Picard Of The Pops - Leonard Rosenman

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Chris Morley looks back at the life and career of Leonard Rosenman.

Come with us now on a fantastic voyage as we join the Enterprise crew on The Voyage Home, taking particular note of composer Leonard Rosenman.

Born on 7 September 1924 in Brooklyn, Rosenman served with the US Air Force during the Second World War & would gain himself a bachelor's degree in music from the University of California- studying under Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions & Luigi Dallapiccola. Among his earliest work scoring for film are two James Dean cult classics in the form of East Of Eden & Rebel Without A Cause, both released in 1955.

Rosenman had, for a time, lived with the ill-fated young actor & served as his piano teacher before James's death on September 30th 1955. The same year would also see him contributing music to The Cobweb, Vincente Minnelli's adaptation of William Gibson's novel offering the chance to show just how much he had learned from his old tutor Schoenberg - in particular his 12-tone/note system.

This system was described by the composer himself, whose music had been denounced by the Nazis as degenerate, as a method of composing with twelve tones which are related only with one another, it is commonly considered a form of serialism. What that is - for those without the benefit of any semblance of classical training - is simply the repeated use of grouped pitches either in their given order or played in a certain manner to create a unified work. As Henri Pousseur, who had deployed it in works such as Sept Versets & Trois Chants Sacres, wrote
"Its working-out is abandoned through its own constant-frequent presence: all 66 intervallic relations among the 12 pitches being virtually present. Prohibited intervals, like the octave, and prohibited successional relations, such as premature note repetitions, frequently occur, although obscured in the dense contexture. The number twelve no longer plays any governing, defining rĂ´le; the pitch constellations no longer hold to the limitation determined by their formation."
Rosenman carried this keen sense of the avant garde into his work on Edge Of The City & The Young Stranger. He could be forthright in his beliefs on what would suit any of his projects, recalling that he had poured cold water on a suggestion by a producer on Fantastic Voyage that it should have a jazz soundtrack in a bid to become...
"...the first hip science fiction movie. I said that's a great idea for an advertising agency, but it doesn't fit the film."
And so he came up with this...

A 1978 animated take on Lord Of The Rings offers the first link between Rosenman & another Leonard, Nimoy.

The man who was Spock had earlier treated baffled listeners to his Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins!
In the middle of the Earth in the land of the Shire
Lives a brave little hobbit whom we all admire
With his long wooden pipe
Fuzzy, woolly toes
He lives in a hobbit-hole and everybody knows him

Bilbo! Bilbo! Bilbo Baggins
He's only three feet tall
Bilbo! Bilbo! Bilbo Baggins
The bravest little hobbit of them all

Perhaps in light of mutual interest it would seem logical that Nimoy would turn to Rosenman for help in supplying music for The Voyage Home after James Horner turned down the chance to take up the baton once more following The Wrath Of Khan & The Search For Spock.

Rosenman would come to see his film work as a millstone against his ambitions for greater concert hall recognition. As he told the New York Times in 1982,
"With film one is given an a priori construct. It is a very sophisticated version of seeing an array of numbers from 1 to 100, connecting them and winding up with a picture of George Washington. The point is to fill up space, and the work is dictated by literary considerations. With concert music -- even in opera, the most literary form -- the composer's task is to shape the text into a fundamentally musical work."
Some of his concert music was performed by major artists, including the violinist Elmar Oliveira, who in 1997 played the world premiere of Rosenman's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. But Rosenman often expressed regret that his Hollywood work appeared to have cost him greater recognition in the concert hall. A recognition he sadly never achieved before his passing in March 2008.

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