While it’s not uncommon for pop music recordings to be engineered on a track by track basis, it’s extremely unusual for a symphonic work to be recorded in this manner.
Such was the case recently for film composer Chris Anderson, who recorded each instrumentalist one player at a time and, slowly but surely, ‘assembled’ a 30-minute orchestral piece.
While Anderson could have used any microphone or combination of mics, he ultimately selected an MA-201fet condenser microphone from Burbank, CA-based Mojave Audio for the majority of his work.
As an award winning film and TV composer, Anderson has had successes in every area of his composing career. His 60+ film scores range from full orchestral works to jazz, swing, rock, and modern cutting-edge soundscapes.
Equally at home in front of a piano, a computer, an orchestra, a funk band, or a Javanese Gamelan, Anderson is, without question, a musical chameleon.
He discussed his reasons for recording the american mosaic: an unsung requiem in this unusual manner and his experience with the Mojave Audio MA-201fet.
“As a film composer,” Anderson explained, “I’m constantly working with different ensembles / orchestrations.
For many projects, I’ll record acoustic guitar or Weissenborn (lap slide guitar) at my own studio.
I also routinely record a few soloists ranging from violin and cello to clarinet or trumpet, depending on the project. I find the MA-201fet performs very well in all these scenarios.”
“Recently,” he continued, “I completed a personal project, a 30-minute piece for symphony orchestra, entitled the american mosaic: an unsung requiem.
“In an effort to get a demo out to some symphonies, program directors, etc., I wanted to create a recording that could accompany the conductor score.
Although I have an arsenal of great orchestral samples that I use regularly, there is some esoteric and solo writing in the piece that I really wanted to have played live for the recording.”
“The ideal way to record this composition would’ve been with a full scoring orchestra in one of the large rooms around town,” Anderson added. “Instead, I chose to do something fairly unorthodox. I recorded each player one at a time in my own studio, and for the strings I brought in 3-4 instrumentalists at a time and stacked the various passes and parts.
“In an effort to help keep the recording cohesive, I decided to try the MA-201 on every instrument: all the winds, the brass, the strings, etc. After working with the Mojave MA201-fet for about a year, I was confident the mic would be a good fit for this project - It turned out to be my main close-mic for everything.”
“I’ve come to rely on the MA-201fet and its ability to handle the wide dynamics of each instrument brilliantly,” Anderson says. “On this project, the low strings were full bodied yet present while the high strings had a natural presence and vibrancy with a well-rounded sound.
“All the winds—from bass clarinet to piccolo—were easily captured with a transparency and honesty that made mixing fairly straightforward, without having to add a lot of EQ.
“I was especially happy that the MA-201fet’s ability to handle the high SPL of the brass from ppp to sffz without any issues. The mic is so good that once proper placement was set up, it was ‘set it & forget it’.
“The MA-201fet is fast, able to handle big swings in dynamic range, and able to transparently capture instruments with a wide frequency response.”
When queried about his experience with Mojave Audio’s customer / technical support services, Anderson was equally enthusiastic, “Mojave has a great website and even better customer service. I’m also lucky to be located close to Mojave’s headquarters. Dusty [Wakeman] is great, helpful, and enthusiastic about his products. They’re a terrific company to work with.”
Before shifting his focus back to the business of the day, Anderson summarized his experience with Mojave Audio and the MA-201fet.
“Even with a very unorthodox approach to this orchestral recording—where I stacked 17 players, 1-3 at a time, to fully create an 84 piece orchestra—I never had a second thought about mic choices.
“When tracking and editing was finished, I brought the enormous ProTools session to my scoring mixer. He was impressed by the overall sound quality of the individual performances and the cohesive whole we were able to accomplish in the mix.
“The final result sounds like 84 people in a room, far beyond my original expectations of a demo.
“I’m receiving great response from the recording. One symphony director / conductor I sent it to asked me which orchestra I had used to record it! I simply couldn’t have done this without my MA-201fet.”