Album Remarks & Appraisals:
A living legend in the development of electronic music and a leading innovator in works that involve instruments and other media, Morton Subotnick uses his vast knowledge and experience on Music for the Double Life of Amphibians. This release was conceived as a symphonic poem, the title of which can be understood as a metaphor: "The metaphor suggests that the 'doubleness' of the amphibians, needing its past-present environment (the water) while reaching for a new present-future (the air), is our 'doubleness' - the past-present and present-future - that beast-spirit and angel-spirit in us all" - Subotnick
Liner Note Author: Morton Subotnick .
Recording information: Capitol Records, Los Angeles (02/10/1984); Columbia Recordings Studio "B", New York (02/10/1984); Inergi Studios, Houston, Texas (02/10/1984); Wally Heider Studio, Los Angeles (02/10/1984); Capitol Records, Los Angeles (04/16/1982); Columbia Recordings Studio "B", New York (04/16/1982); Inergi Studios, Houston, Texas (04/16/1982); Wally Heider Studio, Los Angeles (04/16/1982); Capitol Records, Los Angeles (04/27/1983); Columbia Recordings Studio "B", New York (04/27/1983); Inergi Studios, Houston, Texas (04/27/1983); Wally Heider Studio, Los Angeles (04/27/1983); Capitol Records, Los Angeles (05/1981); Columbia Recordings Studio "B", New York (05/1981); Inergi Studios, Houston, Texas (05/1981); Wally Heider Studio, Los Angeles (05/1981).
Editor: Ulrike Bretz-Faust.
Photographer: Steve Gunther.
The music here was recorded for the Nonesuch label between 1981 and 1985, and it makes an ideal path further into the music of Morton Subotnick for those who are familiar only with "Silver Apples of the Moon." The procedures involved are intricate and are explained by the composer in the booklet: the scores involve "ghost electronics" that are not directly heard, but that modify the sounds of the live instruments in prescribed ways, and the four pieces on the album are part of more than one larger set (including the titular "Double Life of Amphibians"). All of this is put forth with refreshing clarity, but it's not absolutely necessary to follow it in order to enjoy the music: the surfaces are delightful. "The Last Dream of the Beast" features Subotnick's wife, soprano Joan La Barbara, and some "conventional" computer electronics along with the ghost score, and its dramatic quality comes through vividly. But perhaps the most purely enjoyable is the opening "Axolotl" (the name refers to a Mexican salamander), for solo cello and ghost score. The performance here by cellist Joel Krosnick, the Juilliard Quartet's cellist and, like the Juilliard's other members (who also appear in the final "A Fluttering of Wings"), a musician schooled on traditional repertory, is extraordinary. And that's one of the keys to Subotnick's music: for all its experimentalism, it retains a firm grounding in traditional procedures. The other major stars here are the members of Wergo's engineering team, who have done superb work in remastering the original and already very fine sound. A major release that delivers the cover-promised landmarks of contemporary music. ~ James Manheim