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Max Klein ’18 Makes Exquusite Music

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Haunting. Elegant. Intense. Playgoers were in awe of the music composed by Max Klein ‘18 that accompanied Groton’s production of Equus. Charlie Hawkings ‘17, who played psychiatrist Martin Dysart, said that Max’s music “truly captured the essence of the play.” Yet Max’s composition, despite its elegance and precision, was the result of a chance meeting between him and Director of Theater Laurie Sales on the Dining Hall staircase.

This winter, Max had originally planned to do a Faculty Sponsored Activity (FSA) in composition of minimalist music. During the FSA approval process, Laurie, who sits on the FSA board, suggested that Max write for Equus as she passed him on her way to dinner. “I’ve always been interested in him as an artist, so I jumped at the opportunity to see him in his element,” Laurie said. Initially, Max was hesitant to compose for the play, but he changed his tune after watching and taking inspiration from the film version of Equus.

Over the next three months, Max worked closely with Laurie to compose a soundtrack fitting of the play. After reading the play and hearing Laurie’s vision, he presented a first draft of the score in January. She asked Max to make modifications because, in her words, the original version was “way too big.” Max explained what Laurie meant by that: “Movie soundtracks have narrative in a much more blatant way than theater music. Laurie wanted a different progression. The music was supposed to highlight the acting without drowning it, but the composition had to have a story of its own.” From January to late April, Max continued to revise and retrench in the afternoons, continuing to work closely with Laurie. At times, Max was surprised to find his music used differently than he intended, but he took it all in stride. “It was hugely rewarding to work with someone so professional in his approach,” Laurie said of Max. “It was adult collaboration.”

With his vast knowledge of music theory and the director’s vision, Max composed on a software synthesizer before holding a recording session in late April. Funded by the Music Department, Max made a recording of his score with Kenji Kikuchi, the director of jazz ensembles. Arts Department Head MaryAnn Lanier helped compile a string quintet comprised of two music teachers, two off-campus musicians and Ivana Primero ‘17 for the recording session. The recording produced what playgoers heard during the performances.

When asked about how the cast reacted to Max’s composition, Laurie lit up. She said the musicality of the cast – particularly that of leads Mac Galinson ‘17 and Charlie – helped them appreciate Max’s contribution. The audience, too, was enthralled by the soundtrack; even during intermission when the stage was black, the crowd sat in hushed silence.

The back of the Equus program featured a director’s note from Laurie. She wrote, “The show belongs to [the students] now, just as it has from the start. They have attacked it with an unwavering passion that I envy.” In an interview, Laurie expanded further on this: “Equus is special theater and we did a beyond high-school-level performance of it. I have my collaborators to thank for that, one of them Max Klein. He was thrilled at the cast party. I think it became as much a part of him as it was for me… He should compose for a living.”

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