Film scoring has been an amazing adventure for me. It has taken me from the countryside in England to London, Prague, Budapest, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. I’ve collaborated with amazing musicians, and talented directors; I’ve recorded in famous studios, and worked with outstanding audio engineers and mixers. The projects I’ve worked on have pushed the envelope of film-making, entertainment, and education in some way.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have this chance to work in the magical world of cinema with the amazing sounds of a symphony orchestra.”

Mark Slater at Abbey Road with the London Symphony Orchestra
Mark Slater at Abbey Road with the London Symphony Orchestra

Early Influences

My musical upbringing in the 1970s and 1980s in England was very classical. However, I had favorite TV shows like the Clangers, I liked Abba, and anything mythological, fantasy, and science fiction. Although I didn’t appreciate John Williams’s film music until Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, a film score that left an impression on me early in life was Richard Rodney Bennett’s Murder on the Orient Express. I also loved Clash of the Titans and John Boorman’s Excalibur.

I suppose the role of music in film and television was so far removed from the music I was making at Oxford, and the classics I was discovering on LP and CD, that I didn’t take it seriously. Film and TV was light entertainment and strictly rationed anyway. When it came to music and stories, I thought of Peter and the Wolf.

“I’ve always believed in the power of music to tell stories, to uplift, to inspire. It’s an intricate dance of notes and melodies that communicates deeper, more complex emotions. And above all, it’s a universal language we all can connect with.”

My first ventures into composing were works for organ and choir. I also wanted to write fantasy stories. The Lord of the Rings and the Thomas Covenant books left an indelible mark. And something interesting happened while I was reading books. Certain songs or pieces of music became linked in my imagination to the story. Something about the music fit the emotion the books evoked in me.

Mark Slater film scoring and recording with choir
Mark Slater film scoring and recording with choir

Mastering the Craft: An Education in Film Scoring

My academic journey in music began at the prestigious Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, where I sang as a chorister for five years. Before that I had lessons in cello and singing, and on the strength of my ability at age 7, esteemed Simon Preston awarded me the first place scholarship for the choir and school.

The experiences and insights I gained at Oxford quietly began to shape my musical ideology, giving me a deeper understanding of rhythm, harmony, and melody, but above all a professional oulook on musicianship and performance. One of the recordings we made during my time there, Hogwood’s Messiah, is still considered a groundbreaking interpretation of Handel’s famous oratorio, according to a critical Gramophone review in 2015, some 37 years later.

I continued my studies in cello, piano, organ, and singing, adding music theory to my lessons. My father, a conductor, professor of music, and musical director gave me opportunities to play in pit orchestras and other concerts. Incidentally, I supplemented my studies with Science, Engineering, and Law. But in 1998, eager to explore my musical potential further, I attended the London College of Music and completed a Master’s degree in Film Scoring and Music Composition, diving deep into orchestration, arranging, music production technology and contemporary music genres.

After LCM, I continued to expand my knowledge and skills, scoring short film projects, writing incidental music for theatre, and concert pieces for orchestra. As time went on the projects became more challenging and notable. I got the opportunity to collaborate with other experienced musicians, from the London Symphony Orchestra to grass-roots music of East Los Angeles.

Bringing Stories to Life: Cinematic Soundtracks

It was TV theme tunes and commercials that finally captured my attention that someone was creating music with special skill. It fascinated me that without music, scenes would lack depth and emotional resonance. What impressed me the most was that the music was often simple. It also wasted no time getting to the point. This is the craft of film-scoring, where a composer uses music to enhance the narrative within the confines of a few seconds, synchronized to a moving picture.

A film composer must become a master at crafting soundtracks that go beyond mere background music. His work serves to amplify the mood, complement the storytelling, and elevate every scene to its fullest potential. Harnessing the potency of melodies, harmony, rhythm, and even silence, the film composer’s compositions breathe life into on-screen narratives. 

Notable Film and Television Contributions 

My journey into the sphere of film scoring and television began with jingles and theme tunes. I learned through imitation. Out of the blue I started to get requests to compose. My film music composition has been blessed with fascinating projects ranging from innovative commercials to internationally important documentaries. My most cutting-edge contributions, however, are found in the realm of immersive media and 360 fulldome films. A striking example of this is Tokyo Origami (created by COSM), an 8-part series specifically crafted for users of the META Oculus VR headset.

Here are a few of my favorite projects to date:

  1. Tokyo Origami (2020)
  2. Dinosaurs at Dusk (2013)
  3. Natural Selection (2011)
  4. 400 Years of the Telescope (2009)
  5. Seduction by Light (2007)
  6. Flatland (2006)

Each of these projects have required me to adapt to the specific needs of a film or show, creating a unique sonic identity that leaves an indelible mark on viewers. 

Acknowledging the Team: Awards and Accolades

As an important part of the team creating the overall feel of the projects and their critical reception, I’ve had my share of awards and accolades over the years. Some of these have specifically singled out the contributions of music.

2008Best MusicSeduction by Light
2009Telly Award400 Years of the Telescope
2012Best AudioNatural Selection
2018Best ScoreSaved by Grace

Music is a potent art form. It has the power to evoke feelings and emotions like nothing else. Mark Slater has harnessed this power and used it masterfully in the service of storytelling. – Robin Sip, Mirage3D

So, the next time you’re captivated by a riveting film scene or moved to tears by an emotional TV episode, remember the role of the unseen player in the background – the music composer. And in that moment, remember how composers work their magic, transforming sounds into powerful stories.