The street is not far from his university and is bordered by a river, dark warehouses and a large wall, giving the street an appearance of 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. 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. 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.
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I can see why. Aickman favored obliqueness and indirection in his tales of the uncanny, and for once, in Eric Zann, Lovecraft does too, producing a small, understated tale of horror that keeps the adjectives and exclamation points at a minimum, and lets the reader scare himself.
The old man, after much reluctance, allows the young man to listen, but the music he plays for him is not the same stuff he plays when alone. Finally, one night, he does play his secret music, and the university man learns, to his horror, who and what Zann plays the music for. I like the entire story, but perhaps my favorite part is the beginning, with the nightmarish, distorted description of the decrepit old street presumably in Paris where the narrator lives.
It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall.
Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation. The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below.
There were a few overhead bridges from house to house across the street. The inhabitants of that street impressed me peculiarly. At first I thought it was because they were all silent and reticent; but later decided it was because they were all very old
The Music of Erich Zann
La música de Erich Zann