may be defined as the perception of everyday things as rare entities. The reverse of that is Panzaism, which is the perception of rare entities as everyday things.'

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    I have a confession. When I read H.P. Lovecraft I narrate the story in the voice of Jude Law as Lemony Snicket. All the more evident here reading The Music of Erich Zann, Lovecraft’s 1922 short story about a student who takes lodging in a weird part of the city and hears, not banjo music, but the haunting chords of the violin. Very Lovecraft. Scary, creepy, gothic – full of the unmentionable, unknowable and unspeakable. Horror. Jude Law channeling Marlin Brando quoting Conrad. “the horror, the horror” I have a confession. When I read H.P. Lovecraft I narrate the story in the voice of Jude Law as Lemony Snicket. All the more evident here reading The Music of Erich Zann, Lovecraft’s 1922 short story about a student who takes lodging in a weird part of the city and hears, not banjo music, but the haunting chords of the violin. Very Lovecraft. Scary, creepy, gothic – full of the unmentionable, unknowable and unspeakable. Horror. Jude Law channeling Marlin Brando quoting Conrad. “the horror, the horror” The thirty-one year old Lovecraft was in good form describing this Frankensteinesque setting with Dostoyevskian themes. Lovecraft’s protagonist hears strange violin music in the night and investigates to find a weird old musician, unable to communicate except for written messages in French and German and through his odd playing. The Rue d’Auseil is a setting particularly Lovecraftian - dark and twisted and mysterious, really more surrealistic than genuinely described, almost reminiscent of Kafka. Like much of Lovecraft’s work this is memorable not so much for the plot, but for the mood and atmosphere he creates.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Orient

    A Lovecraft BR with great GR dweller, Craig :) A nice story, proper scary atmosphere, with a hint of madness. I'm struggling with my reads and I feel that Lovecraft is not getting proper attention from me as it should. I'm putting Lovecraft on hold for a bit. Sorry Craig. Note to self: A Lovecraft BR with great GR dweller, Craig :) A nice story, proper scary atmosphere, with a hint of madness. I'm struggling with my reads and I feel that Lovecraft is not getting proper attention from me as it should. I'm putting Lovecraft on hold for a bit. Sorry Craig. Note to self:

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    I'm tickled to say that this 1922 horror short story by H.P. Lovecraft doesn't use the word "eldritch," not even once. It does, however, have insane viol playing, the "blackness of space illimitable," and a strange, narrow street in Paris that, even though the narrator once lived there, can never be found again. I'm just a dabbler with the horror genre generally and Lovecraft in particular, but this was a creepily enjoyable story. Read it free online here at the H.P. Lovecraft website. Full review I'm tickled to say that this 1922 horror short story by H.P. Lovecraft doesn't use the word "eldritch," not even once. It does, however, have insane viol playing, the "blackness of space illimitable," and a strange, narrow street in Paris that, even though the narrator once lived there, can never be found again. I'm just a dabbler with the horror genre generally and Lovecraft in particular, but this was a creepily enjoyable story. Read it free online here at the H.P. Lovecraft website. Full review to come.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    The Music of Erich Zann is a beautiful story of an unnamed narrator who as a student discovered the beauty and dread of the music of Erich Zann. The story is told years later after a long and unsuccessful search for a strange street where the narrator lived for a while when he was a student. The Rue d’Auseil consists of stairs and the houses don't look like ordinary houses since they lean this way or that. While living there, he hears his upstairs neighbour playing his viol. The melodies are dif The Music of Erich Zann is a beautiful story of an unnamed narrator who as a student discovered the beauty and dread of the music of Erich Zann. The story is told years later after a long and unsuccessful search for a strange street where the narrator lived for a while when he was a student. The Rue d’Auseil consists of stairs and the houses don't look like ordinary houses since they lean this way or that. While living there, he hears his upstairs neighbour playing his viol. The melodies are different in the nights. Somehow he manages to get himself invited by his neighbour and he soon realizes that maybe his curiosity isn't a good thing. His neighbour plays as if his life depends on it. You can expect the usual themes and symbols, the main one being fear of the unknown, followed by inevitable theme of forbidden knowledge (what is behind Zann's curtains) and madness. Zann writes his explanation on a piece of paper. I don't know whether to be angry, desperate or to applaud to what Lovecraft does with it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Anyone who ever thought or believed that Lovecraft was a bad writer needs to read "The Music of Erich Zann" immediately. It's brief, but I believe it is Lovecraft's masterpiece. It's a perfect story and has none of the "purple prose" problems that Lovecraft's detractors harp upon. In fact, I think the story blows anything that Poe wrote out of the water and is surely one of the best, most ideal weird tales ever written. Do yourself a favor and read it now if you haven't already.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This one is another good creeper by Lovecraft.

  10. 5 out of 5

    XPHAIEA.

