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Leonard Rosenman Memorial April 29, 2008

by Jeff Bond , Filed under: Conventions/Events/Attractions,Feature Films (TMP-NEM),Music , trackback

On Sunday, April 28th, I was fortunate enough to attend the memorial for composer Leonard Rosenman (who passed away in March). It’s no secret that Rosenman was one of the composers of the Star Trek movies but this event proved to be even more Star Trek-centric than I’d anticipated.

The memorial, organized Rosenman’s wife Judie at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, was also an enormously entertaining and gratifying salute to a man who was a pivotal figure in music history and who seemed to know more famous people, both show biz figures and others, than about anyone I can think of.

First a few things you may or may not know about Rosenman: he was roommates with James Dean and was teaching Dean piano when Dean suggested director Elia Kazan, who was about to film Dean’s first major film East of Eden, attend a performance of one of Rosenman’s concert pieces. Kazan then asked Rosenman if he would like to score the film. Rosenman at first refused—he was at that time at the forefront of the American concert music scene. But another acquaintance of his suggested he take the job—Aaron Copland. Rosenman went on to score East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause, Dean’s most important films, before continuing his film composing career and dividing his time between film and the concert hall. He also played in a quartet for a time with Albert Einstein. Einstein was apparently always interested in getting musical quartets together and asked Rosenman to play piano in one. According to Rosenman Einstein was a terrible violinist but completely unaware of his own failings—and in fact the great physicist took great pains to point out every flaw and misstep he saw in the performances of others, including Rosenman. Rosenman also knew poet laureate Dylan Thomas and once talked to him about how he’d been turned down for a knighthood. Rosenman asked him if he’d done anything that might have gotten the royalty upset with him and he said "Well, I did accidentally put out a cigarette on the Queen’s arm."

Rosenman’s Star Trek IV score was very much in evidence throughout the event, playing both before the service and during a lot of a video salute to Rosenman and his music—if anything it was a bit odd hearing Alexander Courage’s TOS fanfare playing within some of the segments. And there were a number of celebrities in evidence with both direct and tangential connections to Star Trek: Wrath of Khan director and Star Trek IV screenwriter Nicholas Meyer, Martin Landau (once under consideration to play Spock), Robocop 2 director Irvin Kershner (okay, that’s Star Wars, not Star Trek) and others. Rosenman’s son Jonathan spoke about his father taking him to the set of the original Star Trek during the filming of “Whom Gods Destroy” and introducing the then 13-year-old to William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. But to the teenager’s great disappointment he was NOT introduced to the person he really wanted to meet—Orion Slave Girl and TV’s Batgirl, Yvonne Craig, who was also on the set that day.

The only celebrity name I recognized in the program of speakers was Arte Johnson from the Sixties comedy show Laugh-In, but at about the middle of the proceedings a gentleman with thick white hair, a beard and glasses stood up to speak and said his name was Robert Brown—after a few seconds of him speaking I realized this was the actor Robert Brown, the star of the TV show Here Come the Brides and also the man who played Lazarus in TOS episode “The Alternative Factor.” Brown was also a close friend of Rosenman’s and was quite touching and funny, describing how he once spent a day with the composer while Rosenman—under a doctor’s supervision—took LSD, and also how he had had to drag the composer away from a conversation with Paul Newman at a party because Rosenman’s pregnant wife was going into labor.

I talked to Brown afterwards and he said he was in a pilot called Colossus with Shatner before Star Trek, something about American immigrants—I’ve never heard of it. He did mention how he did “Alternative Factor” with basically no preparation because they’d fired John Barrymore, Jr. and he never liked the way it turned out.

Rosenman was apt to say some crazy and sort of unintentionally funny things; I thought the best story came from his wife who was describing a dinner party where people started talking about Prozac, which was just starting to be widely used and was in the news. “I use Prozac,” Rosenman said. Everyone turned to him and asked if it was working for him. “No, not really,” the composer said. “I mean I feel good, but that’s about it.”

More on Rosenman: IMDb | Memory Alpha | StarTrekSoundTracks

 


Star Trek IV Soundtrack available at Amazon
(click to hear samples)

“The Enterprise” from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

 

Jeff Bond is the editor-in-chief of Geek Magazine, the author of "The Music of Star Trek" and is also a regular contributor to Film Score Monthly.

