Leonard Rosenman (1924 – 2008)

March 6, 2008


Before I moved to California, my teacher, Leon Kirchner, introduced me to Leonard Rosenman. I remember several trips out to his beautiful Malibu home. I brought my music, and we played each other music for three hours, and chain-smoked.

Leonard taught a few times for us at UCLA. And before my time, he taught music theory. In fact, one day, one of his students asked him to consider doing the music for a film he was starring in. He eventually said yes. The student was James Dean and the film was EAST OF EDEN.

He seemed to be bitter that his concert music was not appreciated at the same level as his film music. But his concert music was difficult to play, and only the pros could ever conquer his microtonal slant.

The Film Music Society has an excellent obit:

Leonard Rosenman has died at the age of 83.

The composer of East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Fantastic Voyage, who won Academy Awards for Barry Lyndon and Bound for Glory, suffered a heart attack and passed away early Tuesday, March 4, at the Motion Picture and Television Country House & Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Rosenman, who also won Emmys for his television scores for Sybil and Friendly Fire and composed the memorable themes for The Defenders, Combat! and Marcus Welby, M.D., will be remembered as the New Yorker who shook up the status quo of Hollywood music in the 1950s with his sophisticated approach to film music. He applied serial techniques, atonality, microtonality and other avant-garde ideas to movie music during his four decades in the business.

Rosenman was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 7, 1924, and began playing the piano during his teen years. After the war, he moved to California, where he studied with Arnold Schoenberg and Roger Sessions; and in 1952, he received a fellowship to study with Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. Widely regarded as one of the most promising young composers in America, Rosenman was teaching piano and writing chamber music in New York when director Elia Kazan invited him to compose the score for East of Eden (1955).

Read the entire story here.

Here is poignant clip of his music from EAST OF EDEN.

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