H. P. Lovecraft

The Music of Erich Zann

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The Music of Erich Zann by H. P. Lovecraft is a horror short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922. The story is an account of the enigmatic Erich Zann, an elderly musician whose unique and unworldly melodies draw the curiosity of a young university student. Plot Due to lack of funds, a student studying metaphysics abroad is forced to take up lodging in a cheap apartment building on a street named the "Rue d'Auseil". The street is not far from his university and is bordered by a river, dark warehouses and a large wall, and is described as being very steeply inclined, as if being on a cliff. The student cannot see what lies on the other side of the wall, as only a single window on the top floor of his building looks over it. Along with the building's disabled landlord, Blandot, one of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol[a] with a local theater orchestra. He lives alone on the top floor and at night he plays strange melodies the student has never heard before. Despite Zann's reclusiveness, Blandot reveals his identity to the student, who approaches him in the hallway one evening and asks if he can listen to Zann's music. Zann relents and allows the student to enter his room. He plays for the student some of his unique melodies but not the same as the student had previously heard. The student asks him if he could play his music from the previous nights, awkwardly humming and whistling the notes he remembered. Zann is taken aback by the request and nervously glances at the window in his room, covered by curtains. The student recognizes the window as the only one that can oversee the wall at the end of the mysterious street. He approaches it to look outside but Zann angrily pulls him back. The student is fed up with Zann's eccentricities but Zann explains through writing that he is simply a lonely old man, and suffers from numerous phobias and nervous disorders. He is pleased that the student likes his music, but refuses to play the particular tunes that the student asked for. He persuades the student to move to a lower floor in the apartment as he would prefer the student not listen to them. The student sympathizes with Zann and agrees to move. Zann promises that he will invite the student to his room to hear his other music. After the student moves, however, Zann returns to his antisocial behavior and his health deteriorates, eventually not letting the student listen at all.
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