Rosenman, Leonard


Rosenman, Leonard
(b. 1924)
   Leonard Rosenman, who won an Academy Award for adapting existing musical works for BARRY LYNDON (1975), has achieved one of the most notable and enduring careers in motion picture scoring. Born to Polish immigrants who owned a small grocery store, Rosenman was 15 before he displayed any musical talent. At age 17, he won top prize in a piano competition, and he soon abandoned his desire to study painting, in favor of music. Rosenman studied with Arthur Schoenberg,Roger Sessions, Ernst Bloch, and Luigi Dallapiccola. In the early 1950s, he was awarded a fellowship to study at Tanglewood, Massachusetts, where he later returned as composer in residence. Well on his way to securing a place in the classical music establishment, Rosenman befriended one of his piano students, a young James Dean, in the early 1950s. Dean brought Rosenman’s compositions to the attention of director Elia Kazan, who offered Rosenman the job of scoring East of Eden (1954). Initially hesitant, Rosenman accepted, on the advice of his friends the composers Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland. Still, Rosenman’s acceptance carried a rather unusual condition, as he later recalled: “I insisted on working the way Russian composers worked. This involved being constantly on the set during production, so that when the film was rough cut, the music would be rough cut. ”
   Involvement during the production phase (as opposed to the usual method of starting to compose the score only after the film is finished) allowed him to compose the music for a scene and play it for the actors before the scenes were shot. Rosenman acknowledged, “This was almost unheard of. But it produced very positive results. It helped the actors enormously with their mood and preparation. They really thought it was wonderful. ” In addition to turning out modern, almost avantgarde scores for such films as The Cobweb (directed by Vicente Minnelli, 1955) and Fantastic Voyage (1966), Rosenman has also shown a mastery of more conventional musical tropes. Pork Chop Hill (1959) uses variations on an ancient Chinese tune, while A Man Called Horse (1970) employs traditional Native American music. Rosenman won two successive Oscars for his adaptations of existing music in Barry Lyndon and in Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory (1976). His deft use of source material for these two films-the works of Mozart,Vivaldi, and Handel for Barry Lyndon, the earthly folk music of Woody Guthrie for Bound for Glory—illustrates his versatility and prodigious grasp.
   Rosenman attests that composing for film is entirely different than most classical musical composition: “The effort, the attitude, the form, all that stuff, is entirely different. It’s so different that I’m almost inclined to say, and I have said, to the consternation of my colleagues, that film music is not music. It has all the ingredients of music—it has counterpoint, harmony, melody, all that—but basically its propulsion is not by musical ideas but by literary ones. ” For Rosenman, then, a film score propels action, defines character, reveals psychological subtext, and provides a subtle link between characters and audience—tasks not necessarily assigned to a stand-alone classical piece.
   Indeed, Rosenman’s adapted score for Barry Lyndon functions in precisely these ways. From the first note, under the WARNER BROS. logo, the main theme establishes a tone of majestic melancholy that defines the overall mood of the film. And in the first scene in which Redmond (RYAN O’NEAL) appears, playing cards with his cousin, Nora Brady, the music conveys the exquisite, delicate tenderness passing between the two characters, where words would fail. Like many scenes throughout the film, this one relies sparingly on dialogue, and the music steps up to the task of conveying the palpable, largely unspoken emotions. Another outstanding instance of Rosenman’s putting musical arrangement to pointed dramatic effect occurs during the duel between Barry and Lord Bullingdon (LEONVITALI). Once again, dialogue is kept to a minimum in what may be the film’s most dramatically charged scene. A simple, ominous, bass solo offers a variation on the film’s main musical theme, creating an almost unbearable, fatalistic tension, as Barry’s world suddenly is shattered.
   Despite the awards and adulation piled upon the brilliant score for Barry Lyndon, Rosenman has expressed some dissatisfaction with the final result. He feels that Kubrick overused the main theme, a SARABANDE attributed to Handel, at the expense of many other variations Rosenman composed. Leonard Rosenman has remained active in composing for motion pictures. His other film scores include: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), The Lord of the Rings (1978), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Robocop II (1990), and Levitation (1997). The promise of his early, “legitimate” career notwithstanding, Rosenman’s film work largely estranged him from the classical musical establishment. Not until the 1980s did he begin to regain some recognition in that arena, with the premieres of his Chamber Music V and Violin Concerto II, among other pieces.
   Leonard Rosenman has conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony, Orchestra of RAI, Santa Cecelia Orchestra, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He has taught and/or been a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California, California Institute of the Arts, University of Illinois, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Claremont College, Harvard University, the New School, and Yale University.
   References
   ■ Attanasio, Paul, “The Movies’ Music Man,” Washington Post, February 1, 1987, p. F-1+;
   ■ “Leonard Rosenman: Biography,” Nonesuch Public Relations, New York, ca. 1987;
   ■ Ness, Richard R. , “Rosenman, Leonard,” in Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast eds. , International Directory of Films and Filmmakers: Writers and Production Artists (Detroit: St. James Press, 2000);
   ■ Peyser, Joan, “A Composer Seeks Artistic Prestige After Hollywood,” New York Times, August 29, 1982, pp. C-15+;
   ■ Stevens,Tracy, editorial director, International Motion Picture Almanac, 72nd edition (La Jolla, Calif. : Quigley, 2001).

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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