Justin Rubin


Innova 738


This CD is a document of the wonderful collaborative relationship that I’ve experienced with my colleague Dr. Jefferson Campbell, bassoonist.  Although I had lived in Duluth since 1998 I had not found a local ‘champion’ of my work until his arrival in 2005.  His interest in my music began a close friendship that has spawned a series of important works in my output that has transformed in many ways the manner in which I apply my craft to composition.  Indeed, his enthusiasm for my writing spurred me on at a time when I felt I had come to a creative endpoint and for this I am eternally grateful.  Most of the smaller chamber works that are the result of this critical turning point in my life that feature the bassoon are here - recorded and presented as if the listener has come to hear a concert. 


Night Song for Noa was composed for the young son of my friend, the famous Danish cellist John Ehde, shortly after his visit to Duluth in 2008. Originally written with violoncello instead of bassoon, I reworked the piece especially for this recording.  Compositionally speaking, this piece captures my current interests in the simultaneous articulation of multiple versions of a single modality within a transparent texture.  While editing the takes for this CD, Jefferson remarked, “I could listen to this piece all evening,” to which I responded, “That was the idea!”


Bagatelles for Bassoon and Marimba was written in early 2008 in response to an off-the-cuff request by my colleague Professor of Percussion Gene Koshinski, for a spring tour he was planning with Jefferson.  During the 1990s I wrote a series of chamber compositions in which each movement embraced a distinctly different aesthetic perspective, yet I tried to tie these disparate musical vocabularies together within one contiguous work. Although I moved away from this line of thought in the past few years I felt it would be interesting to return to it with this unusual pairing of timbres in order to explore various stylistic ways of approaching the duo.





I Tiento de baxon [Bass Toccata]

         II La canzone dell’orologio [Song of the Clock]

         III Minuet

         IV Fuga


Nostalgia marks the first work I wrote for Dr. Jefferson Campbell in early 2006 at a time when I was an expectant father and reflecting on my life up till then.  Although the harmonic ideas appear quite simple at the opening, the piano part builds up a complex polyphonic undercurrent that carries the broad melodic nature of the soloist’s lines throughout the piece.


Commissioned in late 2006 by Thomas Tjepkema to celebrate the birthday of his wife and clarinetist, Karleen, the Variations on “Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland” is comprised of an introduction followed by six variations and a coda.  This Advent hymn tune was chosen as the dedicatee’s birthday falls close to Christmas and it is also a theme I have used often in my music.  This composition is equally indebted to my study and devotion to the music of Hugo Distler (1908-42).  His concepts surrounding tonality and rhythmic organization are a clear influence in almost every passage.  My love for his writing began when I played his organ variation cycle on this very same melody.


Récitative Styrienne was composed as a birthday gift in 2006 for Jefferson as a note of thanks for his ongoing support of my music.  However for both of us it has become a singularly special piece in our collaboration that is more than simply an incidental composition.  The word Styrienne refers to a form musical expression that can feature an extreme alternation of register.  This idea struck me as a means of exploring the various tonal qualities of the bassoon within its tessitura from its highest stratospheric notes right down to its ominous bass pitches with total freedom throughout.   Unfettered by metrical barring, the composition is anchored by an alternation between two primary figurations.  The first is heard right at the outset of the work with the second being a triplet gigue-like motif that acts as its antithesis.


Il momento lussureggiante per tre musicisti was commissioned by the St. Paul based new music ensemble Zeitgeist for their  “Glancing Back, Looking Forward 30th Anniversary Celebration” in 2008.  I conceived the piece as a kind of altered chaconne, establishing the basic harmonic cycle in the piano’s opening passage, with the clarinet and vibraphone bursting in with melodic figuration as the piano continues on its music-box-esque pattern.  A little ‘luxurious moment’ for myself as well as for the musicians as it was a nice break in a restless sequence of pieces I was writing at the time that exhibited a significantly greater degree of exasperation.


The four Boutadettas were composed as a set of loosely related pieces for bassoon and piano between 2005 and 2006, and thus most clearly exhibits some of the contrasting tendencies between my earlier music and the thoughts that would pervade those of the following two years.  The word boutade is a rarely used term meaning ‘capricious’.  As such I believe I invented the term boutadetta meaning ‘short caprice’.  The outer movements most closely capture this mind-set while the inner two pieces are more relaxed and free of any sense of urgency for abrupt turns of drama. 


