Donald Rubinstein

Donald Rubinstein
Donald Rubinstein
Background information
Born February 19, 1952 (1952-02-19) (age 59)
Origin Brooklyn, New York
Genres Film scores, Jazz, Theater, Art
Occupations Composer, Songwriter, Artist
Instruments Piano, Guitar, Vocalist
Years active Mid-1970s to present
Labels Rhombus Records, Perseverance Records, Bare Bones Records, Black Starlight Records, Levelgreen Records

Donald Rubinstein (b. February 19, 1952 in Brooklyn, New York) is a film composer, singer/songwriter and multi-media artist who is best known for his scoring collaborations with George A. Romero and Avant-garde jazz/rock collaborations with such musicians as Bill Frisell, Emil Richards and Wayne Horvitz.


Career Beginnings

Inspired to compose by his love of jazz, Rubinstein began music studies at Washington University. He first attended at age 16, studying political science and subsequently poetry. After deciding to devote himself entirely to music, Rubinstein learned the guitar and piano, then transferred to the conservatory and received a B.A. in music from Washington University in 1972. Rubinstein would move to Boston, where he spent two semesters at the Berklee College of Music. Though he left after finding the experience to be too constraining for his experimental ideas, Rubinstein would meet guitarist Bill Frisell, whom he'd later collaborate with on numerous projects. Rubinstein then went on to study on private scholarship with noted piano instructor Madame Margaret (Stedman) Chaloff, whose other students included Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Steve Kuhn.

Film Scoring for George A. Romero

Donald Rubinstein was 26 when he was first introduced to famed horror filmmaker George A. Romero through his brother Richard P. Rubinstein, who had produced Martin for the writer-director. It was an innovative psychological horror film that equated vampirism with drug addiction and urban decay, and was set in Romero's favored location of Pittsburgh. To match Martin's unique tone, Rubinstein created a Baroque jazz score to play a lonely young man who believes himself to be undead. This was the first time modernistic music had been heard in a "vampire" movie, and Rubinstein's Martin soundtrack would become a highly sought collector's item that Mojo magazine called "One of the top 100 Coolest Soundtracks of All Time."

When Romero next turned Camelot into a motorcycle Renaissance Faire for Knightriders, Donald Rubinstein would compose an equally innovative score, as well as appear in the film as the leader of a musical trio. Rubinstein became close friends with Ed Harris on Knightriders, and would later write an unused score for the actor's directorial debut on Pollock. In 2000, Rubinstein composed the score for Romero's allegorical horror film Bruiser, about a put-upon man who literally becomes faceless.

Donald Rubinstein's other soundtrack work included co-writing, with Erica Lindsay, the main title of the television series Tales From the Darkside (as well as its theatrical version). He also wrote the main title and episodic music for the television series Monsters. He scored the documentary feature, Tangled Up In Bob: Searching For Bob Dylan, and most recently (2010) "Fugue For Motorcycle" for Emmy Award winning director Miguel Grunstein.


As a prolific jazz composer, Rubinstein has partnered with Hank Roberts, Bob Moses, Eric Lindsay and Vinny Golia among many other notable performers, collaborating with them in both film recording sessions and live performances. Peter Gordon (Boston Symphony Orchestra) commissioned a work for French Horn and subsequently a jazz trio, including celebrated bassist Anthony Jackson and percussionist Gordon Gottlieb (New York Philharmonic Orchestra). Jazziz Magazine included the duet "Fingers" by Rubinstein and Bill Frisell on their "Celebration of the Modern Era" special edition 20th anniversary CD in 2003.

Also a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Donald's work crosses normal boundaries. In 2009 he completed a CD of original songs, "When She Kisses the Ship On His Arm," for Bare Bones Records, which included Sharon Gilchrist on mandolin and a vocal-duet with "country outlaw" Terry Allen. Rubinstein has performed and co-written a number of songs with Allen, including "Vampires Parade" for his 2010 release "Too Late to Die." In the same vein Rubinstein has completed a duet of songs with Jono Manson, "Life is Orange," including guest artist John Popper. While 2010 saw the release of three new Rubinstein CDs, there are three varied releases planned for 2011. An iconoclast, Rubinstein has released 22 CDs thus far with very little major label support. Maintaining an unusual tenacity of position, Rubinstein, with the support of fellow artists such as Ed Harris, Bill Frisell and others, has produced an unusually formidable body of work. Of Rubinstein's musical work, Steve Huey of Allmusic wrote, "Singer/songwriter, pianist, jazz experimentalist, soundtrack composer, beat-style poet -- Donald Rubinstein has somehow juggled all those hats over the lengthy span of his creative career."

Art and Theater Works

Ed Harris and the Met Theatre produced "Buddha Baby" and "Premonitions" in Los Angeles. Rubinstein's third multi-media performance work, "Strum Road" also premiered there in 1997 to critical acclaim. "Pilgrim" a feature documentary by director Miguel Grunstein, based on Rubinstein's life and work, is currently shooting and is slated for completion in 2012.

Rubinstein has been exhibited at both The Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in collaboration with famed artist Kiki Smith. His single song CD, "Ruby Star," sung in duet with Robin Holcomb, was first sold at The Museum of Modern Art in 2003. During 2007 The Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, presented a 'thus far' large-scale celebration of Donald's work, including a screening of films he scored, art exhibit and a concert performance with special guests Terry Allen and John Densmore. It also included Donald's directing premiere, "Tales From the Edge," a short animated film based on his drawings. Donald has shown at Linda Durham Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts in Omaha, and Gallery 68 in Austin, Texas, amongst others. Two upcoming one-person exhibitions are scheduled at La Tienda Exhibit Space in Santa Fe, 2011, and The Fisher Press Gallery, Santa Fe, in 2012.

Personal life

Rubinstein currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife, the performance artist, Audrey Nadia Rubinstein.


  • 1997: ASCAP Special Award in Theater Arts
  • 2007: ASCAP Plus Award for Jazz/Popular Composition
  • 2009: ASCAP Plus Award for Jazz Composition


  • Martin (LP, Varese Sarabande Records, 1979)
  • The Witness (Cassette, Desert Link Record, 1979)
  • Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (GNP Crescendo Records, 1991)
  • Time Again (Rhombus Records, 1997)
  • Scars and Dreams (Blue Horse Records, 1998)
  • Martin (Levelgreen Records, CD reissue 1999)
  • A Man Without Love (Blue Horse Records, 1999)
  • Music For Ocean Travel (Blue Horse Records, 2000)
  • Long Parade (Blue Horse Records, 2000)
  • Maya (Rhombus Records, 2001)
  • Painted Stranger (Rhombus Records, 2001)
  • Ruby Star (single song CD, produced for Museum of Modern Art Exhibit with Kiki Smith, 2003)
  • A Celebration of the Modern Era (Jazziz, 2003)
  • Bruiser (Black Starlight Records, 2004)
  • Lost Trail Hymn (Black Starlight Records, 2005)
  • Circus Boy (Black Starlight Records, 2006)
  • Acceptance (Rhombus Records, 2007)
  • Tangled Up In Bob & Other Songs (Rhombus Records, 2007)
  • Martin; The Unused Score From Pollock (Perseverance Records, 2007)
  • Take the Dark Away (Spacebar Recordings, 2008)
  • Knightriders (Perseverance Records, 2008)
  • When She Kisses the Ship On His Arm (Bare Bones Records, 2009)
  • Too Late to Die (Bare Bones Records, 2010)
  • Love Hunger (Bare Bones Records, 2010)
  • Life Is Orange (self release MANSTEIN: Jono Manson & Donald Rubinstein, 2010)

External links

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