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Profile for Douglas Burkett > Reviews


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Words Without Music: A Memoir
Words Without Music: A Memoir
by Philip Glass
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.36
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contains fascinating stories, but not revealing enough for a memoir, February 19, 2016
I'm a lover of classical music, but when I first heard Glass' music as a young adult it spoke to me like no other had before. Some twenty years later, I have nearly every single album released and I am still deeply moved by his music and listen to it on a regular basis. With Glass' music having such a profound impact on my life, it's only natural that I should wonder who the person is behind the music.

Several years ago the film Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts was released. While it was thrilling to see Glass in day-to-day situations, I found the film to be more about Glass’ musical life rather than revealing who Glass was as a person. I went into the memoir hoping it would reveal more about Glass than the film did.

A significant portion of Words Without Music is Glass writing about his educational background, his family and acquaintances, mentors, teachers, and fellow artists he has met and collaborated with. This is a thorough and comprehensive recollection of Glass’ early life, and it reveals the blossoming of a determined artist dedicated to creating his own style of music. The book is chock-full of interesting stories and anecdotes, though at times it comes across as a litany of names, dates and events because there is so little personal interjection added in.

The main issue I have with this book is that the kind of personal insights or emotions one would expect from a memoir seem absent. In many instances I would read about something that surely must have had a significant, emotional impact on Glass, but rarely did he expound on his own feelings or discuss how he was affected internally by that event or subject.

While there's no question that Words Without Music is more personal and less technical than his earlier book, Music by Philip Glass, unfortunately it is still unsatisfying in terms of Glass revealing himself.

In one early section there is an interesting story about how Glass and his (future) wife JoAnne travelled to India. The pages are filled with the logistics of the trip, transportation methods used, how borders were crossed, people they met, etc. As interesting as those things are, what is missing are perhaps the most important parts--why did Glass want to travel to India? What was his inspiration to do so? What did the trip mean to him? What profound impact did it have on him emotionally?

These are the kinds of inner thoughts that go unwritten, leaving the reader still wanting to know what was in Glass' mind during so many of the fascinating events he writes about. Some segments feel as if they were written in the third person because Glass reveals so little of what was in his mind at the time.

Sometimes events are presented so matter-of-factly that it's as if Glass has erected an emotional wall which we occasionally get to peek over, but never really see what's inside.

There are also some rather obvious omissions. For example, one of Glass' several wives, Holly, is never mentioned in this book, even though she is a large part of the previously mentioned documentary. While I'm not looking for tabloid-like fodder, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect Glass to open up about each of his relationships, how they went, why they ended, etc. Major personal events like these contribute to and/or reveal who you are as a person, which is the sort of intimacy I would expect to read in a memoir.

Even the tragic chapter about his relationship and marriage to the late Candy Jernigan, while moving, seems to come from a very reserved place. That said, this is possibly the one chapter in which we get a glimpse into Glass’ inner emotions pertaining to something outside of the music world. The only other time you sense Glass opening up is in the short final chapter, "Closing", which offers a few touching though all-too-brief personal recollections.

I also wish more time would have been spent on his later and contemporary years. At one point I found myself nearly three-quarters of the way through the book and Glass was only up to the point of Einstein on the Beach being produced for the first time. Because of this, one should go into this book expecting much of it to center on Glass' earlier life and career, with very little written about the years beyond his Powaqqatsi soundtrack and the Cocteau trilogy.

Despite the disappointments I've mentioned, I cannot ignore the wonderful stories and insights that are included. With the knowledge I have gained about Glass' background (though less intimate than I had hoped), I certainly feel a deeper connection to and have a more profound appreciation of his music; this alone makes the book worth reading.

While I considered giving this book a ‘3’, the fact I still gave it a '4' out of '5'--in spite of my misgivings--is a testament to how compelling what Glass does reveal is, and the impact it has on the listening experience after reading the book.

Perhaps in listening to Glass' music all these years I conjured up an image of a composer who was more complex, intense and complicated than what is revealed in this book. It's difficult for me to conclude if Glass is just more of a simple, uncomplicated person than I expected, or if he decided to keep those aspects of his life private. A true memoir shouldn’t leave me wondering such things, but I cannot deny the sheer delight I had in reading the insights and details that were included.

