Last week I had the pleasure of recording Chicago based sextet, eighth blackbird, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. For two nights leading up to the recording, the ensemble premiered in the US, Murder Ballades by Bryce Dessner, along with compositions by Nico Muhly and Philip Glass. Murder Ballades consists of seven movements of traditional folk songs based on accounts of the crime.
I arrived on the second night of the performance which was a good introduction to the piece and the room where I would end up recording, even though the PA and a couple hundred bodies in the room wouldn’t help me get a feel for how my mics would hear things. For this trip I didn’t bring much besides my 500 series lunchbox, everything else was rented in Chicago. The recording setup was fairly minimal, as expected for musicians of this caliber in a great room. We were in the Edlis Neeson Theater of the MCA, which itself is quite a neutral sounding space. It wasn’t particularly live especially with the adjustable wall panels flipped to their absorptive sides, but large enough that you got a good sense of space around six acoustic instruments.
A close XY pair of AKG 414′s were placed at the front of the stage which could easily be the bulk of the mix and a pair of Shure KSM32 were placed about a third of the way into the theatre for rooms. These went into my API 512 and Purple Biz pres respectively. The close mics were a combination of Schoeps CMC6′s, Neumann KM184′s and KM105′s, 414′s and a Shure Beta 56 on the concert bass drum. They were all fed into a Behringer X32 digital console. Behringer, really?! Yeah, but the functionality of this thing was incredible. The 16 channel stage breakout box could be daisy-chained a couple times just with a single CAT-5 cable and the console fed 40 channels of IO over Firewire. From there, Pro Tools was acting purely as a tape machine. Anyway, even with Behringer (I mean Midas) pres and conversion it all sounded great. When it comes to mixing, Bryce and I have discussed taking a more heavy handed approach, which really excites me. Instead of just documenting a straight up classical performance, we’ll see how far we can get with accentuating the performance and arrangement with the mixing process. The end result will accompany a ballet premiering in France later this Fall.