“Three Letters” now on SoundCloud!

I made another soundscape, this one more ethereal, cleaner, less ragged. “Three Letters” is a reference to my current fiction project of the same name. It’s the last composition of one of the characters. for whom the three letters are USA, though each listener can imagine their own.
I’ve published it elsewhere under the old title “Bell and Sword.”

I’ve been experimenting with improvised, time-altered patterns on drums and other percussion to build evocative soundscapes, taking advantage of accidental discoveries along the way. The music resulting from this process aims to grab the listener’s attention with unusual sounds, suggest cinematic images in their imagination and slow the listener’s mind to a more contemplative state. In editing I choose passages that suggest transformation – moving from conflict to calm, for example, or hearing angelic voices amid violence. Each listener will project their own stories onto the music.

I haven’t stopped writing. But this is a very enjoyable way of clearing my mind and exercising other imaginative muscles, so to speak. Working across different media is an exciting extension of writing across different genres, as I have done before. Let’s see where it goes. Enjoy!

Soldier’s Heart

I don’t know if this is a statement of intent, a marker of some kind or just an expression of how my mind is running off in unexpected directions, but here’s a piece of ambient music I made over the last couple of weeks.

“Soldier’s heart” is a 19th-century term, used during the American Civil War, for what was later called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” nowadays known as post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The soundscape portrays a fever dream in which a shellburst and other sense impressions of the battlefield are relived as intrusive images – distorted sounds, aural overload, falling dirt, machine guns, distant artillery – until the dreamer awakes to the sound of a beating heart, strong and solid, and slowly realizes it is the dreamer’s own.

Thank you Don Collins for help with production! I take the blame for this final version, though. Some rough edges I decided not only to keep in but to exaggerate, in keeping with the theme.

Today is day one

I joined Reuters, the international news service, when I was 25. I did some thrilling, fascinating, challenging, occasionally terrifying things over the subsequent three and a bit decades. I got to be a foreign correspondent, an editor, a mentor and a member of journalistic teams large and small in a dozen countries, mostly in the Americas. I was also at times their leader. It was a privilege to work with some fabulous people throughout that time. Now I’m off on new adventures, the exact nature of which will become clearer in the months to come. I don’t yet know myself, but that’s part of it. Still based in New York, blessed in family and friends. May the next 30 years be as exciting as the last 30. Today is day one.

Castro embodied the weakness of strongmen 

havana1998
(Havana, outside the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy, 1998. Photo by Martin Langfield.)

My column on the passing of Fidel Castro.

The charismatic Cuban leader resembled other paternalistic caudillos of right and left in his outsized ego, which ultimately stymied his people. Cubans, like other Latin Americans, need institutions more than saviors like Fidel. Venezuela’s leaders are another example.