Brooklyn, New York, 7 September 1924.
Studied under Schoenberg, Sessions, and Dallapiccola.
Served in World War II.
Painter; then composer of chamber and choral works, and for films from
the mid-1950s; taught at the University of Southern California, Los
Angeles; musical director of New Muse chamber orchestra; composer for TV
Murder in Texas
, 1981, and
Academy Award, for
, 1975, and
Bound for Glory
East of Eden (Kazan)
The Cobweb (Minnelli); Rebel without a Cause (N. Ray)
Edge of the City (Ritt)
The Young Stranger (Frankenheimer); Bombers B-52 (Douglas)
The Hidden World (Snyder—doc); Lafayette Escadrille (Wellman)
Pork Chop Hill (Milestone); The Bramble Bush (Petrie); The Savage Eye (Strick, Maddow, and Meyers)
The Crowded Sky (Pevney); The Plunderers (Pevney); The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (Boetticher)
The Outsider (Delbert Mann)
Convicts 4 ( Reprieve ) (Kaufman); Hell Is for Heroes (Siegel); The Chapman Report (Cukor)
Fantastic Voyage (Fleischer)
A Covenant with Death (Johnson)
Countdown (Altman); Hellfighters (McLaglen)
This Savage Land (McEveety—from TV segments)
A Man Called Horse (Silverstein); Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Post)
The Todd Killings ( Skipper ) (Shear)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (Lee Thompson)
Barry Lyndon (Kubrick); Race with the Devil (Starrett); Rooster Cogburn (Millar)
Bound for Glory (Ashby); Birch Interval (Delbert Mann); The Return of a Man Called Horse (Kershner)
September 30, 1955 ( 9/30/55 ) (Bridges); The Car (Silverstein); An Enemy of the People (Schaefer)
Lord of the Rings (Bakshi)
Promises in the Dark (Hellman); Prophecy (Frankenheimer)
City in Fear (Smithee); Hide in Plain Sight (Caan); The Jazz Singer (Fleischer)
The Wall (Markowitz); Making Love (Hiller)
The Return of Marcus Welby M.D. (Singer—for TV); Celebrity (Wendkos—for TV); Sylvia (Firth); Heart of the Stag (Firth)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Nimoy)
Where Pigeons Go to Die (Landon—for TV); Ambition (Goldstein); Robocop II (Kershner)
Aftermath: A Test of Love (G. Jordan—for TV)
Keeper of the City (Roth—for TV)
The Color of Evening (Stafford)
The Face on the Milk Carton (Hussein—for TV); Mrs. Munck (Diane Ladd)
"Notes from a Sub-Culture," in Perspectives of New Music (Yardley, Pennsylvania), vol. 7, no. 1, 1968.
In Knowing the Score , by Irwin Bazelon, New York, 1975.
In Film Score , edited by Tony Thomas, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1979.
In Soundtrack! , September 1995.
In Soundtrack! , December 1995.
Thomas, Tony, in Music for the Movies , South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973.
International Filmusic Journal , no. 2, 1980.
Palmer, Christopher, in The Composer in Hollywood , New York, 1990.
Indiana Theory Review , vol. 11, Spring/Fall, 1990.
Cue Sheet (Hollywood), vol. 11, no. 1, 1995.
* * *
Leonard Rosenman is one of a handful of film composers who have successfully incorporated contemporary compositional techniques into conventional film scoring. Rosenman's use of Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone technique set a standard for the use of various avant-garde, atonal, and serial effects. The composer has also demonstrated an ability to employ authentic period music in a number of films dealing with historical subject matter.
Brought to the attention of director Elia Kazan by one of his piano students, James Dean, Rosenman collaborated with the actor and director on East of Eden and Rebel without a Cause . For the former Rosenman opted for selective instrumentation at many points in the score rather than the large orchestral sound common in films of the time, and also provided an extended musical passage at the end of the film, running several minutes in length and giving the composer an opportunity to develop and combine themes heard throughout the film.
The use of the 12-tone technique for The Cobweb demonstrated the potential for such techniques in film scoring and led to the utilization by composers of more contemporary sounds, both in similar psychological dramas and later in other types of films. While Rosenman himself has continued to experiment in such sounds (as in Fantastic Voyage ), he has refused to become typed as a "modern" composer. Rosenman has also shown an ability to adapt more traditional musical forms to his scores, ranging from the use of an ancient Chinese tune in Pork Chop Hill to the incorporation of authentic Native American music into the score for A Man Called Horse . His Academy Awards have been for arranging rather than original compositions. Rosenman received awards for his adaptation of Woody Guthrie songs in Bound for Glory and for the arrangements of classical pieces in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon , although Rosenman has expressed dissatisfaction with the final result and Kubrick's overuse of one particular theme at the expense of many of the composer's other variations.
The multiple facets of Rosenman's work are reflected in his extensive score for Lord of the Rings , which combines richly textured chordal structures and unusual tonalities with more lyrical passages and a unifying march motif. In recent years Rosenman has turned to more intimate personal dramas requiring less experimental approaches. In addition to his film work Rosenman has remained active in composing concert music and has worked extensively in television, although he referred to the latter in an interview for the American Film Institute as "the quintessential schlock medium," adding that much of the music for the medium had a generic quality and was little more than "wallpaper."
—Richard R. Ness