The Music of Erich Zann

"The Music of Erich Zann" is a horror short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922.[1]

"The Music of Erich Zann"
AuthorH. P. Lovecraft
CountryUnited States
PublisherThe National Amateur
Media typeMagazine
Publication dateMarch 1922


Due to lack of funds, a university student is forced to take up lodging in an almost empty apartment building on a street named "Rue d'Auseil". One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol[lower-alpha 1] 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 dissatisfaction with his own music, the student invites himself to hear Zann play at his room. While watching the first night, the student's curiosity attracts him to the window of the room, which is the only window that can oversee the wall at the end of the mysterious street. Zann seems disturbed to discover that the student is able to hear his melody from his room and asks the student in a friendly manner to move to a lower floor where he won't hear Zann's music, only to return the next day to his antisocial behavior once the student has moved.

As Zann isolates himself more and more, eventually the student decides to sneak behind his door to listen to the strange melodies. One night the student hears a commotion and Zann's scream inside the room. When the student knocks at the door, Zann lets him in and asks him to wait while he writes a manuscript detailing his whole ordeal. More than an hour into writing, Zann is startled by a distant sound in the form of a low note, interrupts the manuscript and starts playing his viol with a crescent fear. A gust of wind shatters the window, and an unnatural wind sweeps through the room, carrying away Zann's unread manuscripts out the window, despite the man's attempts at catching them. When the student looks out the window, instead of seeing the city lights, he only sees an infinite dark abyss, as if the window was a portal to another dimension. It is then that the student learns Zann's secret; the old man discovered melodies and rhythms of sound of an almost otherworldly nature. Zann plays these sounds to keep back unknown and unseen creatures from his window.

When the student finds Zann's seemingly dead body still playing his instrument, he flees not just the house but the entire neighborhood. Writing an account of the incident years later, the student states that he has never been able to find Rue d'Auseil again. It does not appear on any maps, and it seems no one else has ever heard of it.


The setting of the story is presumably Paris, though the city is never named. Auseil is not a true French word, but it has been suggested that Lovecraft derived it from the phrase au seuil, meaning at the threshold.[3] Auseil is read like oseille, meaning sorrel or, colloquially, money.


Lovecraft considered "The Music of Erich Zann" one of his best stories, in part because it avoided the overexplicitness that he saw as a major flaw in some of his other work. An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia notes that it "might, however, be said that HPL erred on the side of underexplicitness in the very nebulous horror to be seen through Zann's garret window."[2]

The story was frequently anthologized even during Lovecraft's lifetime, including in Dashiell Hammett's 1931 collection Creeps by Night.[3] Ramsey Campbell has stated that "The Music of Erich Zann" was "the single Lovecraft story that the late Robert Aickman liked".[4] Campbell himself used only "The Music of Erich Zann" when creating the Folio Book of Horror Stories.[5]



A comic book adaption exists, released in 1993 by Caliber Press. It apparently incorporates vistas and creatures described in The Dreams in the Witch House in the story including the eponymous Erich Zann encountering Nyarlathotep in flashbacks.[6]

A comic book adaptation was released independently in 2019 by cartoonist Guy Thomas.



  • A short film adaptation was directed by John Strysik in 1980.
  • A South Korean short film adaptation (retitled The Music of Jo Hyeja) was directed by Jihyun Park in 2012.
  • Another short film adaptation was directed by Reuben Baron in 2016.
  • Leigh Blackmore scripted a short film version in 1975, however the script was never shot.


  • American composer Raymond Wilding-White created a piece in 1980 by the same title for violin and electronics, with Eugene Gratovich of DePaul University in the role of the university student.
  • Univers Zéro's album Ceux du dehors (1981) includes a track titled "La musique d'Erich Zann". According to drummer and bandleader Daniel Denis, all members read the short story in the studio and promptly improvised the piece.[7]
  • German technical thrash metal band Mekong Delta titled their 1988 second album The Music of Erich Zann after the story.
  • British Anarcho-punk band Rudimentary Peni featured a depiction of Eric Zann on the original cover of their 1988 album Cacophony.
  • Hungarian Metal band Without Face has a song called "The Violin of Erich Zann" on the 2002 album Astronomicon.
  • German ambient band Forma Tadre titled their 2008 album The Music of Erich Zann.
  • Greek death metal band Septic Flesh references the story in the song "Lovecraft's Death" on their 2008 album Communion.
  • American thrash metal band Revocation song "Madness Opus" off their 2014 album Deathless is based on off The Music of Erich Zann.
  • Eric Zann is a pseudonym of Jim Jupp, who has released an album on the Ghost Box Music record label.
  • French composer Claude Ballif wrote stage music of the same title.
  • The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets' 2017 album The Dukes of Alhazred included a track titled Erich Zann.
  • I Monster's 2017 album A Dollop of HP illustrated four of Lovecraft's short stories including The Music of Erich Zann, narrated by David Yates.
  • British band Abigail's Party wrote a song of the same title.
  • Singer/songwriter Jon Baade wrote a song titled "The Music Erich Zann" as a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft's story. It was recorded on Seelie Court's album, Rising in the North (2002) and on the Water Street Bridge album, Filker's Handbook (2018.)


  • Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, based his small, indie game 'The Life of Erich Zann' on H.P. Lovecraft's short story, as part of a '12 Games in 12 Months' series of videos, uploaded to the YouTube channel 'Escapist' and on the 'Escapist Magazine' website.


    • Although Zann's instrument is often depicted as a violin (see "Influence" below), Lovecraft's intended use of this term appears to be to refer to a violoncello: in a letter to Elizabeth Toldridge (October 31, 1931?) he describes Zann as a "'cellist".[2]


  1. Straub, Peter (2005). Lovecraft: Tales. The Library of America. p. 823. ISBN 1-931082-72-3.
  2. Joshi and Schultz, p. 177.
  3. Joshi and Schultz, p. 178.
  4. Ramsey Campbell, "Chasing the Unknown", in Cold Print. Headline, 1993, ISBN 0-7472-4059-0, (p.12).
  6. Steven Philip Jones (w), Aldin Baroza (a). The Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft: The Music of Erich Zann (1993), Caliber Press
  7. Colli, Beppi (August 9, 2005). "Interview: Daniel Denis (Univers Zero)". Clouds and Clocks. Retrieved February 14, 2016.


  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1984) [1925]. "The Music of Erich Zann". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-037-8. Definitive version.
  • Harksen, Henrik. Metaphysics in "The Music of Erich Zann" . Denmark: H. Harksen Productions, 2003 for the Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association Mailing No 123 (July 2003).
  • S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia
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