Based On The Story By H.P. Lovecraft
Michael J. Evans composer
Composer Michael J. Evans’ THE MUSIC OF ERICH ZANN is a startling and surreal musical interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1922 tale of the eponymous violist – a mysterious old man who seemingly protects himself from dark, magical forces by playing the viol.
Evans is a gifted melodist, and his other PARMA Recordings and Navona albums showcase his predilections for the rich textures and harmonic language of late European Romanticism. In the THE MUSIC OF ERICH ZANN, however, Evans departs from these tendencies, to an extent, in order to convey a clear, taut, and compelling musical narrative full of exotic sounds that capture the mysticism and drama of Lovecraft’s story.
Evans sets an ominous stage for the piece in its first movement, which alternates between slow, dark counterpoint in the cello and violin and rhythmic interjections of col legno battuto – a technique that calls for string players to play their instruments by hitting them with the wood of their bows. In this introduction, the quartet strains and creaks, embodying the ghostly, derelict boarding house that serves as the setting of Lovecraft’s story.
The tale is told retrospectively through the eyes of a university student who happens upon the tenement in an unnamed European city. The story’s narrator seems not to be represented by a specific theme in Evans’ interpretation, but he clearly marks the otherworldly musical performances of his elderly neighbor by adding electronic delay and other sounds to the quartet’s performance.
This special effect is the most extreme in Evans’ aforementioned palette of evocative and unusual sounds, which also includes glissandi, harmonics, and, most powerfully, a variety of sophisticated rhythmic textures that suggest the paranormal characteristics of Lovecraft’s boarding house. Evans also uses these sonic markers with irreproachable skill to build dramatic tension and lead the listener into the story’s climactic scene, the apex of which is made more frightening by a human scream.
Here, the dark stakes of Lovecraft’s story violate the abstraction of Evans’ purely musical setting and seemingly become real. The moment is jarring and visceral – a tremendously effective aural expression of the confrontation that takes place between evil forces and Lovecraft’s main characters. Evans’ piece ends almost exactly as it began, which invites the listener to wonder the same thing as Lovecraft’s narrator who, after years of searching, cannot find the mysterious boarding house: ‘was this all a dream?’.