Fans of Glass will be enthralled, but do not expect to read much about his later years or expect more personal information than most fans are likely have already heard or read. Casual fans or those looking to get more of a read on Glass as a person may prefer the previously mentioned film, where at least you get to see Glass' expressions and body language and can attempt to extrapolate some kind of inner meaning from his physical actions and words.

Stravinsky: Petrouchka; Le Sacre du Printemps
Stravinsky: Petrouchka; Le Sacre du Printemps
Price: $12.02
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5.0 out of 5 stars A 'Rite' that maintains intensity without losing musicality, April 22, 2014
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I've always loved Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The more versions I listen to the more I appreciate this amazing work and the individual performances of it.

Having heard quite a few recordings of 'Rite', my primary complaint toward many versions would be that they go over-the-top with the reading and performance. While I love powerful and emotional performances, the intricacies and the softer moments need just as much attention, which brings me to this recording.

Boulez is often considered to give readings of pieces that are transparent and has been described as 'cool' and technical. While I certainly would not have thought this style would be an appropriate pairing with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, I was completely wrong.

The precision that Boulez brings out in this performance makes this Rite a pleasure to hear; its delicate and intricate passages come across clearly. Too often the rapid passages, quick runs and softer moments are lost in versions that are simply over played or performed too aggressively, but that is not the case here. There is already plenty of brute force and power built into the composition itself; to overplay this piece is like taking food that is already seasoned and then adding more to the point it is over seasoned.

Boulez's transparency allows all of the quieter moments to be just as important and to be contrast against the loud and furious sections rather than simply exist within their shadows. This is accomplished without giving up any of the intensity of the primordial bombast—in fact, the powerful sections are even more impressive on this recording due to the fine details that are within them, which are more clearly heard in this version.

As for the first piece on the recording, Stravinsky's Petrouchka, I'm not as familiar with this work and can only compare it to a couple of recordings I've heard of it. I felt the performance of it was well-played and technically sound, and I found Boulez's different interpretations of the tempi quite intriguing, and I came to like this version the more I listened to it. It's not a reading that would necessarily replace others, but it is one to have as a complimentary version for comparison. The Rite is the real headliner on this disc, but Petrouchka is enjoyable in its own right both as a composition and in this reading of it.

Along with a recording that is slightly dated but still clear and balanced, Boulez offers a version of the Rite of Spring that I find refreshing and that still allows for a technical clarity on passages that were once lost but are now heard within the chaos, all without giving up any of the harsh intensity that is within this incredible, demanding work.

Price: $13.99
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intoxicating mix of ethereal music, sounds and nuanced atmospheres, January 20, 2014
This review is from: Nest (Audio CD)
While I own quite a few of Robert Rich's albums and enjoy each of them in their own way, Nest is my favorite among his recent releases. Having given this CD multiple listenings, I find that its most profound impact comes from the music's ability to convey a sense of both harmonious and darker moods simultaneously, yet still maintain a sense of serenity throughout.

I would describe the overall feel of Nest as consisting of longer tones of lush harmonics which slowly shift throughout the course of the CD. These underlying layers are, at times, accompanied by softly-played ethnic-sounding instruments as well as some ethereal (and perhaps slightly detuned) piano sounds, which bring an almost Harold Budd-like feel to the music. The rich harmonic elements are a constant throughout the work, blending the tracks together, creating a sense of cohesion to the piece as a whole. While each track has its own feel, the transition between the tracks is often subtle; requiring an active listening to know when one track ends and another begins.

The are also very subtle uses of nature sounds in some of the individual tracks. I appreciate this nuanced, deft use of nature sounds compared to how they are often used in a way that comes across as obligatory.

For me, what makes Nest so unique is the intriguing mood that it creates. The entire album contains what I would describe as a "comforting melancholy", where the layers of light and dark moods are produced nearly simultaneously. As the music shifts, these contrasting layers gently crossover each other in very subtle ways, at-once lighter, at-once darker, creating a kind of emotional indetermination where the differences between the lighter and darker sounding elements are nearly indistinguishable from each other. The occasional inclusion of the gentle nature sounds provide a sort of serene backdrop; this serenity takes on different perceptions as it is contrasted against the slowly changing moodscape.

