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date: 20 February 2020

Rosenman, Leonardfree

  • Christopher Palmer
  •  and Fred Steiner

(b Brooklyn, NY, 7 Sept 1924; d Woodland Hills, CA, 4 March 2008). Composer. Originally trained as a painter, he began musical studies at the age of 15. After war service, he studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions, and Luigi Dallapiccola, and the piano with Bernard Abramowitsch. In 1953 he served as composer-in-residence at the Berkshire Music Center and received a Koussevitzky Foundation commission for an opera; however this was never completed. From 1962 to 1966 he lived in Rome where he scored television programs and gained experience as a conductor. He taught at the universities of Southern California and New York, was a member of the board of directors of the California branch of ISCM, and served as musical director of the New Muse, a chamber orchestra specializing in performances of avant-garde music.

An important figure in the history of American film music, his score for The Cobweb is said to be the first in Hollywood to employ 12-note procedures. In Fantastic Voyage he experimented with Klangfarben, while portions of his Chamber Music I found their way into his score for The Savage Eye. In his scores for the James Dean films East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause he effected a successful synthesis of the traditional and modern. At other times he showed himself both willing and able to compose music in a more traditional romantic style; his score for Cross Creek, for example, is influenced by American folk music.


(selective list)



A Short History of Civilization (theater work with film), 1972

Film scores

The Cobweb, 1955

East of Eden, 1955

Rebel Without a Cause, 1955

Edge of the City, 1957

The Young Stranger, 1957

Pork Chop Hill, 1959

The Savage Eye, 1959

The Crowded Sky, 1960

The Plunderers, 1960

Hell Is for Heroes, 1961

The Outsider, 1961

The Chapman Report, 1962

Convict 4, 1962

A Covenant With Death, 1966

Fantastic Voyage, 1966

Countdown, 1968

Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1969

A Man Called Horse, 1969

Battle for the Planet of the Apes, 1973

Race with the Devil, 1975

Birch Interval, 1976

Bound for Glory, 1976; 9/30/55, 1977

The Car, 1977

An Enemy of the People, 1978

Lord of the Rings, 1978

Promises in the Dark, 1979

Prophecy, 1979

Hide in Plain Sight, 1980

Making Love, 1982

Cross Creek, 1983

Sylvia, 1985

Star Trek IV “The Voyage Home,” 1986

Robocop II, 1990



Vn Conc., 1951

Threnody on a Song of K.R., jazz ens, orch, 1971

Foci, orch, tape, 1972

Chbr Music III–VI (Alto ego), vn, va, chbr orch, cptr, 1976

Foci I, 1981, rev. 1983

Vn Conc. no.2, 1991

Sym. no.1 of Dinosaurs, 1997

Double Conc., ob, cl, 1998

Walk in New York, 1999


Time Travel, S, orch, 1996 [based on H. Wolf songs]

6 Songs (F. García Lorca), Mez, pf, 1952–4

Chbr Music II, S, 10 players, tape, 1968

Looking Back at Faded Chandeliers (A. Giraud), S, 5 players, 1990

Prelude and 4 Scenes (García Lorca), S, 11 players, 1992

Chamber and solo instrumental

Concertino, pf, ww, 1948

Sonata, pf, 1949

Theme and Elaborations, pf, 1951

Duo, cl, pf, 1960

Chbr Music I, 16 players, 1961

Duo, vn, pf, 1970

Fanfare, 8 tpt, 1970

Two Grand Pianos, 2 amp pf

Chbr Music IV, db, 4 str qt, 1976

Chbr Music V, pf, 6 players, 1979

Str Qt, 1996

Str Qt, 1999

Principal publisher: Peer-Southern


  • “Notes on the Score to East of Eden,” Film Music, xiv/5 (1955), 3–12
  • “Notes from a Sub-Culture,” PNM, vii/1 (1968–9), 122–35
  • I. Bazelon: “Interview with Leonard Rosenman,” Knowing the Score: Notes on Film Music (New York, 1975), 181–7
  • J. McBride, ed.: “The Composer: Leonard Rosenman,” Filmmakers and Filmmaking (Los Angeles, 1983), 111–24
  • G. Burt: The Art of Film Music (Boston, 1994), 184ff
Perspectives of New Music