    I love Lovecraft. OK. I know it's hopelessly cliche but I love his overly descriptive lushly rich prose. I remember reading this story before - it concerns a musician who sequestered away in a dusty poky old attic maniacally playing his violin. Lovecraft is an exceptional short story writer - he manages to creative evocative and richly decadent yet bizarrely antiquated settings seemingly effortlessly... "I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d’Auseil. It was almost a cl I love Lovecraft. OK. I know it's hopelessly cliche but I love his overly descriptive lushly rich prose. I remember reading this story before - it concerns a musician who sequestered away in a dusty poky old attic maniacally playing his violin. Lovecraft is an exceptional short story writer - he manages to creative evocative and richly decadent yet bizarrely antiquated settings seemingly effortlessly... "I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d’Auseil. It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall. Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation. The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below. There were a few overhead bridges from house to house across the street" There's a sense of overwhelming otherwordly menace (of course) and strange angles concealing hidden dimensions (Lovecraft seems obsessed with strange architecture x weird mathematics functioning as portals) as the protagonist engages with the mad violinist in the attic, and the tension and atmosphere builds rapidly... "There in the narrow hall, outside the bolted door with the covered keyhole, I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread—the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery. It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth, and that at certain intervals they assumed a symphonic quality which I could hardly conceive as produced by one player. Certainly, Erich Zann was a genius of wild power. As the weeks passed, the playing grew wilder, whilst the old musician acquired an increasing haggardness and furtiveness pitiful to behold" The terrible blackness is never named but its presence is felt throughout this short story - there is always a sense of doom and dread, as it lures and threatens and sucks at the fabric of reality - warded off by the ghoulish howling of the violin. It is the unknown which is after all the most terrifying.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A strange, haunting, compelling story about a university student who discovers the music of Erich Zann. Appreciated Lovecraft's writing but I was left wanting more from the ending - a greater musical background may have enhanced my enjoyment of the story as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael Sorbello

    Scary music, an entertaining concept with dazzling prose and infinite possibilities, but still boils down to a story that is essentially about a bunch of spooky noises coming from instruments. Worth reading just for the prose honestly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    José Cruz Parker

    There's something I love about Lovecraft. I can't quite put my finger on it. Even though he isn't by any means a great writer, he's the one who made me start loving literature. It could be his prose style, but I first read him in translation, and even in Spanish his stories hold up. The Music of Erich Zann is a story where many things are suggested and yet almost nothing really happens. Ol' Howard describes the setting of the story, an eerie street where the house the protagonist stays in is loc There's something I love about Lovecraft. I can't quite put my finger on it. Even though he isn't by any means a great writer, he's the one who made me start loving literature. It could be his prose style, but I first read him in translation, and even in Spanish his stories hold up. The Music of Erich Zann is a story where many things are suggested and yet almost nothing really happens. Ol' Howard describes the setting of the story, an eerie street where the house the protagonist stays in is located. Then Mr. Zann is introduced. A mute foreigner who plays strange music on his viol. Like most pieces by this author, this one is a first person narrative whose protagonist is probably a thinly disguised version of Lovecraft. A one-dimensional cardboard character whose speech consists of one adjective piled upon another. In the end, as I say, many things are implied, but we end up in the dark as to what was really going on with monsieur Zann. Anyway, H.P. considered this one of his best stories. Don't know if I agree, but it was a delightful read nonetheless.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Exceptionally creepy, but it lacks something - it doesn't have a terribly satisfying conclusion. Puzzling, more than anything, really.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sakib

    Why isn't this one of the more recognized works of Lovecraft? A very short story, but it's amazing how beautifully crafted and haunting this is! I'm waiting for the oncoming winter to come, be over and a storm to come before the onset of summer, because it's that type of story to read when the outside is a void suddenly filled with the chaos and fluctuation of mad winds and rain, with an eerie sound of that chaos brushing past buildings... Just a remarkable story, and sadly overshadowed by his "My Why isn't this one of the more recognized works of Lovecraft? A very short story, but it's amazing how beautifully crafted and haunting this is! I'm waiting for the oncoming winter to come, be over and a storm to come before the onset of summer, because it's that type of story to read when the outside is a void suddenly filled with the chaos and fluctuation of mad winds and rain, with an eerie sound of that chaos brushing past buildings... Just a remarkable story, and sadly overshadowed by his "Mythos" and other more known works...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jakob Johnson