All of this is done in a way that still feels gentle and enveloping, as if there is a sense of solace to be taken from the familiarity of the occasional disquietude. It is perhaps from creating this sense of comfort within the disquietude where the CD gets its title.

The music works on many different levels; depending on the listener's mood, it can be something to contemplate to, zone-out to, or actively listen to. It can be appreciated as serene and beautiful as well as moody and melancholic all at the same time. Intriguing and intoxicating, I find this to be a refreshingly different style of music from Rich, and is one which I will find myself returning to listen to quite often.

Noir Erasure Poetry Anthology (Silver Birch Press Anthologies) (Volume 5)
Noir Erasure Poetry Anthology (Silver Birch Press Anthologies) (Volume 5)
by Gerald So
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.00
25 used & new from $8.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid, wide-ranging collection of erasure poetry created from the noir genre, December 23, 2013
I recently finished Silver Birch Press' Noir Erasure Poetry Anthology and thoroughly enjoyed it.

For those who may not know, erasure poetry is where a poet takes a section or page(s) of text that has already been written or printed, then erases (blacks-out) words within that text. The words that remain are what make up the newly created poem.

For this anthology, forty-six poets were asked to create erasure poems using text from pages of books by noir authors like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. A poet could choose a noir author, then use any page from a book by that author to create his or her erasure poem. The result is an interesting mix that pays homage to both the works of the noir genre and the poetic form.

The outside of the book is nicely presented with white text on a black cover, which I can't help but see as a nod to the noir era. The inside contains an introduction and a list of the poets along with the page number the poem appears on. I appreciated how there was also a page listing all of the noir authors used in the book and the page numbers where poems created from their works appeared on. Pages containing poems also referenced the author and book where the specific page used to make the poem is from.

The final pages of the book contain informative write-ups about the noir authors used in the anthology as well as bios for the contributing poets. The book as a whole seems to have been put together with care, reflecting an apprecation for both the noir genre and for the poets involved in the project.

Aside from the actual poems, what I enjoyed most about this book was the layout used to display the poets' contributions: Each poem was presented separately on its own, but there was also a photocopy of the corresponding book page the poet physically altered/erased to create that poem. Many of these page alterations were done by hand, making for a uniquely tangible, personal connection to the poet and the way the they approached the words on the page. Having both the altered original book page and the finished poem side-by-side were fantastic compliments each other.

The newly created poems varied in length, format and mood. Some poems seemed to have been created more at random, going for more of a surreal effect; others appeared to be approached from a more conventional standpoint and went for more concrete ideas. Some were very short and used very little of the available text while others were long and used not just individual words but whole sentences at a time from the original text.

Regardless of the method of creation, all of the poems were enjoyable to read and it was fascinating seeing words from the noir genre authors being transformed into poetic form. As a collection, the unpredictability from poem to poem created a sort of enigmatic atmosphere that fit the genre it was attached to.

This was very intriguing to have such a range of moods set against the backdrop and language of the noir genre, which, to different degrees of permeation, affected the creative poetic works produced in this fine anthology.

Glass: Symphony No.9
Glass: Symphony No.9
Price: $17.28
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glass transcending amazing Symphony No. 9, May 13, 2012
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This review is from: Glass: Symphony No.9 (Audio CD)
Glass transcends himself...the most original Glass music in years...Glass brilliantly redefines himself yet retains his roots...the legacy of the grand 9th symphonies carries on with Glass' composition...this is Glass' magnum opus...

These are all possible headlines I could see for reviews for this amazing, revelatory work.

I have just about every recording of music by Philip Glass, so for me to be so amazed at what was achieved in this symphony is coming from that perspective.

To take Glass' early compositions and then listen to this work is to hear the growth of a composer who is comfortable with his roots but has transformed his music into something new. I've not been able to say that with too many of Glass' recent orchestral works, but without hesitation I say it here.

While the somewhat recent 'Toltec' Symphony had a different tonality and instrumentation than previous Glass works, it still felt like typical Glass; it was enjoyable, but still felt like it was produced from the Glass 'brand' of music. But for all of the things that made 'Toltec' sound familiar in spite of its differences, those familiarities are all gone with Glass' 9th.

