Tag Archives: musical phantoms

Undreamable Abysses

 The Music of Erich Zann  by H.P. Lovecraft

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    January  7, 2014

If music could transport man into an unknown realm, what kind of music would it be? Something glittery and spiritual? Or something frenetic with deformed purple notes? If any author can bring a reader to the threshold between the real world and beyond, it’s H.P. Lovecraft.

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In The Music of Erich Zann, our narrator is a university student of metaphysics. The city is probably Paris, but the name  is not confirmed. The student takes a room in the boarding house on the Rue d’ Auseil, which is a steep and narrow street, a cliff actually that lies beyond the dark river, beyond the bridge made of dark stone—a perfect metaphor for the edge of madness that defines the story.

Erich Zann is a Renaissance viol-player and a mute with a wrinkled satyr-like face. He lives in the one-windowed garret of the peaked boarding house on the Rue d’Auseil and every night plays his music. The student lies away each night, listening to the haunting and eerie notes. He is so intrigued that he knocks on the musician’s door to establish a friendship and hear more of Zann’s odd music. But Zann’s music fills the student with dreadful and brooding vibrations.

“Then one night as I listened at the door I heard the shrieking viol swell into a chaotic babel of sound; a pandemonium which would have led me to doubt my own shaking sanity had there not come from behind that barred portal a piteous proof that the horror was real—the awful, inarticulate cry which only a mute can utter, and which rises only in moments of the most terrible fear of anguish.”

Are you ready to enter the boarding house garret and experience not only the ghoulish howls of Zann’s musical viol but plunge into undreamable abysses?

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Read the short story at hplovecraft.com 

Listen to the narration by Mike Bennett on YouTube

For you film fans, watch John Strysik’s adaptation in two parts (total time 17 minutes):

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeMNDhTWJ-o

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqQWrZFHouA

 

Note: Women in Horror Month is February. Get ready Tales of Terror fans!

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Dancing the Witches’ Goat Dance

The Ensouled Violin (1892)  by Mme. Blavatsky (Helena Petrovna Blavatsky)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   October 8, 2013        Women in Horror Month

Words create images. Does this headline conjure up images of craggy women flying on goats or witches dancing back to back around fiery circles? Press refresh in your mind. What if musical notes could create thick shapes and figures right before your eyes? Imagine the dance of violin music. If you’ve ever listened deeply to Paganini’s Witches’ Dance  (La Streghe) you might know how his music can enter us in a very muscular way. But could music transform into a spell of images before our eyes? If music could perform such a supernatural event, is it the violin or the violinist that has that power?

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Mme. Blavatsky brings us a story full of musical mesmerism, and Paganini is a major character drawn in full color. Paganini’s reputation for becoming bewitched by the devil in exchange for his brilliant career holds the central theme. The Italian was revered for playing his Witches Dance “pizzicato” with the left hand directly on the gut strings—without the aid of the bow. Was his superior talent singularly human?

In The Ensouled Violin, Franz Stenio, our semi-talented, young and aspiring musician dreams with his eyes open. He daydreams of nymphs and sirens, Calliope, Orpheus, and Olympus. These muses contribute to his Bohemian and penniless life. Until an old German, Samuel Klaus, a generous and hearty music teacher, decides to take Franz into his home as his own son. Klaus instills in Franz an ambition for exceptional talent and worldly fame, fame that might compete with the great and powerful Paganini. Off they go to Paris.

Paganini_by_Richard_James_Lane

 

Yep, there are lots of discordant notes going on here, cacophonous cries of frenzy, a phantasmagoria, and Eastern Black Magic. Violins are mysterious instruments, singing out to us with the smallest swipe of the bow from their enchanting gut strings. One wonders, exactly whose gut strings are they that can create such beautiful sounds? Goats? Cats? Sheep? This is where the story gets especially ghastly. What kind of gut strings does Paganini use in his violin?

The old German teacher tells Franz the story of Paganini’s supernatural art and the Italian’s reputed deal with the devil. Franz is shocked but deeply curious. He asks Klaus, “Do you really believe that had I only the means of obtaining human intestines for strings, I could rival Paganini?”

Klaus unveiled his face, and, with a strange look of determination upon it, softly answered:  “Human intestines alone are not sufficient for our purpose; they must have belonged to someone who had loved us well, with an unselfish holy love.”

Unselfish holy love? Blavatsky doesn’t leave us hanging for long with this sinister turn in the story. By the witches of Thessaly and the dark arts of Circe, our young and tender Franz chooses his fate … and the fate of another.

BlatvaskyPortraitimagesBlavatsky was a seductive storyteller. She became famous for being a philosopher, spiritualist, pioneer in the occult, one of the first people to coin the phrase the sixth sense, and  was co-founder of The Theosophical Society in 1875. Her fiction is a small batch of stories in Nightmare Tales, published in 1907.

Read The Ensouled Violin at Gaslight:

http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/gaslight/ensoulvn.htm

 

May I suggest, for an added appreciation of this very extraordinary short story, you listen to Paganini’s Witches Dance at Classical Music Online. What could be better than a classic horror story and a magnificent piece of classical music to complement the experience? Well, perhaps a glass of wine, preferably in a cut-glass goblet. Magnifico!

http://classical-music-online.net/en/listen/43608

You can access more of Mme. Blavatsky’s short stories in the links below,  at the Theosophical University Press Online Edition.

CAN THE DOUBLE MURDER? — (c. 1876-77)
AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY — (c. 1876-77)
KARMIC VISIONS — (June 1888)
THE LEGEND OF THE BLUE LOTUS — (April 1890)
A BEWITCHED LIFE — (c. 1890-91)
THE LUMINOUS SHIELD — (c. 1890-91)
THE CAVE OF THE ECHOES — (c. 1890-91)
FROM THE POLAR LANDS — (c. 1890-91)

THE ENSOULED VIOLIN — (c. 1890-91)

http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/nightmar/night-hp.htm

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

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Filed under horror, literature, occult, quiet horror, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror, weird tales, Women In Horror