AOH :: E-ZANN.TXT|
Borderland: The Evocations of Erich Zann - Theroux
THE EVOCATIONS OF ERICH ZANN
H. P. Lovecraft is most widely recognized as the author of such preternatural works like
The Call of Cuthulu and The Colour Out of Space but a most fascinating work which I have
ne'er seen even a brief mention of is The Music of Erich Zann.
Let us speak of calling forth the Old Ones to once again open the gates through
which those of the void will re-enter, to confront Yog-sothoth, and to enter the realm of
abysmal chaos in uncharted counterspace.
These are the unequivocal actions of Erich Zann whose evocative powers did not
come from the recitation of verbose incantations alleged to the great Book of Dead
Names, The Necronomicon, but from the contrapuntal magic of his musical
To briefly recount the story, we are at first introduced to the loathsome setting of
the infamous Rue d'Auseil in the seemingly unintelligible and typically anonymous first-
person ramblings of Lovecraftian style. We are shortly thereafter led to this character's
discovery and subsequent befriending of a Mr. Erich Zann, who is described as "a
composer of highly original genius". In the end we find Mr. Zann furiously thrashing
about his violin, eyes bulging, cold and zombie-like, while his guest takes a peek out of
the window through the blown open shutters and to his horror finds not the familiar city of
lights below but "an impenetrable darkness of chaos and Pandemonium having no
semblance of anything on earth".
Of course, this 'brief re-telling' certainly does not do the story justice. What we
are really interested in is the exact nature of the so-called 'weird harmonies' with which
Erich Zann was able to transcend this earth-bound dimension. We needn't be reminded
that this is indeed a work of fiction. All too often we have noted Lovecraft's ingenuity at
crafting a tale around the diverse occultisms with which he was versed. That we hope to
learn something new in this unclaimed region of occult music is our dominant objective.
And, need it be said,...this definitely isn't the music of the spheres!
Upon examination of the descriptions of Mr. Zann's music we can begin to
realize it for its evocative powers:
"strains of his own devising...they were a kind of fugue with recurrent passages
of the most captivating quality"
"at certain intervals they assumed a symphonic quality which I could hardly
conceive as produced by one player"
The very first thing of note is that these "strains which were a kind of fugue"
implies the most highly developed form of counterpoint. Interesting that Lovecraft should
harken back to the days of the contrapuntal stylings of the Baroque era when he should
at once be more familiar with the more modernistic compositional prowess of his day,
but we shall soon come to understand his most profound choice.
The contrapuntal style, in its essence, is the dimensional crossroad of musical
form. In the Voudoun systems, the crossroads beholds an undeniable puissance whose
intersection is the gateway to otherworldly dimensions betwixed the planes and is
helpfully conjured by the polyrhythmic drumming of the Petro Rites. Likewise, the
polyphony of planar melodies in the contrapuntal songform with its interwoven
conjunctions and inversions creates the same gateways but with seemingly greater
flexibility and control within the confines of melody and harmony. As in projective
geometry, the many points, or notes and phrases in a melody make up the plane, hence
two or more melodies (planes) conjoined in song will indeed form counterspatial points,
or more clearly, entrances into the spaces of the spiritual.
The rhythmic interplay between peripheral and centric planar forces in
counterspatial or projective geometries most aptly defines these gateways becoming
multidimensionless subliminal yantras for the subconscious playground. When applied
to this music certain spatial dimensions become quite obvious as the melodies dance in
and around one another but, it is the things that we do not so consciously hear that are of
great import such as inverted and retrograde themes. But to know of these things is to
assay their usage. One may see hints of the learned Gilman in Lovecraft's The Dreams
in the Witch House who crosses the dimensional boundaries through the non-euclidean
architectural designs of the house itself. Here, it is also necessary to mention Austin
Spare's coordination of space and time by the use of two perspectives simultaneously in
many of his drawings.
To speculate further into these mysteries we might assume that Lovecraft was
actually hinting at a more obscure euphonic vernacular as yet to be developed. One may
cite as an example, the musical language of the twentieth century composer Olivier
Messiaen. For it is in the works of Messiaen that we find the departure of resolved
dissonance; that consonance or harmony becomes decorative and therefore a
dissonance cannot exist as we identify it. With Messiaen the euclidean angularity of
form commonly identified by the unification of rhythm, melody and harmony has become
disassociated. More clearly, the total independence of these three musical elements
(rhythm, harmony, and melody) allows for a virtual timelessness to occur within the
music. Where rhythm functions as the extension of durations in time rather than in strict
divisions, harmony working in conjunction with melody defines the elements of space
and the dissociation of these elements allows for the suspension of time in that the
harmonic content is allowed to ascend vertically rather than plod along horizontally.
Alas, we have been led back to the crossroad of space and time ultimately by their
apparent dissection whereby only through the use of projective geometries are we able
to fully comprehend this counter-dimensional phenomenon.
Our diversion from the familiar Cartesian definitions of space to an all
encompassing geometry of movement and position where no metric relations exist is
certainly not unfounded and concomitant with our musical inquests can be the only
method of spatial interpretation. From Poncelet, J. Steiner to C. P. Steinmetz of
Lovecraft's day, all preferred the synthetic method of geometric interpretation over the
analytic as with the synthetic we are able to see what we are doing and obtain a physical
conception of it. This means that there is no place for the newly so-called sciences of
chaos (magic?) within the realm of dimensional discovery, for in their worship of the
ultra-dogmatic foundations of orthodox physics they bombastically adhere to the use of
purely Euclidean techniques creating nothing more than a fractally fractured fairy tale.
Upon returning to the original intention of explicating Erich Zann's musical
inspiration one of the most important aspects of his compositional agility is the fact that
his themes initially originated from the spontaneity of improvisation. It is with some
regret that this invocative phenomenon of extemporization would seem to be mostly
confined to the musician's internal experience but it is when the musician is able to fully
translate this into an evocative format that the listener is also deeply affected. How this
is accomplished will always remain a mystery to the uninitiated non-musician but as we
read of Mr. Zann's somewhat twisted and grotesque appearance while playing the violin
we may recognise a continuity among all musicians who have achieved this state. We
may at once allude to the agonising convulsions of Jimmy Smith at the Hammond organ
or the facial contortions of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin as his fingers fly over the
fingerboard of his guitar -- both possessing a most extraordinary improvisational
At last we come to the end of the tale with Mr. Zann reverting to a common
Hungarian dance in order to banish that which he has so skillfully evoked. It is the
telluric energies from which any and all folk music has evolved that will provide the
means of grounding so necessary upon return to our familiar plane. Whether or not he
was successful in warding off his monstrous creations or even returning to this earthly
dimension, we will never know. But, we can be certain of one thing... the music of Erich
Zann is not just a work of fiction. Its interpretation beholds a truly powerful reality of
artistic expression which will continue to exist in the sphere of...
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