Trying to determine what makes Symphony No. 9 by Philip Glass so wonderful is as enigmatic as the symphony itself. The movements and music are Glass to be sure, but they are done in a way unlike I've heard his music before. As soon as you think you know where a part of the music is going, you will be wrong, but it will be a refreshing and enjoyable turn. In the first movement, we have many short fragments that run away from the long, slowly evolving and slowly changing repetitions that have been a Glass trademark. These fragments are at once tranquil and at once frenetic, but it's the way in which they are woven together that makes the first movement so unique.

In past compositions, I've felt like Glass was trying too hard to be different--taking different sounds, instrumentation and breaking down his repetitive sequences into fragments, but they never really went together--it felt like listening to disconnected fragments of a work. The magic of this 9th Symphony is that it no longer feels like Glass is 'trying' longer feels contrived or Glass being different just for the sake of being so. The sound and tonalities and fragments all seem to have this large, overall cohesion and a sense of pushing the work toward a specific emotional destination, while at the same time going in directions I've never heard Glass take his music before. While completely different in mood, John Adams' 'Fearful Symmetries' reminds me a little of this symphony in how we have a lot of fragments that at once seem to have no resemblance to each other at times, yet all seem to lead to the same logical conclusion in the end.

As I mentioned, the oddest part of listening to this work was that as soon as I thought I knew where the music was going, I was stopped in my tracks, but it was a pleasant transition. It was like having a conversation with someone, thinking you know where it's going but then hearing a fresh and new idea and thinking, "Wow, I never thought of that, but it's brilliant!" And that was how I reacted to much of the music in this work--hearing music going in a direction I never heard from Glass before, yet in a way which seemed totally appropriate for his style.

Other parts of the symphony are equally enigmatic. After the passionate first movement, just when you think you've got it all figured out, in the second movement we get a longer, drawn-out section reminiscent of earlier Glass, but it's done in such a different way with intensity and instrumentation that there is no comparison.

The third and final movement begins with what seems will be a traditional long-form movement, but contains a tonal structure and sound I've never heard from Glass before. Mid-way through the last movement comes the climax to what almost becomes a battle between consonance and dissonance and of tension and release. The latter half then abruptly turns to an unsettling, quiet ending, far from a traditional Glass out-of-nowhere stop.

The entire work is just amazing, and nothing short of a culmination of Glass' career building to this piece. One will hear many reminders of Glass at various periods of his compositional life in this work, but somehow it's like it was all put into a music processor and results in some new style that is Glass at its core, but with an overall sensation and emotion that will hopefully be a new and wonderful experience for even the most die-hard of Glass followers.

Bravo to Glass for this amazing composition, and bravo to Davies and the performers for a fine performance of such a wonderful composition.

Holst: The Planets
Holst: The Planets
Price: $14.59
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, dynamic performance with momentary complaints, December 8, 2011
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This review is from: Holst: The Planets (Audio CD)
Holst's 'The Planets' has long been one of my favorite works. With its many styles within the work, it has a lot to offer in terms of listening longevity. I started enjoying classical music at an early age, and while I still appreciate the works of early composers, it's the more intense, dynamic compositions of Holst, Wagner, etc. that have carried on with me and are still regularly in my listening rotation (along with a lot of the modern compositions of Glass, Nyman, Adams, Reich, etc.).

I have to admit that my first introduction to 'The Planets' is the oft-criticized, Maazel-conducted recording on the CBS Masterworks label. While the orchestra's performance on that recording has raised a lot of eyebrows with some listeners, I found the actual reading and interpretation of the Holst work to be one of my favorites, and since my recording of that version was damaged, I've been listening to several recordings to replace it with, and this Levine & Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of several recordings I've been listening to.

As I said, the first 'The Planets' recording I was familiar with was the Maazel recording, with lots of personality, but lacking in quality of the actual performance. The main recording I listened to after that was the Previn/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the Telarc label. That recording was everything the Maazel reading was not-beautifully performed and technically sound, but lacking the color and dynamic range of the Maazel recording.

Which brings us to this new-to-me Levine/CSO recording on DG. This is a great recording that 'threads the needle' between the Maazel and Previn recordings, bringing both a sound, technically performed rendition along with a lot of dynamics and emotional energy. Compared to the Previn reading, this Levine/CSO performance brings back the intensity and accentuation that lacked in the Previn recording. Even with a quick scan of the first few moments of each 'Planet', I knew there was going to be much better separation of the movements in terms of style, tempos and dynamics (which there should be for such differently styled movements).

