Donald Rubinstein

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Donald Rubinstein
Photo by me of Donald Rubinstein.jpg
Composer Donald Rubinstein
Background information
Born (1952-02-19) February 19, 1952 (age 66)
OriginBrooklyn, New York
GenresFilm scores, Jazz, Theater, Art
Occupation(s)Composer, Songwriter, Artist
InstrumentsPiano, Guitar, Vocalist
Years activeMid-1970s to present
LabelsVarèse Sarabande, Rhombus Records, Perseverance Records, Levelgreen Records

Donald Rubinstein (born 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[edit]

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[edit]

Donald Rubinstein was 24 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 includes the main title for the television series Tales From the Darkside (as well as its theatrical version). He wrote the main title and episodic music for the television series Monsters." Rubinstein also co-wrote and performed "Ain't Nothin' Like a Friend" with Ed Harris, for the Harris directed feature soundtrack, "Appaloosa." (Lakeshore Records). He scored the documentary feature, 'Tangled Up In Bob: Searching For Bob Dylan" and most recently the German Documentary feature "Blender," (2015). Perseverance Records will be releasing selections from that soundtrack along with selections from Rubinstein's soundtrack for "Bruiser" in 2016. In March, 2014 Perseverance released "Dawn Imagined," which included concert works based on Rubinstein's original sketches for George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead." Rubinstein's score for "Martin" will be released for a fourth time (on as many record labels), in May 2015 as a vinyl recording by Ship To Shore Phonograph Company.


As a prolific jazz composer, Rubinstein has partnered with Hank Roberts, Vinny Golia, Bob Moses and Marty Ehrlich, 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 a vocal-duet with "country outlaw" Terry Allen. Rubinstein has co-written a number of songs with Allen including "Vampires Parade" for his 2010 release "Too Late to Die," which featured long time Allen collaborator Lloyd Maines. While 2010 saw the release of three new Rubinstein CDs, there are three varied releases planned for 2013. An iconoclast, Rubinstein has released 26 CDs with little major label support. Maintaining an unusual tenacity of position he has produced a unique body of genre-breaking 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[edit]

Beginning in the late 70s, Rubinstein's theatrical works often included inconic storyteller Brother Blue, with whom he partnered in numerous situations. 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.

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 exclusively 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 John Densmore, Hani Naser and Terry Allen . It also included Donald's directing premiere, "Tales From the Edge," a short animated film based on his drawings. Donald has exhibited at Linda Durham Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts in Omaha, and Gallery 68 in Austin, Texas, amongst others. Two recent exhibitions included a one-person show at La Tienda Exhibit Space in Santa Fe, 2011 and an exhibition of his "Book of Black and White Dreams," at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, in January, 2012. His work was also included in both The Fountain Art Fair in NYC in March, 2013 and The Boston Print Biennial in 2015. Donald Rubinstein was awarded, via nomination, a fellowship and residency from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in February, 2014. Rubinstein's most recent one-person exhibit was at Phil Space Gallery in Santa Fe, NM in November 2015.

Personal life[edit]

Rubinstein currently lives in Santa Fe, NM.


  • 1997: ASCAP Special Award in Theater Arts
  • 1999: Banff Centre, Leighton Colony, Composer Residency
  • 2001: Ucross Foundation, Composer Residency
  • 2007: ASCAP Plus Award for Jazz/Popular Composition
  • 2009: ASCAP Plus Award for Jazz Composition
  • 2010: Fundación Valparaíso, Spain, Composer Residency/Fellowship
  • 2014: Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (by nomination)


External links[edit]