Leonard Rosenman

Yes, I’m still alive.  Sorry for the lack of activity, but such is life in grad school some semesters.

I’ve just recently purchased the Film Score Monthly release of Leonard Rosenman’s Cobweb score (see the previous entry of Herr Vogler’s excellent FSFT5 Avant-garde film score).cobweb  And listening to it has made me go back and think of what other scores of Rosenman that I know…which is only two.  His score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (which is a great score, with the utterly creepy, atonal arrangements of hymns that the mutant humans sing to the bomb).  But listening to The Cobweb and also Edge of the City (which is also on the disc), and also given Beneath the Planet of the Apes, it is apparent that Rosenman is a film composer who did alot to bring 20th Century musical techniques to film after the heyday of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner scores in the ’30s and ’40s.

In the excellent liner notes for the Cobweb release, Jeff Bond (who writes alot of reviews and articles for FSM and some other books) writes on Rosenman’s difficulty in trying to maintain a career as a film composer and a concert composer.  He studied with names familar to most music students: Luigi Dallapicolla, Roger Sessions, and Arnold Schoenberg, and was an up and comer when James Dean (who he gave piano lessons to) recommended him to score East of Eden, the film that put Dean on the map.

But after Rosenman became established in the film world, he found it hard to get his concert/chamber music performed, an unfortunate state of affiars that still persists today for composers trying to do both (composers like Toru Takemitsu are the exception in being able to maintain active careers in both).  And while Rosenman didn’t have much impact in concert music, listening to these early scores of his, Cobweb was only his second film, it is dissapointing that more people don’t know his name.  Sure, those who study and listen to film music know his name and appreciate him, but can his importance, especially to film music using 20th Century techniques, really be underestimated?

I’ve also been working Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes score, hoping to do a project on it in my Post-Tonal analysis class, and it’s hard to imagine that score coming about had Rosenman not set the precendent beforehand with Cobweb.

Sorry that there isn’t anything more substantial after my long silence, but that’s it for now.

2 thoughts on “Leonard Rosenman

  1. Film music versus concert music seems to be an either/or proposition. The means of promoting ones’ work and establishing credibility is completely different in each genre and the concert composers who sit on panels and act as “composers in residence” for orchestras are generally skeptical (and jealous) of film composers’ work. The demands and expectations of each genre are somewhat contradictory as well. Takemitsu is the exception that proves the rule, in my book. William Walton, Virgil Thomson, Copland, and maybe a few others as well. Lots of film composers have written concert music but practically none of it has entered the repertoire. A few concert composers have made significant film scores, but they generally didn’t enjoy it very much. And usually returned to concert composing. Otto Luening’s autobiography has a fascinating section where he worked briefly as an orchestrator for a major studio during the depression.

    1. I’ll have to look up the Luening bio, I’m not all that familiar with him. Of course, you are completely correct about the difficulty of the crossover (having heard/played a few of John Williams’ concert works…not that impressed). But what struck me when reading about Rosenman is that he was just getting started in concert writing, which was his first love, and got sucked into film and stayed there to help pay the bills; only to then find himself practically locked out of the concert halls.

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