Professor Alex Lubet Releases New Albums Featuring Mountain Dulcimer
Composer and School of Music faculty member Alex Lubet recently released a new album, “Three Strings and the Truth: New Music for Mountain Dulcimer” and had enough material to complete a second album, “Subtle.” The first album includes 17 tracks, with four new compositions from Lubet, and features Lubet performing the works on the mountain dulcimer. The second album showcases a collaboration with fellow School of Music professor Guerino Mazzola on grand piano.
Lubet joined the School of Music faculty in 1979. He specializes in composing works that he will then perform in, mostly consisting of plucked string instruments associated with American folk traditions. He has collaborated with artists around the world, and his research focuses on the field of disability in music and examines the issues around disability in music. We spoke with Lubet to discover more about his new album.
The albums were conceptualized in 2015 when Lubet began the music composition process. He composed four of the tracks on the album. Lubet’s wife and DMA alumna Iris Shiraishi and current DMA student Jay Afrisando contributed additional compositions to the album. He approached the team of producer Steve Barnett and engineer Preston Smith, who are multiple Grammy winners, with many additional nominations. Barnett is a School of Music alumnus. The albums were recorded in August of 2018 and finished post-production in 2020.
There are a few tracks on the album that Lubet enjoys the most. “I love Jay and Iris’s pieces. They're both great works. Jay is Indonesian and Iris is Japanese-American and their cultures deeply inform their styles. Of my own works, I think I like At a Place Far Away best. I wrote it for a residency at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music in Chengdu, China, based on a very popular folk song from that region. It's influenced by Chinese traditional music and makes extensive use of sounds and techniques I've developed for the instrument. I think it exemplifies the contributions I'm trying to make to the instrument.”
Lubet explained his inspiration for the album came from his newfound love affair with the dulcimer. It’s his first album where he plays dulcimer exclusively. He desires to write for the dulcimer due to the limited availability of solo repertoire for the instrument by classically trained composers, and is unaware of any other classically trained composer in the industry who also plays and composes for the dulcimer.
While the two albums were born from the same inspiration, Lubet mentioned they have different styles. “While the music on “Three Strings and the Truth” is all composed and notated, all my music with Guerino is totally improvised, what is typically called free jazz, although it incorporates a lot of other influences.”
He noted that in his very first album, “Deep State,” there was only one track featuring dulcimer, and the new albums are exclusively performed on the dulcimer. Guerino and Lubet did not think that the instruments would be compatible in sound, but by pairing the piano and dulcimer they felt like they had created something new and unexpected. They were delighted to have recorded a full album in a single session.