 

Comments

1. Sean4000 - April 29, 2008

I hope the mastering process of the Trek films can bring his sound score to life on Blu-ray!

2. Son of Sarek - April 29, 2008

Nice to hear that his Voyage Home score was played. A score that played to the comic aspect of Classic Trek. Mr. Rosenman will be missed.

3. Sean4000 - April 29, 2008

Great article too. I didn’t know Meyer wrote the screenplay for Trek 4. I thought he only directed 2 and 6. Learn something new everyday.

4. Thomas - April 29, 2008

Rosenman sounds like the sort of person who could get along with anybody. He will be missed.

5. Sean4000 - April 29, 2008

He will be missed for sure. That is another constant in the Trek universe.

6. Schultz - April 29, 2008

Rosenman was a great composer. I have several of his scores… “Fantastic Voyage” is one of my favorites. He’ll be missed. RIP.

7. Schultz - April 29, 2008

#3

Yes, forgot to say that: very good article!

8. Sean4000 - April 29, 2008

Jeff, your writing is superb! Seriously. You have to be a professional.

9. Cafe 5 - April 29, 2008

He was a very fine composer. I have enjoyed many of his scores. They say you can judge a person by the company he keeps and by how many friends he has. It would appear that Mr. Rosenman was a many of many talents and friendships, and he had a remarkable career. Music and friends make for a rather fitting legacy for a most uncommon man.

10. Redjac - April 29, 2008

A fine composer with a very unique sound! His score for Beneath the Planet of the Apes is one of my favorites.

Although not really idolized like Williams and Goldsmith his music will long be remembered.

11. Hat Rick - April 29, 2008

I’m sorry to read of the passing of yet another Trek great.

The article, I agree, is very well written.

On the Colossus reference, the first thing that occurred to me was The Forbin Project, but that’s not consistent with the description given of it as relating to American immigrants.

Fare thee well, Mr. Rosenman. Fare thee well.

12. shat hands - April 29, 2008

Nice article

thanks

13. Thomas Jensen - April 29, 2008

Great article, very informative. Mr. Rosenman sounds like he was very interesting man.

Mr. Bond, I see you authored “The Music of Star Trek” so I ask is there a way to get some of the unreleased background music from the original Star Trek to the public? I know that New Voyages has it. I would think this would be something for Paramount to consider with the new movie.

There is so much great background score that many fans would love to have in their music collections.

14. Andy Patterson - April 29, 2008

It’s those little gems. The one or two line stories that really become the stuff of legend….the stuff people talk about. Good report.

15. Kirk's Girdle - April 29, 2008

That Prozac line was great.
What a remarkable life.

16. steve623 - April 29, 2008

Rosenman gets a lot of stick among Star Trek fans for his score on The Voyage Home, basically because James Horner didn’t score it. But I thought the TVH score was a breath of fresh air, very light and joyful and completely fitting with the vibe of the movie and generally with the vibe of the celebratory year that 1986 turned out to be for Star Trek and its fans. It does what a film score is supposed to do – it serves and supports the film.

17. Doug Abramson - April 29, 2008

I’ve always liked the ST:IV score. I was disapointed that the latter tv shows never reused the main score somehow. I always thought that it could have been used as the Federation anthem, like BSG wound up doing with the original show’s.

18. DesiluTrek - April 29, 2008

Thanks for a great piece about Rosenman. His “Star Trek IV” score was very nautical, evocative not only of the whales story but of the classic Hornblower metaphor of the original series and its scores.

This is also a chance to say to you that I got your great book The Music of Star Trek when it came out some years ago and I really enjoyed all the interviews.

Is there any hope of seeing all the original series soundtracks released on CD? This would be my Holy Grail of Star Trek, a multi-disc set of all 33 episodes plus library cues.

