A new long blog article from the London Sound Survey: “Arthur Machen: the sounds from beyond the veil”

“Part of H.P. Lovecraft’s acknowledged debt to Machen also lies in hearing without seeing. Well before Lovecraft’s half-human ululations emanated from somewhere below ground [Machen was using similar approaches]…”

Lovecraft first discovered Machen’s work in the summer of 1923 (S.T. Joshi, I Am Providence, p.454). Prior to that time he had already written many stories that featured “hearing without seeing” and “ululations … from somewhere below ground”, and had amply established the auditory as a key site for his horror. A minute’s selection of a few examples suffices to refute the idea that Lovecraft was inspired by Machen in his focus on the auditory…

“In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint distant baying as of some gigantic hound.” (“The Hound”, 1922)

“And now I also heard; heard and shivered and without knowing why. Deep, deep, below me was a sound — a rhythm … To seek to describe it was useless — for it was such that no description is possible. Perhaps it was like the pulsing of the engines far down in a great liner, as sensed from the deck, yet it was not so mechanical; not so devoid of the element of the life and consciousness. Of all its qualities, remoteness in the earth most impressed me.” (“Transition of Juan Romero”, 1919)

The “thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time” (“Nyarlathotep”, 1920)

“All at once my feverishly sensitive ears seemed to detect a new and wholly distinct component in the soft medley of drug-magnified sounds — a low and damnably insistent whine from very far away; droning, clamoring, mocking, calling, from the northeast.” (“Hypnos”, 1922).

“What I did succeed in doing was to overhear the nocturnal playing of the dumb old man. … I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread — the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery. It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth” (“The Music of Erich Zann”, 1921)

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