My novel Goat Music, was published by Roman Books in 2015. The novel is a reinvention of the tale of Apollo and Marsyas. It pays tribute to the lost third genre within Greek theatre—neither comedy nor tragedy—but instead the satyr play.
Goat Music follows the story of the frustrated artist and satyr Marsyas as he sets out to learn the art of music, and then challenges the great god Apollo, with monstrous consequences.
Goat Music is a book about corrupt gods and upstart artists, a fable about the power and its abuses, and about the enduring power of art.
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“Playful and shocking, disturbing and brilliant.” — Jonathan Taylor.
About the Book
More information to follow…
It was a time and it was no time, for time had not yet learned that it was a river. And in this time that was no time, there was a mountain somewhere in Phrygia, its sides thick with trees and tangled shrubs. A clear stream tumbled into the valley below, and not far from the stream was a creature, making its way down a rugged path. It moved with the speed and light delicacy of a goat, yet it went on two feet instead of four. It was early spring. Lizards warmed themselves on the rocks in the sun. Insects filled the air with their thrum and chirr, blue and green dragonflies darted and hovered between the sighing reeds. High above, a bird of prey mewled for its mate. Further down, wild animals roamed the hillsides: lions, leopards, bears and wolves, caracals, jackals and creatures long forgotten, or that today we know only by their names: seilenoi, kentauroi and satyroi.
The creature making its way down the mountain was a satyr. Its name—or his name, for he was most distinctly male—was Marsyas. He was a favourite of the corn goddess, Kybele, and half brother or stepbrother—nobody was very sure which—of the divine singer Orpheus. e satyr scampered down the precipitous path with nimble-footed eagerness, his cock alert as a hound before the hunt. Although his upper half was almost human, below he was mostly goat except, where one might have expected to find cloven hooves, there were instead long, flexible toes. His legs were shagged with brown hair, his little buttocks covered in a reddish fur. Between his legs, his cock—somewhat long, with an elegant double curve—was half risen; and behind him was a short and brushy tail that he could swish to keep away the flies. A ribbon of auburn fur ran up his pink belly, the same fur that covered his back and chest. His arms were those of a human being, the fingers a little longer than usual; and his face was more that of a bearded man in life’s prime than of a goat, except his eyes, overhung with bushy brows, had oblong yellow pupils. His velvety ears glowed in the sunlight, the veins dark channels, rivers of blood running through the delta of his illuminated flesh. Two small goat horns poked through his rough and wiry hair.
The satyr had a tune in his head, a melody of such exquisite beauty that it was all he could do not to open his mouth and sing. The music made him think of the pleasures of love and made his cock twitch. But he did not sing, for he had made a binding oath before the goddess Kybele. The memory of this oath brought him a sharp stab of unhappiness. Then the tune passed out of his head and the sadness dissipated. Marsyas found it was hard to keep anything in his head for long.
He sniffed the air again and scampered onwards to where the path bordered a small copse of oak and beech. On his left, the leaves were fresh with the hopeful greens of springtime, darkening to black as the foliage thickened. To the other side of the path, the slope was steep and precipitous. Marsyas was not afraid of heights: on rocks and precipices, he moved with the easy freedom of a goat. As he was passing the copse, he scented something. The smell was unfamiliar. He hesitated.
A voice came from out of the foliage. It was spoken rather than sung, but strangely melodious. ‘Oooohhhaaaa!’ it said.
Marsyas hopped backwards onto a rock by the precipice. He stared into the darkness of the copse. ‘Oooohhhaaaa!’ said the voice.
‘Hello,’ Marsyas bleated.
‘Oooohhhaaaa!’ tere was a rustling in the leaves. From out of the darkness emerged the figure of a youth. He was naked, his limbs brown and well-formed, almost feminine. His chest was virtually hairless, but on his chin there was a few days’ growth of beard. He wore an ivy crown upon his head, and by his side there bulged a goatskin flask.
Marsyas felt a pang of unease at the sight of the skin. He sniffed the air again. He could smell leaf mould and decay. The youth stepped unsteadily onto the path. When his eyes fell upon Marsyas, they opened wide. They were the most beautiful eyes Marsyas had ever seen, dark and deep and filled with exquisite suffering.
The youth’s red lips twitched upwards into a smile. Marsyas was intrigued. He leaned forwards. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I’ve not seen you before…’