Monday, October 17, 2011

The Music of Erich Zann, by H.P. Lovecraft

This is another favorite of mine. It's about a poor college student that accepts a room in this strange apartment building on this weird street where all of the buildings lean one way or another. Lovecraft mentions that on certain parts of the street, if the buildings on either side are both leaning inward, they almost touch at the top. Certain buildings have bridges from one to another. These aren't necessarily important details, but I find them absolutely charming imagery.

So the student starts hearing music from upstairs. It's crazy, haunting music, using notes and melodies that the protagonist has never heard before. He eventually decides to visit the man upstairs, who is a mute man named Erich Zann, who plays the viol. I will admit I had no idea was a viol was (it is, in fact, a type of viola, which I was guessing) and had to look it up after hearing this story. In any case, the man plays him a rather boring song, and the student gets frustrated and insists that he's heard more. He attempts to whistle one of the melodies that he'd heard Mr. Zann playing on previous nights, and Zann becomes agitated and kicks him out, even going so far as to petition the landlord to move the student further away in the building. The student is still able to hear him play nightly, however, and one night hears his music become frantic and then cease. Worrying about the old man, he visits his room and rouses him. In the course of his brief visit, he looks out the man's window and sees that it's not a view of the street, but rather an endless and violent oblivion which Erich Zann believes to be the entrance to another dimension. Before he rushes from the room, he discovers that the music Erich Zann plays is to keep back creatures that are fighting to get in through the window.

Like 'The Rats in the Walls', I really have no negative critique to offer as far as this story is concerned. One thing that both stories have in common, that I absolutely love, is a subtlety that hints at a terrifying, alien, monstrous existence rather than the physical and dynamic presence of monsters. I was not surprised to see, when looking up the correct spelling of the name 'Erich Zann', the huge amount of bands that have named themselves, their albums, or a song in some manner after this story. What an awesome and terrifying concept, and an unbelievably haunting role it would be, to play the gatekeeper between dimensions, armed only with a musical instrument. Can you imagine the things that man may have witnessed hurtling towards his window?

No comments:

Post a Comment