Composer Leonard Rosenman was an instrumental force behind the modernization of film scoring, championing avant-garde compositional techniques like serialism, atonality, and microtonality to help redefine the sound and scope of Hollywood music. Born in Brooklyn on September 7, 1924, Rosenman began playing piano as a teen, and after serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II he settled in California, studying composition under Arnold Schoenberg and Roger Sessions. In 1952 Rosenman earned a fellowship to study with Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola at Boston University's Tanglewood Institute, from there he relocated to New York City, teaching piano and writing chamber music. There playwright Howard Sackler asked Rosenman to score the New School for Social Research's proposed production of Ezra Pound's adaptation of Sophocles' Women of Trachis -- one of the actors, an up-and-coming James Dean, asked Rosenman to teach him piano, and the two became fast friends and eventually roommates. When Dean signed to star in filmmaker Elia Kazan's production of John Steinbeck's East of Eden, he urged Kazan to hire Rosenman to score the project -- Rosenman initially balked at the offer, but on the recommendation of composers Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, he finally relented. Rosenman composed his score in tandem with each day's shooting schedule, embracing elements spanning from whimsical Americana to dark, edgy dissonance -- the completed East of Eden score was widely acclaimed upon the film's 1955 release, and with his next effort, for Vincente Minnelli's psychological drama The Cobweb, Rosenman introduced even more radical concepts, writing the first 12-tone serial score ever attached to a major studio release. Rosenman closed out 1955 with another now-classic score, reuniting with pal Dean for director Nicholas Ray's classic teen-angst drama Rebel Without a Cause -- historian Royal S. Brown described its cues as "action ballets that have a mild symphonic-jazz flavor." In all, Rosenman scored close to 50 feature films as well as dozens of TV movies and series including The Defenders, Combat!, and Marcus Welby M.D. -- he nevertheless remained a Hollywood outsider, with long gaps in his résumé attributable largely to his penchant for publicly criticizing producers and directors for their perceived musical ignorance and absence of good taste. His cinematic pursuits also compromised his concert career: "The year I did my first film, I had five major performances in New York," Rosenman said in a 1997 interview. "The minute I did my first film, I didn't have a performance [there] for 20 years." He nevertheless continued writing music for the concert stage, including a series of chamber works, two violin concertos, and a symphony. After a long absence from the screen, Rosenman resurfaced with 1966's Fantastic Voyage, and in 1970 scored the hits A Man Called Horse and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. He enjoyed his greatest success winning back-to-back Academy Awards in 1975 and 1976 for adapting the classical music of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and the Woody Guthrie folk anthems of Bound for Glory -- also in 1976 he earned an Emmy Award for his score for the telefilm Sybil, and later notched Oscar nominations for 1983's Cross Creek and 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Rosenman died of a heart attack at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on March 4, 2008 -- he was 83 years old. ~ Jason AnkenyPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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