    This is without a doubt one of the best short stories I have ever read. I think in this story, we get all of Lovecraft's best qualities- the horror, the mystery, the foreshadowing, and the ambiguity of the ontological layers of existence. After I read the story, I had trouble going to sleep, because the frightful images his diction conjured in my mind haunted me and had me questioning the truth of reality. I think that this is a brilliant story, but at the same time, I understand that it may not This is without a doubt one of the best short stories I have ever read. I think in this story, we get all of Lovecraft's best qualities- the horror, the mystery, the foreshadowing, and the ambiguity of the ontological layers of existence. After I read the story, I had trouble going to sleep, because the frightful images his diction conjured in my mind haunted me and had me questioning the truth of reality. I think that this is a brilliant story, but at the same time, I understand that it may not be accessible to everyone. Lovecraft's writing is not as easy to read as Stephen King's or Neil Gaiman's. However, for me, the difficulty of the prose gives me more to interpret, as well as more to fear. I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes fiction in general, but more specifically to fans of horror and fantasy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    JL Shioshita

    I love this story. I always like tales where horror and art are woven together in some sort of mad tapestry. This tale does it well and in a lot of ways sets the template for all the "devil's chord", insidious music, metal band terror in fiction to come.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kati

    Sheesh, that was creepy. But I loved the open ending. Wonderful! This was my introduction to Lovecraft and it made me want to get my hands on more.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Connolly

    Short story. Interesting. 4 stars. Worth the 15 minutes if your time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gardner

    More dammit. I wanted more, didn't want the story to stop. Therefore I am taking one precious star away. Come fight me for it, Lovecraft.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Forked Radish

    Refreshingly free of gratuitous adjectives, but correspondingly free of horror as well.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wolfe Tone

    Lovecraft paints a lovely picture of the music in question and the horror is quite real, but in general this story lacks substance, development and a sattisfying plot. It feels slightly rushed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    JM

    Have you ever been to a music performance so incredibly shitty that not only the building but the whole street retroactively disappears from existence? I mean, not only is it no longer there, but no one remembers it ever being there in the first place? Well, this story's narrator has. Since we're told Mr. Zann's viol playing is actually quite good, I have to assume that the imploding-into-another-dimension thing was brought about by him playing some insufferable and pompous strain of free-form ja Have you ever been to a music performance so incredibly shitty that not only the building but the whole street retroactively disappears from existence? I mean, not only is it no longer there, but no one remembers it ever being there in the first place? Well, this story's narrator has. Since we're told Mr. Zann's viol playing is actually quite good, I have to assume that the imploding-into-another-dimension thing was brought about by him playing some insufferable and pompous strain of free-form jazz improvisation or perhaps the equivalent of an endless stream of Dream Theater covers. Hey, the narrator listened to Erich Zann before it was cool. What's more, he has such a stone cold case of hipster cred, that nobody except him can even remember that this guy existed. Talk about an unbeatable case of "You probably never heard of this musician I like."

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Cesarone

    Short story about a student who hears some very strange music coming from another apartment in his building in an obscure section of a large, old city, and makes the acquaintance of the strange old mute who plays it. It turns out the musician is trying to keep at bay some nameless, faceless horror that we never get to see. It has the usual HPL unnamed first-person narrator, but in other ways had some very unusual characteristics for HPL: first, it is set in (apparently) Paris, not New England. A Short story about a student who hears some very strange music coming from another apartment in his building in an obscure section of a large, old city, and makes the acquaintance of the strange old mute who plays it. It turns out the musician is trying to keep at bay some nameless, faceless horror that we never get to see. It has the usual HPL unnamed first-person narrator, but in other ways had some very unusual characteristics for HPL: first, it is set in (apparently) Paris, not New England. Also, much like The Statement of Randolph Carter, it was left very open-ended, instead of using the explicit and detailed monsters and plot points that HPL seems to love so much. Very haunting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    One of those strange Lovecraft tales, here the narrator gets lodgings on a rather unusual steet where most of the residents are quite old, he eventually meets a violinist called Erich Zann.....

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrés Diplotti

    Wow. Lovecraft can do subtlety and understatement. Color me pleasantly surprised.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Juanita

