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Subotnick, Morton: ''Ascent Into Air'' and ''A Fluttering of Wings'' from ''The Double Life of Amphibians'' with Cal Arts Twentieth Century Players and Juilliard String Quartet. Nonesuch Silver Series. (7559-78020-1.) - This large-scale project carries one away into a world of Mr. Subotnick's creating. His metaphor is the amphibian - the symbolic link between air and water; between lower and higher thought. The three-part tone poem journeys from the oceanic depths (Ascent Into Air), through the earth (The Beasts), and apparently to heaven (A Fluttering of Wings). Opening with an amorphous mass of sound through which slow cello solos seep, rhythmic ideas finally emerge and take shape in ''Ascent.'' They build up to a thunderous climax, only to return to the tranquil , aqueous texture from which they sprang. Musical ideas flow thick and fast, but after a few listenings one begins to hear the tight overall structure on which smaller textural and rhythmic episodes hang. ''Wings'' takes the metaphoric journey closer to heaven with its dancing angels and shimmering electronic and string effects. As in ''Ascent,'' Subotnick takes his time in the extensive quieting of ''Wings''; it occupies several minutes with a gradual thinning of texture and thickening of lower tones. In the last section of ''Wings,'' the ''Song of the Angel'' brings back the slow, quiet tones of solo cello that opened the work.
An open mind and careful listening of this work reward the listener, even those of us who are unfamiliar with the relatively new language of the electronic music composer.