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Name: Mark Ferguson

PhD: Music Composition

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

Supervisors: Drs. Scott Wilson & Annie Mahtani

Institution: University of Birmingham (UoB)

Research Summary

My research focuses on multichannel acousmatic composition.

Drawing exclusively from an ever-growing, personal recording library of species, soundscapes and abiotic phenomena, I deconstruct, process and rearrange sounds from nature, creating intricate audio works using programming languages and other specialised software. A substantial component of this practice-led research explores the relationship between sound recording and electroacoustic 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 of Birmingham's internationally-renowned BEAST sound system, capable of mounting multichannel configurations of up to 100 loudspeakers and one of the largest of its type worldwide.

Additional Research Interests

The broader practice of field recording and its associated technologies, methodologies, pedagogy and online community; approaches to wildlife sound cataloguing and curation; the historical development of wildlife sound recording; cross-disciplinary conservation projects.

 



Selected Praise

‘What a terrific idea, and the recordings are outstanding. Your work certainly provides a fine way to appreciate variation and nuance (and simple beauty) in the sounds of their buzzing.’ — Thor Hanson, award-winning biologist and author of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

'Mark Ferguson has recorded some wonderful sounds of nature.' — Damian Carrington, Environment Editor, Guardian

'The sounds are very evocative, and really recreate the feel of Slimbridge.' — Paul Virostek, Creative Field Recording

'A really powerful representation.' — WWF

'A new and interesting way to give some scale to this enormous problem.' — IUCN

'Powerful and to-the-point.' — Wildlife Trust, BCN

'Very important message.' — Wiltshire Butterfly Conservation

'Amazingly powerful and sobering film. Watch, listen, act.' — Ed Charles


Academic Qualifications

University of Manchester: MusM, Electroacoustic Music Composition with Distinction (2012-2013)

Queen's University Belfast: BMus, Music with First-Class Honours (2009-2012)


Academic Awards & Prizes

M3C Doctoral Training Partnership for PhD in Musical Composition at University of Birmingham (2018-2021; ongoing)

AHRC BGP Studentship for Postgraduate study at The University of Manchester (2012)

Sir Hamilton Harty Scholarship for Binaural Field Recording Research (QUB, June 2012)

Degree Plus Award for Contribution to Academic Ensembles (QUB, 2009-2012)

Foundation Scholarship for Best Overall Academic Performance (QUB, 2010-2011)

Foundation Scholarship for Best Overall Academic Performance (QUB, 2009-2010)

 

Academic Teaching Qualifications, Certificates & Experience

HEFi Horizon Award for completion of introductory modules in lecturing, small group teaching, assessment, feedback and other fundamental HE teaching practices. (November 2018)

 

Academic Compositions & Performances 

Deadwood. 8-Channel Acousmatic Work. Realised in the Electroacoustic Music Studios, University of Birmingham (January 2019)
World Premiere: BEAST (Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre), BEASTdome Concert, University of Birmingham (1 March 2019 )

Alhambra Patch Panel. Stereo Acousmatic Work. Realised in the NOVARS Electroacoustic Studios, University of Manchester   (June 2013) 

Mancunian Canvas. Stereo Acousmatic Work. Realised in the NOVARS Electroacoustic Studios, University of Manchester (June 2013)

Invader. Stereo Acousmatic Work. Realised in the NOVARS Electroacoustic Studios, University of Manchester (November 2012)
World Premiere: MANTIS Festival of Electroacoustic Music, Manchester (March 2013 )

Radioactive Morning Dew. Stereo Acousmatic Work. Realised in the NOVARS Electroacoustic Studios, University of Manchester. (November 2012)

Rust. Stereo Acousmatic Work. Realised in the SARC Studios, Queen's University Belfast. (June 2012)

Heiligenstadt Testament 2.0. Stereo Acousmatic Work. Realised in the SARC Studios, Queen's University Belfast. (June 2011)

 

Academic Presentations, Talks & Demonstrations

LCAHM Research Forum, UoB. Bumbling About: Current & Future Research at the UoB Electroacoustic Music Studios. (25-minute presentation/talk, with discussion; February 2019)

MiniBEAST Listening Session, UoB. Presentation of Recent Recordings; Sound Diffusion (1 hour; February 2019)

MiniBEAST Listening Session, UoB. Presentation of Recordings; Equipment Demonstration; Sound Diffusion (1 hour; December 2018)


Work Experience

Rycote Microphone Windshields
Product Engineer & Technical Support Advisor (2016-2018)

Prior to studying at the University of Birmingham, I was employed as Product Engineer and Technical Support Advisor at Rycote: an industry leader in microphone windshielding and suspension 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.