After a complete listening, I believe this will be my new favorite with a couple of caveats:

I don't mind Levine's tempos, but frequently I feel he runs through a few phrases where silence should stand out more. The end of 'Mars' is my biggest issue, with Levine almost racing through the ending, where normally the finale cadence is drawn-out, with dramatic silence between the sharp, contrasting, bombastic final notes.

The brass is just a little overbearing at times. While this is the CSO after all (known for their great brass sections), it's just ever so brass heavy at times. However, I gladly take this over the more stoic Previn version.

All in all, even with those two minor complaints, this is now my favorite version of 'The Planets'. The performance itself is wonderful and dynamic, giving great personality to each movement. I love how Levine and the CSO go from the great bombast of 'Mars' and juxtapose it with a beautiful, lyrical 'Venus'. It's that ability to perform each movement's mood with such range that gives each 'Planet' personality, and I am surprised not to see more reviews of this CD. This is a highly recommended version of the Holst classic composition.

(My review of the Previn recording is also posted on the Amazon page of the recording).

Holst: The Planets
Holst: The Planets
Price: $16.09
149 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well performed, but almost too consistent, December 8, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Holst: The Planets (Audio CD)
Holst's 'The Planets' has long been one of my favorite works. With its many styles within the work, it has a lot to offer in terms of listening longevity. I started enjoying classical music at an early age, and while I still appreciate the works of early composers, it's the more intense, dynamic compositions of Holst, Wagner, etc. that have carried on with me and are still regularly in my listening rotation (along with a lot of the modern compositions of Glass, Nyman, Adams, Reich, etc.).

I have to admit that my first introduction to 'The Planets' is the oft-criticized, Maazel-conducted recording on the CBS Masterworks label. While the orchestra's performance on that recording has raised a lot of eyebrows with some listeners, I found the actual reading and interpretation of the Holst work to be one of my favorites, and since my recording of that was damaged, I've been listening to several recordings to replace it with, and this Previn-conducted 'The Planets' on Telarc is one of those I gave a try.

First, the technical aspects regarding the recording are very good...a typical, quality recording and release by Telarc.

The performance of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a very good one, seemingly responsive to Previn's conducting. The overall sound of the orchestra is balanced, even and technically sound.

However, in general, I find this overall recording and reading of the work almost TOO balanced in terms of both the performance and the interpretation; it lacks the emotional punch and wide range in dynamics that make each movement stand out. Even though 'The Planets' is a work as a whole, the individual movements are vastly different. With this reading, Previn almost takes too predictable of a road, with a smaller sense of dynamic range from each of the planets within the piece. Variance in tempos, intensity and overall performance dynamics just seem to lack (at least more than I am used to).

Perhaps I'm so used to the early Maazel recording that I listened to so many times that I miss a more colorful version. These Maazel and Previn readings are almost polar opposites. The Maazel one is more enjoyable to me in terms of tempos, dynamics and accentuation of phrases, but lacks a cohesive, technically sound performance (with moments of intonation at times). The Previn recording has a very sound, technically good performance, but lacks the color and punch that helps separate and give each 'Planet' a personality. I suppose a wishful recording for me would be one that takes the colorful reading and accentuation by Maazel with the performance of the Previn recording.

In the end, my rating combines five stars for the composition and five stars for the actual performance quality, but I just can't give a full five-star rating because the 'flavor' of the recording seems so bland, with just not enough personality given to each of the individual 'Planets'.

An option for a little more dynamic reading is the Levine/Chicago Symphony recording on the DG label, which I also have reviewed on Amazon.

Onkyo HT-S7400 5.1-Channel Network A/V Receiver/Speaker Package (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Onkyo HT-S7400 5.1-Channel Network A/V Receiver/Speaker Package (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Offered by superior sales
Price: $799.95

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful upgrade with this HTiB unit, December 2, 2011
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I recently received my S7400 unit and have been very happy with my purchase. This is my first purchase of an Onkyo brand item and it is winning over this Sony loyalist.

