The Music of Erich Zann

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The first question I had upon finishing the story of "The Music of Erich Zann" by H.P. Lovecraft, was what exactly was the story? The descriptions were downright creepy alright, especially of the surroundings along the course to the "tottering house in the Rue d'Auseil". I also did think it masterful how H.P. Lovecraft employed all the other senses as well in laying out the dark atmosphere of this story. But that is where my interest in the story stopped. The ending was disappointing. I think he may have been going for the let the reader's imagination fill in the blanks of what was outside the window or why exactly the old man was playing so strangely but it didn't work in my case. I was left with a big case of that's it?

The second question I had was why in the world would the student want to find the Rue d'Auseil again? He tells us of his terrible experience with the Erich Zann and the wild music there, how poorly his health was during that time, his terror in seeing what was out the window, and, in leaving the place when the old man died (or did he?). That part of the storyline didn't work for me either.  I also didn't get why Erich Zann would be writing out his account of all the "marvels and terrors which beset him". And in german? I know the old guy was german, but was the student versed in german too? I know this may be nit-picking, but it bothered me. Then if we can believe that, the sheets "which alone could have explained the music of Erich Zann" get blown out the window. So, we never get to know what they were about either. Unless I missed it, I don't think we even were given any clues on what was in Erich's account.

Upon the second reading of the story, I thought of another explanation for the storyline that might be possible. The student tells us that a) his mental and physical health was disturbed during his time in the Rue d'Auseil, b) he can't find the Rue d'Auseil or its area on any maps of the city, c) he's never met anyone that has seen the Rue d'Auseil, d) the inhabitants of the street were "silent and reticent" and he decided they were just "all very old", and finally e) "I wasn't myself when I moved there". Could it be that the story was about this student that either went into a coma or got delirious with some sort of illness, and, then, dreamed a horrific nightmare about Rue d'Auseil and Erich Zann's wild music? That might explain the non-closure of the elements in the story - we often don't see or understand the endings of dreams or nightmares.

I get the impression from internet searches that this is a very popular H.P. Lovecraft story. Sorry, other than the wonderful descriptions, I don't get it. I liked "Pickman's Model" a lot better.

2 Comments

Swea - With the following statement - "I was left with a big case of that's it?" - you perfectly summed up my impression of this piece. Like you, I don't understand why this is such a popular Lovecraft story. I also agree that Lovecraft's descriptions were stunning, but they failed to redeem this work for me. Finally, I had a similar thought that this might have been just a nightmare the student had, though I didn't particularly care even then.

I concur. There was no story, no reasoning for what went on. The Whys and the Hows left to the reader to wonder. I don't mind that sometimes but most of the time if you do that you better have more to go with after it's said and done.

And maybe the narrator was all screwed up, whether it be from drugs or a mental disability, Lovecraft didn't give us enough evidence or clues to conclude that that was the problem and therefore the story is just in the narrator's mind. But he leaves it as though this tale that he is telling us is indeed what happened.

I really believe that Lovecraft's intentions in a lot of his work was to mainly focus on the creep factor and nothing more. Set the mood, tone, setting, crazy characters, and that's it, leaving the meat of the story and the Why to the story untouched. Maybe because he couldn't really handle it. Not his strong suit. And because of this his endings fell flat.

If it wasn't for his Mythos would he even be as popular as he is. Not sure but something tells me probably not. I think he was better at creating the story in his mind than writing it down on paper. A really good creative thinker but not a really great storyteller. But who knows, he's the one we're still talking about and reading after all these years....and definitely not me.

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