Soar like a Moth

Soar like an Eagle  a moth! Today I have a special treat for my loyal blog followers, the Australian Premiere of Viet Cuong’s “Moth”. If you have been following this blog than you may remember the post back in June, where I described the process of recording the Queensland Wind Orchestra performing in the Old Museum Building, Brisbane, conducted by David Law. It was an amazing night, my assistant engineers and I were lucky enough to record an extremely talented band in a rich acoustic setting, performing for an adoring crowd who gave the ensemble a standing ovation for their performance. Needless to say that a couple of tears built up and I tried not to let the guys see them, but hey, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was moved by the whole experience!

Recording the Orchestra

Many people think that because you are recording an orchestra, you need to mic up every instrument. While spot-micing may be vital when recording an orchestra for games or film, it is not really necessary when you are recording a live performance, for in a live setting you are really just trying to give an accurate representation of the performance and capture the sound of the space itself. Another reason that spot-micing is not so important in this situation is that the Orchestra is already well-balanced, the conductor is making sure of this during rehearsal and performance and is like a mixing desk, attenuating levels and making sure the parts of musical interest can be heard. When recording for games or film, the orchestra is often imbalanced, due to budget restrictions and hence the need for spot-mic’s, to make sure the balance is optimum. With this in mind I chose to record the orchestra with only four mic’s and the result was incredible.


  • Two Neumann KM184’s in an ORTF configuration, above the conductors head.
  • Two AKG C414’s set to a figure 8 polar pattern, in front of the orchestra, stage left and right.

Mic Placement

The ORTF configuration was about a meter above and behind the conductors head, meaning that anything he heard, we heard. The ORTF had a very tight sound to it and being so close to the ensemble, was quite dry from the natural reverb of the hall. The C414’s were half way between the left and right sides of the stage and the conductor’s podium, with the positive side of the mic’s facing the ensemble and the negative side facing the crowd. The space of the C414’s meant that we captured a super-wide sound, with plenty of hall ambience and crowd noise. The resulting blend of the four mic’s is what you hear in the recording.

All the Mics in Position
All the Mics in Position

Contacting Viet Cuong

Recording the orchestra went smoothly and despite the session being recorded at 96kHz – 24bit and lasting for 159 minutes, my computer running Pro Tools handled it without a hitch. I gave my word to the orchestra that in a few weeks from the performance they would have the recording, giving me ample time to mix and master a final product. This was fine and I stuck to my word, but without the permission of the composer himself, the recording was stuck in a sort of limbo, unable to be publicly heard. I emailed Viet, telling him of what I had done and politely asked if he would mind that I use the recording of “Moth” for an assessment item, internally at SAE QANTM. When he heard the recording he sent back a very kind email, congratulating your humble-blogging-host for a job well done and said that not only could I use the recording for an assessment item, but I could put it on my personal website! 🙂

The condition was that I also get permission from the orchestra and conductor, so I emailed them again and they graciously agreed. This process of communication between the orchestra, Viet and myself has taken a month and I am very grateful to Viet for responding to me, an unknown audio engineer in another country and timezone. I think that it was from showing the respect of asking for permission to use Viet’s music is why permission was granted and as a fellow composer, I know it would be an amazing feeling to hear my music being played on the other side of the planet! Viet is such a humble person and has really helped me so much with my development, so thank you Viet! Please make sure to check out his website at

I would also like to thank Lauren Wallace from the QWO. Lauren is a flautist in the QWO, the orchestra-manger and was the one who responded to my initial email on very short notice, thanks Lauren!

Relive the good times!

If you would like to relive the memories of finding the QWO then click the link to my post Calling All Cars! OR simply click the categories-menu at the right hand side of this blog and select “Orchestral Recording” where you will find the complete journey. There have been many people who have been supportive of the recording but without the help and advice of my facilitator Akshay Kalawar and lecturer/mentor Guy Gray the whole experience would not have been possible, it’s been a great journey and thank you!

So enough talk, let’s have a listen to my recording of the Australian premiere of Viet Cuong’s “Moth”, performed by the Queensland Wind Orchestra.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!



      1. You are most welcome! Great project and a good story involved. Any time they ask you back – you can rest assured you did great! not much time to rest though, so get back to it! this is awesome.

        Liked by 1 person

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