Obviously, the most important part is how the unit sounds, and the sound from the S7400 is wonderful. I upgraded to this unit from a Sony HTiB system, and the improvement in both receiver quality as well as speaker quality and sound is huge. Highs are crisp and clear, mid frequencies are clear and much more distinguishable, and the bass is of a decidedly higher quality with more refined accuracy than my old Sony unit, making music more balanced and more enjoyable to hear. There is also still plenty of `boom', for those earth-shaking action sequences when played through the HD audio-compatible receiver. What separates this higher-end, powered subwoofer apart from the passive Sony subwoofer are both the amount of bass as well as the ability for the 7400 to have more 'accurate' and natural sounding bass rather than the muddy sounding bass I was used to.

This system has a great center speaker with two mids and a tweeter in it. Dialogue is much fuller sounding and much clearer and easier to hear. The front speakers also have separate tweeters and mids, where my old system only had a single, smaller speaker for everything. Having those frequencies separated by speakers handling the duties individually is certainly one reason for which the sound is so good from this system. The 7400's sound is almost multi-dimensional compared to the very flat sounds that came from my previous system (and this is coming from one who used Sony exclusively up until the purchase of this unit). Basically, it's almost like going from DVD to HD in terms of audio quality, whether it be watching TV, playing CDs or watching blu ray discs.

The on-screen display is great for set-up and for fine-tuning, but once the system is set up and all of the settings were made, I found the on-screen display a little annoying as the overlay covers up the bottom part of the TV screen when selections are made or volume is changed with the remote. I LOVE having the OSD for setting the system up and making adjustments in the settings, but don't care for it popping up while watching normal television. However, it can be turned off, which is a great option. The front-screen display of the receiver is also much larger and easier to read and has 3 different dimmer/brightness settings. I never had a problem reading the small Sony ones, but some have complained of it being very small to read from any distance over 5 or 6 feet.

I've had no problems at all with the HDMI connections. I've got 3 components running into the receiver via HDMI and one HDMI out to the HDTV and all is working properly. I even find lip-sync to be much better as well for the satellite viewing-probably because of the improved processing abilities of the receiver. I had a slight lag when watching my satellite with my old system, and that lag is now gone.

I have noticed some people mention issues with the HDMI pass-through. I am not needing to use components on a pass-through basis, but I did notice there are some pass-through settings that can be made in the set-up of the receiver, so it may be that adjustments in the set-up need to be made for it to work properly...just a thought.

I'm in the process of reading through the manual. It is a little complicated and convoluted in some of the wording for this audio novice, but I think it will be necessary to read through it to really get everything out of the benefits the receiver offers.

Set up was easy with all of the cords color-marked to know which speaker goes where and to which connection in the rear of the receiver. I will admit that the wires supplied for the rear speakers are quite short; mine just barely being long enough with not an inch to spare in a smallish living room (running the wire around the walls rather than a direct route). It also would have been nice to have a little thicker speaker wires

I was not thrilled with the interface of the wifi and Internet available apps-very basic looking. I actually like the interface offered from my blu ray player better, so I can't comment to the working of these apps on the 7400 as I am not using the receiver for them.

The auto calibration software was thorough and took much longer to set up than my Sony, but did a wonderful job. I needed to tweak the bass a little, but overall it did a great job of processing the sound, taking into consideration the speaker distances, the speaker set up and acoustics.

At this point, I'm a convert for sure and admit that you do get what you pay for. I do realize that sometimes one can only get what is within the means of their budget, but one should get the most bang for their money and I certainly feel this unit has been worth the extra it costs over other 'budget' systems. If this HTiB unit is within your budget, you are doing a disservice to yourself buying a cheaper unit like I did before, just to save some money. I'd even think the lower priced 3400 would be a better option for smaller budgets.

So, other than a slight disappointment with the 'look' of the interface for the Internet apps and the short wires for the two surround speakers, I am a very happy user and consider this to be a great upgrade. I give this system 5 stars because of the sound and quality of the system and because the minor issues don't really affect my enjoyment of the system. I'm sure it's not the cream of the crop compared to separately purchased components of a high-end systems, but I'd certainly consider it 'high-end' for a HTiB unit and I have no reservation in recommending it.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2012 6:56 AM PST

Glass: Moran: The Juniper Tree
Glass: Moran: The Juniper Tree
Price: $16.99
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some technical negatives, but worth a purchase for Glass fans, March 29, 2010
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This was a difficult review to write for a couple of reasons. For one, this is a split album with Glass' music taking up about half of the time (about 30 mins.) Secondly, the quality of the recording is only fair (it is a live recording).

