Mark Ferguson

Mark Ferguson

Department of Music
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD Title: Acousmatic music composition (c. 90-minute body of works), guided by the inherent methodologies and approaches of wildlife sound recording.
Supervisor: Dr Scott Wilson  and Annie Mahtani
PhD Musical Composition by Research (FT)

Qualifications

  • University of Manchester: MusM, Electroacoustic Music Composition with Distinction (2012-2013)
  • Queen's University Belfast: BMus, Music with First-Class Honours (2009-2012)

Biography

I’m a wildlife sound recordist and audio artist, whose work explores the unique and intricate sonic detail of the natural world.

My recordings have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, mentioned by the Guardian and publicised by conservation organisations such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, the Woodland Trust and WWT. I have also released a number of conservation-focused projects exploring the narrative potential of wildlife sound recording. The most recent — Bumble — is being promoted by BBCT as part of an ongoing series of location-based entries, following my long-term search for the sounds of all 25 UK bumblebee species.

In my spare time, I create short environmental films and audio-visual works using open-source software and modified microcomputers. Plastic (2016) — a film exploring oceanic plastic pollution — was selected for screening during the opening ceremony of the 2016 NaturVision Film Festival in Ludwigsberg, Germany, and received widespread praise from environmental groups such as WWF, IUCN and ORCA.

Prior to studying at the University of Birmingham, I was employed as Product Engineer and Technical Support Advisor at Rycote: an industry-leading manufacturer of microphone windshielding and vibration reduction technologies. Reporting directly to the CTO, my role focused on new product development and testing within purpose-built audio facilities. I also coordinated the majority of the company's technical support channels, advising leading sound professionals — many of whom work on internationally renowned documentaries, dramas, films and video games — on audio equipment selection and maintenance. In support of the company's Marketing Team, I conducted several, high-profile interviews with prominent sound recordists and designers, working with the CMO and Marketing Executive on various elements of the Rycote website.

Freelance work prior to this employment involved various elements of production and post-production audio, including sound design and editing for several environmental films promoting the work of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a short documentary on the conservation of Brazil's Atlantic Forest (narrated by Michael Palin), and an interview with environmental activist and writer George Monbiot.

I hold a MusM in Electroacoustic Music Composition with Distinction from the University of Manchester, and a BMus in Music with First-Class Honours from Queen's University Belfast. During my time at Queen's, I received two consecutive scholarships for academic excellence, a travel scholarship for binaural field recording research, a Degree Plus award for extensive contribution to musical ensembles and an AHRC BGP Studentship for Postgraduate Research.

I’m currently a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Wildlife Sound Recording Society. My ongoing PhD research is supported by the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (formerly Midlands3Cities), funded by the AHRC.

Teaching

  • TBC (Years 2 & 3)
  • Received HEFi Horizon Award for completion of introductory modules in lecturing, small group teaching, assessment, feedback and other fundamental HE teaching practices.

Doctoral research

PhD title
Acousmatic music composition (c. 90-minute body of works), guided by the inherent methodologies and approaches of wildlife sound recording.

Research

Drawing exclusively from an ever-growing recording library of species, soundscapes and abiotic phenomena, I deconstruct, process and rearrange sounds from nature, creating intricate, large-scale audio works using programming languages and other specialised software. A substantial component of this practice-led research explores the relationship between sound recording and acousmatic composition: in particular, how the inherent methodologies of wildlife sound recording inform creative work in the studio, and how intensive, studio-based sonic manipulation influences subsequent work in the field. Finished compositions are projected through the University's internationally-renowned BEAST sound system, which is capable of mounting multichannel configurations of up to 100 loudspeakers and is one of the largest of its type worldwide

Other activities

Other areas of interest include: the broader practice of field recording and its associated technologies, methodologies, pedagogy and online community; approaches to wildlife sound archiving and curation; the historical development of wildlife sound recording; and cross-disciplinary conservation projects.

Please see my personal website for updates on all ongoing work.