    Creepy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ashwin

    Reading “The Music of Erich Zann,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Family Guy cutaway depicting Stephen King, clearly out of ideas, telling his editor that he will write a horror story about a crazy lamp. Of course, a little digging into Lovecraft’s bibliography shows that this tale was written around the middle of his career, but I bring up the similarity because I felt that Lovecraft was phoning it in with this one. The premise is the same as a lot of his other tales; a man goes to a su Reading “The Music of Erich Zann,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Family Guy cutaway depicting Stephen King, clearly out of ideas, telling his editor that he will write a horror story about a crazy lamp. Of course, a little digging into Lovecraft’s bibliography shows that this tale was written around the middle of his career, but I bring up the similarity because I felt that Lovecraft was phoning it in with this one. The premise is the same as a lot of his other tales; a man goes to a supernatural village and experiences something that changes him forever. Here, though, that catalyst is listening to a fellow neighbor’s music at the apartment complex he rents. Haunting music has been a mainstay of horror movies for a while, but that’s just it- it’s been a mainstay of MOVIES. You can actually hear the changes in tempo and dark harmonies intended by the composer. With a standard book you don’t have that luxury. Yet the gist of “Erich Zann” rests on this notion that the narrator is being drawn to strangely vibrant tunes created by the eponymous artist. When Lovecraftian horror fails with regards to visuals, it’s not a complete loss since I can still somewhat imagine what the author was going for. Lovecraftian sound, however, is a complete disaster- he even says in the book that you wouldn’t be able to understand unless you had an understanding of music, though something tells me that even an astute musician would have issues deciphering descriptions of the viol’s ominous sounds. This all culminates in the narrator going to Zann’s room and discovering the truth behind his mad playing, and the resolution falls flat. It’s not scary or even that surprising, and it leaves too many questions left unanswered for its own good (compared to “The Silver Key,” which I found to have a better balance of mythos to realism). This poor balance extends to Zann, who is given barely any characterization, making me not that invested in either him or the protagonist. His notes explaining how things came to be are conveniently destroyed during the course of the narrative, making me wonder if this was just an excuse by Lovecraft to cover up for he himself not knowing what was going on. Overall, just an unimportant short story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Holm

    "There in the narrow hall, outside the bolted door with the covered keyhole, I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread—the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery. It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth […]" As with other celebrated works of Lovecraft, “The Music of Erich Zann” has been transmogrified into a considerable number of modern adaptations, including short films, animatio "There in the narrow hall, outside the bolted door with the covered keyhole, I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread—the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery. It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth […]" As with other celebrated works of Lovecraft, “The Music of Erich Zann” has been transmogrified into a considerable number of modern adaptations, including short films, animations, pencil drawings, and instrumental pieces (not to mention the obligatory plethora of heavy metal songs). Penned in late 1921, it is narrated by an aging academic, recounting his stranger than strange experience as a breadline-teetering lodger in a mysterious, now impossible-to-find, street of an unspecified French city. The elusive Rue d’Auseil (whose distinguishing noun, spelling error aside, tellingly translates into ‘threshold’) is located in an incredibly steep, crazily sloping neighbourhood, made all the more unwelcoming by an evil-smelling nearby river. Here, taking up humble accommodation in the street’s tallest building, the narrator hears the music of Erich Zann, a mute viol player described first-off and first-hand as a “small, lean, bent person, with shabby clothes, blue eyes, grotesque, satyr-like face, and nearly bald head”. After that chance encounter, the weird turns eerie to become stark terror. “The Music of Erich Zann” plays on a recurrent theme in Lovecraft’s fiction, which is the inability of the human senses to process, even sufficiently register, otherworldly stimuli. As to extraterrestrial cacophonies, intergalactic strains, etc., turning up elsewhere in the Lovecraftian mythos, just take a peek at this lovely portrayal of the blind idiot god Azathoth from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926-1927): “that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity […] beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes”.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nv

    There goes 2020's shortest book in the end-of-year review, like listing on GR the first story of the book of Aesop's Fables. But the bang for buck on these 11 pages is as high as I'm apt to find, and it deserves its own review. From the first line of this book, the tension starts off ramped up at 10 and remains that way, only moving from a creeping terror at the back of one's mind to a frenetic hysterical terror punching you in the face. I don't know if it's because we know Lovecraft, or if it's There goes 2020's shortest book in the end-of-year review, like listing on GR the first story of the book of Aesop's Fables. But the bang for buck on these 11 pages is as high as I'm apt to find, and it deserves its own review. From the first line of this book, the tension starts off ramped up at 10 and remains that way, only moving from a creeping terror at the back of one's mind to a frenetic hysterical terror punching you in the face. I don't know if it's because we know Lovecraft, or if it's a feature of the writing, but in any other story, especially one written today, this would be a psychological thriller where we're doubting the sanity and reliability of the narrator, highlighted right away with the inability to find the Rue D'Auseil. Was he tripping? DId he imagine the whole thing? No, it's reality that's messed up.  Like the linguistics of Snow Crash, there's the sacred mystery of deep structures that music brings so easily, despite the killjoy efforts to describe it as auditory cheesecake, an abstraction of objective truth like Plato's geometry. So in a world where Euclidian geometry breaks down, and the music gets equally twisted into shapes we cannot access, the threads of our sanity get slowly spun out. I can't imagine just how scary this would have been when it came out, pretty much everything terrifying about it remains an evergreen trope of our horror movies and novels today.  Discordant music that taps straight into your amygdalaAn old eccentric of uncommon genius A place, a memory, that cannot be found or recreated The ever present immensity of chaotic annihilation and the wafer-thin layer of safety that separates our ridiculous fragility, like Dragnipur An unseen power and the silent guardians protecting you from it The corpse, emptied of essence, still animated by pure purpose

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