Overall, it easy to tell the Glass tracks apart from the Moran tracks, but it is not too abrupt of a jump back and forth and the album as a whole still works; the Moran tracks hold their own and add to the overall effect of the work. While 'The Juniper Tree' is listed as an opera, it is much like a straight-forward recording of a play in the way 'The Witches of Venice' was done with the lines sung/spoken with the music. You will hear many spoken lines as opposed to sung lines in many of the tracks.

As for the music, the first track was composed by Glass and is the longest track at about 17 minutes. With all of the technical faults of this album I still stand by my first assessment that this first track alone was worth the purchase. As far as all of Glass' tracks, they are all original compositions with many nods and hints at his early styles but all very interesting to hear and worthy of the purchase. I'd give the music alone 4 stars without question. The sound of Glass' tracks are in the realm of his other early theater works. Other reviews have decently stated thoughts on the music itself so I won't go on too much beyond this.

However, the big disappointment is in the recording. Once again, we have a live recording (like Toltec) but nowhere in the notes on Amazon does it state that. And while I assume this is the only existing recording available and am glad to see it released, the live nature of the recording distracts more frequently than many others.

While the quality of the music starts out sounding clear enough, the deeper the music goes into the parts of the ensemble the more muddily and incoherently the instruments come through. It's as if microphones were placed just in front of the ensemble and not above or in any other places to pick up a good balance of the instruments. Percussion is there but barely heard in many sections and the lower-range instruments come through but in a very muddy, cluttered way.

The other problem is with the vocals/voices. With this being recorded in what I guess was a live, fully-staged performance, you often hear objects being moved on stage, the sounds of footsteps on the stage are picked up, the volume of singers goes loud and soft as they are likely moving around the stage moving toward and away from the mics, and there is the obligatory coughing/audience noises here and there. Just a distracting recording to what is otherwise a very good composition to be heard.

I can only give about 2 stars on the technical merits. This, combined with the fact that only half of the CD is Glass' music brings my overall rating to a 3. Definitely a purchase based on the 30 minutes of original composition, but don't expect much as far as quality of the sound from the ensemble along with some distracting staging/audience noises. I would love to have heard a professional, studio recording of this work but am still glad to have this over none at all.

Glass: A Madrigal Opera
Glass: A Madrigal Opera
Price: $16.99
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earlier Glass work with an intimate and beautiful scoring, December 27, 2009
This review is from: Glass: A Madrigal Opera (Audio CD)
Containing Glass' early, repetative style yet beautiful and intimate, this music was a surprise and 'A Madrigal Opera' will likely be one of my favorite Glass CDs over time. This is truly one of the most unique pieces I have heard from Glass and it is one of the most original, refreshing CD releases of his work in a while from the OMM label.

Scored for a very intimate performance of violin, viola and six voices, this work contains all of the intense, repetative (and occasionally dissonent) tonalities heard in his early works but scores them for this small, almost gentle sounding orchestartion of stings and voices. It's nothing short of a Glass paradox by taking the kind of heavy, repetative structures you would expect from 'Koyaanisqatsi' and then having them performed through this almost ethereal sounding scoring. But even though the flavor of the piece is 'early Glass', I never felt as if 'I have heard this before' or felt as if Glass was borrowing from himself as I have complained about as of late with works like 'Toltec'. There is a little bit of paraphrasing from a 'Koyaanisqatsi' track but that is all; it felt like a completely original composition. This older work of Glass will definitely remind you of early Glass technically but the beauty of the simplicity of the scoring just lets the entire piece fantastically hypnotize you from start to finish.

For those who like comparisons, I would liken this composition to that of the string and vocal parts heard in the second piece/track of 'The Photographer' (Act II) as well as the 'Another Look at Harmony' track from the 'Early Voice' release. Much of this work has that 70's kind of Glass sound as heard during psychedelic-like animations during 'Sesame Street' and the like back then. Hints of the String Quartets are also evident here but the main style is that early Glass with this unique, chamber instrumentation.

Absolutely no reservation in recommending this amazingly beautiful, original and hypnotic work.

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