Nouveau Estampies was conceived in 2006 as a gentle suite for clarinet and bassoon inspired by Baroque forms and practices.  In that mode of thought, this brief untitled sequence of pieces begins with a dance and ends with a fugue.  The first movement is a rondo establishing a particular tonal aesthetic and leaning heavily towards a quartal vocabulary.  The contrasting second movement as well grapples with the period’s interests in imitation and inversion while remaining ‘reflective’.  The final movement is a free-form fugue with many digressions. The work was premiered by members of the Luna Nova New Music Ensemble at the 2008 Intégrales New Music Festival sponsored by the University of Southern Mississippi.


Un piccolo duetto di basso was composed in 2007 shortly after hearing Jefferson perform the Mozart Sonata for bassoon and cello.  The performers here have remarked that my piece takes on a quasi-Soviet-era Russian tone reminiscent of ironic military marches distilled through a mesh of chromaticism.  I can hear that in the music and like the comparison.


Hocket in Your Pocket is a fast and furious but always-humorous piece I wrote in 2006 for Jefferson and his good friend, and percussionist, Charles Brooks.  Exploring the more ‘percussive’ tendencies available with the bassoon it generates an unrelenting and rhythmically complex counterpoint with the marimba and vibraphone.  Punctuated with sporadic and venomous bass drum assaults, the piece becomes a whirlwind of shattered fragments of repetition just before a sudden about-face in the final few seconds.


Un temps calme was composed in response to a commission from euphonium player David Kassler in 2007.  I reworked the piece for bassoon as well as violoncello.  It consists of a single chord in the organ establishing itself as a complex pad of sound over which the organ and bassoon trade off recitative-like melodies, however angular and chromatic.  Interposed by moments of static sounds the organ slowly builds its original chord into a larger, more intricate sonority as the dramatic structure unfolds only to have it reduced to the original as the piece smolders to a deep final echo between the players.  The work is recorded here on the historic Sacred Heart Felgemaker Opus 664 organ from 1898, one of the oldest extant large organs in the state of Minnesota.


An emerging voice in the interpretation of contemporary music for the bassoon, Dr. Jefferson Campbell has extensive experience as a chamber musician and soloist throughout the United States and abroad. He has appeared with numerous ensembles across the country as well as in Europe and China. He is a member of the Nebraska-based Third Chair Chamber Players and has recorded twice with this ensemble. Over the last five years Dr. Campbell has commissioned and premiered more than twenty new works for bassoon and chamber music from American composers.  On the faculty at the University of Minnesota Duluth since 2005, he is also the author of an instructional text, Training Wheels for the Bassoon. 


Clarinetist and artistic co-director of the internationally acclaimed new music ensemble Zeitgeist, Patrick O’Keefe is a graduate of Indiana University, the New England Conservatory and the University of California, San Diego. In San Diego, he performed regularly with the new music ensemble SONOR as well as with the San Diego Symphony.  He has performed and recorded with many noted new music groups around the country including the California EAR Unit, the Cleveland New Music Associates and Ensemble Sospeso in New York. Pat can also be heard performing regularly with the Brazilian ensembles Brasamba and Batucada do Norte (of which he is the co-founder and co-director), the world music group Music Mundial and the improvisation ensemble AntiGravity. He is currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. 


Shannon L. Wettstein, pianist, has premiered countless new works throughout the United States and internationally including performances in New York’s Lincoln Center, Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the New Zealand Embassy in Washington D.C. and the Japan America Theater in Los Angeles. Her awards include the 2003 American Composers Forum Commissioning Grant, the Merle Montgomery Grant given by Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation and grants from the Minnesota Arts Council. Her solo CD is on the Centaur label; other recordings are available on the Innova, Tzadik, and Mode labels.  She holds a doctorate of music arts from the University of California, San Diego, a bachelor of music (highest distinction) from the University of Kansas and a Master of Music degree (honors) from New England Conservatory. Her teachers have included Aleck Karis, Stephen Drury, Sequiera Costa, Richard Angeletti and Claude Frank. She is on the faculty of Augsburg College and New England Conservatory’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Piano Performance.


Gene Koshinski has received international recognition as a percussionist and composer.  His method book, The Additive Method of Two-Mallet Study, and a collection of published compositions are distributed internationally, many of which receive frequent performances around the world.  Among his recent endeavors since joining the University of Minnesota Duluth faculty in 2007 is a new solo CD entitled Klung (Equilibrium Records), which features new works for solo percussion, many of which were written for him.  Mr. Koshinski has created a niche for himself as a champion of new music with highlighted performances in Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Canada, Austria, and throughout the United States.


Cellist Josh Aerie is a versatile and sought-after performing and recording artist, instructor, and conductor.  As both a classical and non-classical musician, Mr. Aerie has performed in diverse venues from the Kennedy Center and Tanglewood to House of Blues and the Hard Rock Café.  As a founding member of the Minneapolis-based Axial Age Ensemble, he creates new music in concert with the imagery of filmmaker Jila Nikpay.  Josh currently lives in Duluth, Minnesota, and is on the music faculty at both the College of St. Scholastica and Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. In addition, he is Music Director and Conductor of the Red Cedar Symphony Orchestra and conducts the Duluth Community Orchestra.