Wildlife Sound Recordist & Audio Specialist
Freelance & Contract Work (2013-2018)

Interview with George Monbiot. AGB Films: Sound Recordist (2015)

REGUA, Narrated by Michael Palin. Short Conservation Film, Five Films: Sound Editing, Mixing & Design (2015) 

Uganda Wildlife Authority: Catching Poachers in Murchison Falls. Short Conservation Film, Five Films: Sound Editing, Mixing & Design (2015) 

Uganda Wildlife Authority: Overview. Short Conservation Film, Five Films: Sound Editing, Mixing & Design (2014) 

Uganda Wildlife Authority: Protecting the Critically Endangered Rothschild's Giraffe.  Short Conservation Film, Five Films: Sound Editing, Mixing & Design (2014)


Recordings

www.markfergusonaudio.com/recordings (Selected from personal library; updated annually.)

 

Conservation-Focused Projects

Bumble. [Ongoing]. This project is currently being promoted by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, as part of an ongoing series of location-based entries following my long-term search for UK bumblebee sounds.

Ashland. Stereo Soundscape Recording: Drumnaph Nature Reserve, Northern Ireland (March 2018).

Slimbridge. Wetland Sound Recordings: WWT Slimbridge, England (May 2017)


Environmental Films

Green Space. Stereo Audio-Visual Work (August 2017)

Plastic. Stereo Audio-Visual Work (January 2016)


Interviews

Exmoor Radio Show. Episode 11, from 30:45 onwards (January 2019)
http://exmoorradio.com/countryside/the-sounds-of-silence-why-exmoors-aural-soundscape-is-special/

Creative Field Recording. Revealing Field Recording Craft through Location. (October 2017)
https://www.creativefieldrecording.com/2017/10/04/revealing-field-recording-craft-through-location-interview-with-mark-ferguson/  


Publicity, Features & Radio Broadcasts

Ashland. Stereo Soundscape Recording: Drumnaph Nature Reserve, Northern Ireland (March 2018). Featured by the Woodland Trust in Broadleaf magazine, No.93 (Summer 2018)

Bumblebees. Stereo Recording; Bristol, England. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (March 2018) 

Waves & Sand. Stereo Subterranean Recording; Cushendun Bay, Northern Ireland. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (August 2017)

Submerged Branch. Mono Contact Mic Recording; Sperrin Mountains, Northern Ireland. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (July 2017)

Plastic. Stereo Audio-Visual Work (January 2016). Selected for screening during the opening ceremony of the NaturVision Film Festival 2016 in Ludwigsberg, Germany

 

Recording Fieldcraft Skills & Experience

Ability to identify, rapidly and by ear, a wide variety of birds and other audible organisms with a focus on UK species.

Extensive, expert knowledge of (and experience using) specialised field recording equipment and technologies, including portable recorders, microphones, parabolic reflectors and windshielding solutions.

In-depth knowledge of esoteric recording equipment customisations and 'hacks', to meet challenging and unusual recording requirements (with a focus on wildlife).

Professional-level knowledge of microphone windshielding and vibration isolation solutions, encompassing manufacturers such as Rycote, Cinela and Bubblebee. Significant experience with field use and comparative windshielding/vibration isolation tests. Over 2.5 years' experience offering advice to top-level professionals using windshielding and vibration isolation solutions.

Ability to quickly solder and repair a range of audio XLR/jack connectors and splitters for field recording.

Significant experience planning and executing group/individual field recording trips and hikes throughout Ireland, the UK and Spain across a range of habitats and involving distances of up to 50 miles. Highly proficient in land navigation (route planning; use of maps, compasses, GPS units) and the use of hiking/camping equipment.

Excellent overall level of physical fitness.

 

Software Skills

Expert knowledge: Csound (preferred audio programming language); Reaper (preferred DAW); Reason; Raven; Room EQ Wizard; wide range of VST and other audio effects plug-ins; Squarespace; Zendesk.

Excellent working knowledge: Audacity; Cubase; Pro Tools; FuzzMeasure; FFmpeg.

Basic proficiency: Mac Terminal CLI for audio programming and basic system tasks; Pure Data; WordPress; HTML; CSS; Blender; Python 2; Linux OS for Raspberry Pi microcomputers (experience writing and installing custom Python scripts for image and video capture, and customising Raspberry Pi units for remote field deployment).

 

Hardware & Studio Skills

Mixing desks; preamps; headphones; patch bays; audio cables; wide range of studio microphones, including vintage Soviet-era ribbon & condenser mics; basic loudspeaker calibration and setup; specialised field recording equipment and technologies; microphone windshielding and vibration isolation solutions.


Current Memberships

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Wildlife Sound Recording Society

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