Ph’nglui mglw’nath Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming”
for String Quartet
by Edward Caine
For a while I was interested in the cult pulp fiction novelist H.P. Lovecraft and his eldritch creations. I particularly enjoyed The Call of Cthulhu in which a series of investigations leads to the discovery of a cult which worships a giant winged creature with a tentacled face called Cthulhu.
In the book the cultists chant “Ph’nglui mglw’nath Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”, a phrase which by Lovecraft’s admission is unpronounceable. In contrast to Tolkien’s Elven language, Lovecraft did not attempt to create a syntax, but merely the impression of an exotic tongue.
My piece attempts to use spectrally-informed composition to in some way “pronounce” the chant using the instruments of a string quartet. Each letter has it’s own characteristic sound, mimicking human speech. I added some artistic license and eldritch sounds to make it atmospheric and scary. This is in some ways a precursor sketch to another Lovecraftian piece R’lyeh for large orchestra.