December Belongs To Cthulhu

12 Days of Lovecraft: “The Music of Erich Zann”

Hey! Is that Freedom Rock? No! It’s “The Music of Erich Zann”! Well, turn it up!

The Story:

After revealing that he once lived on a street that he has never been able to find since despite diligent searching, our narrator tells us of what happened when he lived there. He had a room on the fourth floor, just below the garret room occupied by the titular genius composer/violinist. Intrigued by the music he hears emanating from the composer’s apartment, he introduces himself and asks to hear the man perform. Erich Zann does perform reluctantly, but does not play any of the strange, unearthly harmonies the narrator heard earlier. When the narrator tries to look out the window, Erich totally freaks out and kicks him out. He later relents and offers to pay for the narrator to move to a lower floor.

He does move, but still sneaks up the stairs to hear Erich Zann’s unearthly harmonies and stuff. One night he’s alarmed by what he hears, so he knocks violently on the door. Zann admits him and, since he can’t talk, begins writing out a catalog of all the horrors he’s faced. Then Zann looks with horror toward the window—at the sound of a low note from outside the window, Zann begins playing more furiously than ever. The candles blow out, and in the darkness, our narrator, apparently still determined to see that fifth floor view, throws open the window and stares into a dark void that is clearly not what the real estate agent meant when she said “panoramic view.” Zann is still playing his music, but touching his face reveals that he is stone dead. At this point our narrator sensibly flees the scene, never to return.

What’s Awesome:

I found this a wonderfully and atypically understated story. It’s clear that something horrible is going on; it’s not clear exactly what it is. Because Zann is unable to speak (except with his music, which is kind of a cool touch) he can’t explain, and when he does, his explanation literally flies out the window. Ultimately this is a story about how there’s a whole lot of weird shit that goes on, and you don’t always get to understand it. This is one of my favorite horror themes, since it seems so fundamentally true of life outside of horror stories too.

What’s Less Than Awesome:

Even I have a hard time complaining about this one. There’s the problem that it’s kind of hard to imagine music that doesn’t sound like any other music, just as it was hard to visualize the heretofore unknown “Colour Out of Space,” but otherwise, this is short, spooky, and to the point. Well done, H.P.!


Seamus Cooper is the author of The Mall of Cthulhu (Night Shade Books, 2009).  He lives in Boston, and fear not: that unearthly music you hear emanating from his room is actually Lordi’s The Arockalypse.

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