Today, we highlight Composer Max Aruj who recently composed the score for Eytan Rockaway’s psychological thriller “The Abandoned”, as well as Sandu Negrea’s dark romance “Stefan + Christy”.
How has music influenced your family?
Listening to music in the car as a kid was immensely important. With my Mom it was generally classical music (she plays piano). With my Dad, it may have been Thelonius Monk, jazz (he plays drums). With my nanny, it was Elvis and oldies. My best friend’s dad, when we’d do these camping trips liked 1960’s rock, Grateful Dead sort of stuff (I didn’t really understand what they were talking about, but I liked the way it sounded). And with my friends it was Red Hot Chili Peppers. My brother Alex liked Pantera in high school, so I listened to them too, I remember seeing a video of performing live and finding it absolutely shocking. Alex is a flamenco guitarist, and does lots of traveling, so he has this amazing curiosity and loves to learn about different cultures. I saw him a few weeks ago, and while cooking, he was casually listening to some Indian raga music (who does that!); he just loves learning. He even has been teaching himself some tablas. That’s the point really, is that any music makes us all curious and want to learn more about it.
If you could travel to any period based on the music, when would you go?
Early 1900’s, the birth of contemporary classical music. Jazz came up a years after that. The thought of not having heard certain genres yet, and all these musical “rules” being broken would have been mind-blowing I think. It was a fascinating time.
I am most passionate about classical music. I can see myself listening to and studying the greats so many years from now. It is through this lense that I feel view all music. The idea that you can control every note is extremely powerful, and knowing this changes the way you view writing a single note. I also however think of Bill Evans, and how improvisation can be just as powerful (working with more of a framework). Over the past few years, I’ve learned and written more music in different styles than I ever could have imagined, even modern genres, such as electronica. I listen to pop music more than I ever have before because I appreciate all the production that goes into this music. People ask for so many different genres literally every day, and I have to study up and learn something if I have never done anything like that before. And this process of teaching myself, and striving to find right ingredients to create whatever it is called for is both the greatest challenge, and reward. I think being a composer is extremely exciting because I am constantly striving for something. Whether I get there I’m not sure, but I like the feeling of always reaching for something.
When did you discover that you wanted to pursue film music?
My friends and I made a Film in high school called Black Martini. I wrote a jazz score for it with a friend of mine, Loren Brindze, when we were sixteen. I thought writing music for it was the coolest thing and thought, “this is fun, I’d like to do this.” I was also in the film, I played a jazz pianist named Slick Sal.
How did you first get involved writing music? What challenged you most, and what rewarded you most, as your résumé evolved over the years?
I studied classical and jazz piano from when I was six. Eventually, my first piano teacher showed me that I could then write down what I improvised (it didn’t matter if it was jazz or classical), and then revise it to make it better. That happened for the first time when I was in high school or middle school. I then took a music theory class and loved learning what goes on under the hood so to speak, and how harmony works, why does one chord follow another, it’s magic!
Best concert or musical appearance you’ve ever seen?
I saw jazz pianist Oscar Peterson with my Dad at the Vancouver Jazz Festival and even though I was pretty young, I knew it was special.