Overlooking Lake Superior, Sacred Heart cathedral in Duluth, Minnesota, is where the performances on composer Justin Rubin’s latest album, A Waltz Through The Vapor, were captured. The building’s hundred-year-old bricks and sandstone work their way into the compositions, imbuing the record with a timeless quality in an age that seems ever eager for the next technological innovation.
Instead of mooring them in the world of click tracks and drum machines, Rubin’s compositions find their heartbeats in the undulating rhythm of autumn water, in the cadence of a waltz from a faded photograph. Unbound by systems but always restlessly searching for the edges of tonal music, they are built out of past forms viewed through the prism of modernity. The results are uniquely Rubin’s own.
With pianist Matthew McCright at the forefront, the album collects chamber works by Rubin, building them out around the title track, “A Waltz Through The Vapor.” As the key composition that set Rubin on the path to a densely-textured style that remains both complex and approachable, it resides at the heart of this collection of rich, exquisitely-wrought works.
“Shortly after arriving in Duluth to take up my teaching position at the University,” writes Rubin, “I walked the halls and imagined all of the bodies that had come and gone over the years. Even before teaching a single class I contemplated that one day, as an older man, I too would walk out one of the doors and disappear. A Waltz through the Vapor began that summer (1998).”
Justin Rubin is Professor of Music and Chair of the Composition and Theory Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Artistic Director of the UMD New Music Festival. Rubin released his first solo CD, Nostalgia (innova 738), in 2009 that included his chamber works featuring bassoon.
Minnesota-based pianist Matthew McCright has performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific as soloist and chamber musician.