Organist and Oklahoma native Samuel Black came to the north shore of Lake Superior in the summer of 1995. Since this time he has become a strong advocate for and participant in the creation of serious music throughout the Arrowhead region of northeastern Minnesota.  In addition to being the music director and organist at the Duluth Congregational Church, he founded the Northshore Chamber Society and is the pianist with the Gichigami Trio. Sam is also on the English faculty at the College of St. Scholastica and is a critic for the Duluth News Tribune.


Prolific composer and artist Justin Rubin was born in New York City in 1971.  Although he was drawn to music as a child he did not seek formal study as a composer until his mid-teens at the Manhattan School of Music where he also began studies of piano under Philip Kawin. He went on to pursue both his bachelors and masters degrees in composition from the State University of New York at Purchase where he studied with Richard Cameron-Wolfe while becoming a proficient organist under the tutelage of Robert Fertitta.


Following a Fulbright Scholarship in musicology to Denmark in the Fall of 1994, Rubin was appointed Interim Choir Director and Organist at New York City’s prestigious Holy Trinity Lutheran Church where he began composing numerous choral and ensemble pieces for liturgical and concert usage. It was during this time that he started to bring together the rigor of his academic compositional training and a writing style that could communicate with a diverse audience.


This new tonal language was further developed during his residence at the University of Arizona (1995-98) under the guidance of Daniel Asia while completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition. One piece exemplifying Rubin’s compositional concerns that was completed during this period, the cantata David and Absalom, was distinguished with a BMI Student Composer Award.


In 1998 Dr. Rubin was appointed as Chair of the Composition and Theory department at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The following spring he spearheaded the formation of a New Music Festival at the University with its first weeklong concert series in 2000. The success of this event prompted the school to establish it as an annual series, of which Rubin is the artistic director.


He has been chosen in consecutive years as a Minnesota Orchestra Perfect Pitch Composer for his Passacaglia Tenebrosa (1999) and Symphonietta I (2000).  His cantata, From the Sonnets of Apology, was selected for the Plymouth Music Series: Essentially Choral reading sessions (2001-02). Rubin’s works for violin and guitar have been performed throughout Europe by Duo46 and his two-piano compositions, including the demanding Variations on “Deo Gracias” and ň Rebours, in Europe, South America, and across the United States have been championed by Duo Gastesi-Bezerra.  Other chamber ensembles that have performed his music include St. Paul based Zeitgeist, the Boston new music group Xanthos, Luna Nova New Music Ensemble of Tennessee, and The New York Miniaturist Ensemble. Rubin has been a featured composer at the Aspen Composers’ Conference, the Hermoupolis Guitar Festival, the Guitar Foundation of America Conference, and a retrospective of his chamber works was presented in 2004 at Palm Beach Atlantic University. 


As a multimedia artist and painter he has created numerous experimental works. La Zarabanda, a ‘video painting’ that incorporates layers of altered footage fused with his piano music was selected for viewing and broadcast in 2007 by the Visual Music Marathon (Northeastern University). Following this success, the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota awarded Rubin with a grant to create a collaborative score and film, The Pale Memory, with Philadelphia based artist John Merigliano. 


As a performer, Rubin was the pianist in residence with the ST/X Ensemble Xenakis USA from 1994 to 2000, during which time he recorded two CDs with the group on the Mode and Vandenburg Wave labels and gave a live broadcast concert at Radio France in Paris. Rubin’s final performance of Xenakis’ music was with the Gulbenkian Festival Orchestra in Lisbon when he performed his first piano concerto, Synaphaē.


Rubin has also concertized widely on organ, specializing in works of less heralded composers and always performing new pieces. In 1996, he gave an all-Hugo Distler recital at famed St. Thomas Church in New York City. In 2000 he was invited by the American Guild of Organists to perform selections of J.S.Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge as part of the 250th Memorial Minnesota Bach Festival co-sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio’s Pipedreams.



Recording Engineer and Editing: Eric Swanson

Recorded at Sacred Heart Studios in Duluth, Minnesota. October 12-November 20, 2008.

Piano Technician: William C. Sadler

Paintings by Justin Rubin

This recording was made possible by a very generous grant from the University of

Minnesota - Office of the Vice President for Research.


Thanks to my wife Erica for her unending love and support for all my projects and dreams, and to my son Max for allowing me to keep such a crazy schedule when we should be playing soccer in the living room.


innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn: director, design

Chris Campbell: operations manager