School of Drama, Music and Screen


Dr Mark Slater


Lecturer in Music, Admissions CoordinatorMark Slater

BMus (Sheffield), PCHE (Sheffield), PhD (Sheffield)

Office: L213
Phone: 01482 465604


I am a composer, songwriter, producer and musicologist with particular interests in popular and experimental music, and the possible links that might exist between them. Improvisation and the accidental play a large part in shaping the direction of the music I make. This interest was developed during the completion of my doctoral composition portfolio, which I completed in 2004, centred on the role and status of improvisation as part of the composition-performance cycle (taking cues from British and American experimentalists of the 1940s onwards). My current compositional activity is probably more accurately described as music production – the blurring of these two activities is something I’m interested in exploring.

Since 2010, I have worked on the Nightports project exploring the rich potential of limitation in making music that sits somewhere between song and dark electronica. Nightports has two sides: electronic and acoustic. For the electronic version, only sounds made by a single vocalist can be used, though these can be passed through an unlimited number of processes, transformations, distortions and translations. This music has also been recorded as an acoustic trio (voice, piano and guitar) – itself a process of translation that brought challenges and opportunities in equal measure. With a series of EP releases to date, Nightports has been broadcast nationally (including BBC 6 Music) and internationally. The title track from the second EP – Skywide – was released as part of the Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape #54 in October 2013.

Between 2004 and 2012 I was part of Middlewood Sessions – a studio project that produced a form of popular music that infused the timbral aesthetics of jazz and orchestral music with the rhythmic impetus of dance music. Singles were released on London-based Brownswood Recordings and Wah Wah 45s. A full-scale album – The Middlewood Sessions – featuring some 30 musicians was released in February 2012, marking the culmination of the project. This music received national and international radio play (including BBC Radio 1 in the UK); the album was nominated for Jazz Album of the Year 2012 on Radio 6 Soul & Jazz (Netherlands) and was voted number 14 in Albums of 2012 on Rté Pulse in Ireland.

Both of these music projects fuel aspects of my current research. I’m interested in how the elusive processes of musical creativity, usually involving technologies of some kind, can be captured and understood. This includes how people work together to make music, what role technology has to play, how the creative process spins out over time and how increasingly mobile music technologies impact on the location of music-making practices.

Selected Publications

Articles and Book Chapters

  • ‘Timbre and Non-radical Didacticism in the Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come for Free: a Poetic-Ecological Model’ in Music Analysis, 30/2-3 (2012)
  • ‘A Conceptual Foundation for Understanding Musico-Technological Creativity’ in Journal of Music, Technology and Education, 5/1 (2012)
  • ‘Processes of Learning in the Project Studio' (forthcoming book chapter)
  • 'The Lifespan Phases of a Collaborative Studio Project' (forthcoming article)
  • 'From Amateur to Professional: Developing Identities in a Project Studio' (forthcoming co-authored article)
  • 'Actors, Actions and Mechanisms in a Single-track Recording Session' (forthcoming co-authored article)

Conference Papers and Invited Lectures

  • 'The Poetic-Ecological Model', presented at the International Conference on Analysing Popular Music (PopMAC), University of Liverpool, July 2013
  • 'Social, Musical and Technical Processes in the Recording Session', co-authored paper included in the online conference Performance in the Studio hosted by the Art of Record Production, April 2013
  • 'The Domestic Project Studio as a Place for Learning: Informality, Experimentalism and Demonstrative Exchange', presented at the International Festival of Innovations in Music Production and Composition, Leeds College of Music, December 2012
  • 'A Case Study of Collaborative Music-Making in the Project Studio', research seminar at the University of Leeds, November 2012
  • ‘Nightports: a Case Study of the Songwriting Process in Contemporary Electronica’, presented at Leeds International Songwriting Conference, Leeds College of Music, March 2012
  • ‘Reconceptualising the Studio’, presented at 7th Art of Record Production Conference, San Francisco State University, December 2011
  • ‘Timbre and Non-radical Didacticism in the Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come for Free’, presented at Lancaster University Music Analysis Conference, University of Lancaster, July 2011
  • ‘Conceptualising the Studio as a Locus of Creativity’, presented at Forum for Innovation in Music Production and Composition, Leeds College of Music, May 2011
  • ‘The Poetic-Ecological Analytical Approach’, invited lecture at Leeds College of Music, May 2011
  • ‘Timbre in (Popular) Music’, research seminar series, Department of Drama and Music, University of Hull, February 2011
  • ‘Timbre in Popular Music’, research seminar series, Leeds College of Music (May 2010)


  • Understanding Records: A Field Guide to Recording Practice, Hodgson, J. (New York: Continuum), Journal of Music, Technology and Education, 4/1 (2011)
  • The Act of Musical Composition: Studies in the Creative Process, edited by Dave Collins (Farnham: Ashgate), British Journal of Music Education (forthcoming)



Level 4

  • Music in Practice II
  • Creative Music Skills – songwriting and instrumental composition strands

Level 5

  • The Materials of Composition

Level 6

  • Special Study (supervision)



Level 7 (MMus)

  • Techniques of Composition I and II
  • Composition I and II
  • Special Study (composition)


  • Lewis Kennedy – Ecological Perception and the Locus of Meaning in Metal Music
  • Adam Martin – The Role and Working Practice of Music Producers: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
  • Nathaniel Seaman: composition portfolio



  • Admissions Coordinator


  • External Academic Advisor, Birmingham City University for BA Music and BA Music Business degree programmes, May 2012
  • External Examiner, University of Chester for MA in Popular Music, 2011 -
  • Steering and Validation Panel, University of Chester for MA in Popular Music, April 2011



  • Nightports Acoustic (October 2013)
  • Skywide EP (January 2013)
  • Ports EP (March 2013)


    Middlewood Sessions

    • The Middlewood Sessions, 9-track album (released February 2012 on Middlewood Records, MWS1101) - embedded below
    • ‘Red Waters’ released on Underground Hits & Exclusive Bits 3, compilation album (release April 2008 on Wah Wah 45s, WAHCD006)
    • ‘Used To Be’ released on Underground Hits & Exclusive Bits 3, compilation album (release April 2008 on Wah Wah 45s, WAHCD006)
    • ‘Red Waters’, 12” vinyl and digital single (released February 2008 on Wah Wah 45s, WAH12016)
    • ‘Astro Blue’, 12” vinyl and digital single (released February 2008 on Wah Wah 45s, WAH12016)
    • ‘Fall Back’ released on Brownswood Bubblers Volume 2, compilation album (released June 2007 on Brownswood Recordings, BWOOD015)
    • ‘Fall Back’, 12” vinyl and digital single (released June 2007 on Brownswood Recordings, BWOOD016)


    Selected Compositions

    • Fanfare for brass nonet and percussion (commissioned by Bullring, Birmingham in August 2004). Duration: 3 minutes.
    • A Lecture on Transparency for SSA vocal trio (commissioned by Juice; first performed at the University of York in May 2003). Duration: 9 minutes)
    • The Journey Reason for solo piano (SPNM shortlist 2003). Duration: 35 minutes.
    • Cantos from ‘Inferno’ for SSATB vocal quintet (first performed at the University of York in February 2002). Duration: 12 minutes.
    • Waterline for solo flute (first performed at the University of Sheffield in April 2001). Duration: 6 minutes.
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