19. Jai1138 - April 29, 2008

Hey, Jeff Bond
I’ve always enjoyed your writing here and at FSM and I just want to thank you for the reporting on this occasion. Rosenman was an underrated talent in terms of his film scores (and I’ll punch the next ignoramus in the face who says his music for ST IV is a “note for note” reproduction of his Lord of the Rings — both rank amongst his best work; in fact, I much prefer his Tolkien music over Shore’s). His TREK score always makes me smile in the way, I think, he and Nimoy hoped we all would.
Speaking of Nimoy, wasn’t he at the memorial? I believe he and Rosenman were friends from back in those fabled ’50s (one of the reasons he was chosen to score TVH).

20. Jeff Bond - April 29, 2008

Thanks for the comments–Nimoy was not at the memorial unfortunately. If you like Rosenman’s Trek IV theme you guys should seek out the DVD of Shatner’s unsold pilot Alexander the Great–it’s on amazon.com and it’s not a bad transfer for something that was considered lost and buried for many years. Rosenman uses a trumpet figure similar to but even cooler than the one in Trek IV, and the rest of the theme is an incredible piece for male chorus riffing on the name “Alexander”–it’s one of the most awesome things Rosenman ever wrote in my opinion, and don’t forget to listen to the end title too.

As for the remaining unreleased Trek scores, this has been the dream of many people and many soundtrack labels for many years–there have been many attempts to do it and it has always been an exercise in frustration. For those of you who are technically minded, it’s possible to rip MP3s from the rear channel of the TOS DVDs and get the music and effects tracks free of dialogue, and this will get you a great deal of the music in pretty clear form. There’s still a chance that the rest of the music will be put out somewhere in conjunction with the release of the new film. But Paramount has always been extraordinarily difficult to deal with for this kind of stuff–we put a proposal forward at Film Score Monthly and many other labels have tried to do it, and Neil Norman and Crescendo still has some physical control over some of the sources as far as I understand it. The good news is if you watch what has happened over the past year, many of the studios that have been regarded as the most difficult to deal with for this stuff, namely Disney and Universal, have finally started opening up–Paramount isn’t among them yet, but at least there’s hope, and I know that the original music sources for a number of the remaining TOS scores have been preserved in good condition, so there is always hope. Believe me, it’s a dream of mine too!

21. Son of Sarek - April 30, 2008

Mr. Bond that is most reassuring to hear, as I have been collecting all the classic Trek music for years. I even resorted to recording the music directly from the DVDs as you suggested. I own a copy of your book which is an integral resource for Trek music aficionados. The list of episodes with original scores proved to be invaluable when compiling some of the music. Thank you for the book and for the above post. Let us hope one day we may hear the strains from “Metamorphosis” or the bombast of “The Enterprise Incident” on CD…

22. star trackie - April 30, 2008

I very much enjoyed his score to Trek 4 and found the change refreshing after Trek’s 2 and 3 where Horner seemed to get a bit repetitive. Mr. Rosenman was quite the talent.

23. Ralph F - April 30, 2008

re/18. DesiluTrek

Agreed, agreed, agreed on a release of the TOS scores. There’s some great stuff available from Varese Sarabande (they have a Vol 1 and Vol 2 featuring some good stuff from TOS):

Same goes for GNP Crescendo; they have a STAR TREK page:

If memory serves, the GNP stuff is original whereas the Varese catalog is new(er) recordings.

What I would really like to see is a TOS-R type of re-recording/re-mastering of TOS scores.

Be careful, though, there are a few collections of TOS music that are IMO well below par (the two Label X releases, again IMO only).

24. Hat Rick - April 30, 2008

It’s nice to know that there are so many music connoisseurs who enjoy Trek music. Cinematic music is currently the most accessible form of “serious music,” in my view, and it’s often quite inspirational.

Not only Trek music, but also the scores from such blockbusters as Superman serve as ready audio pick-me-ups when the need arises.

Some people — including yours truly — love driving the open road and vast spaces between urban centers in this great country of ours and particularly when soundtracking it with music that inspires confidence and good feeling. Cranking up Whitesnake’s “Here I Go,” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKTiwCez6Zs ) is a fine thing to do when you tour the countryside; the Trek soundracks do the same for me, too.

25. David P - April 30, 2008

A true Hollywood player
also love the Yvonne Craig story

26. ster j - April 30, 2008

#24–I once played the soundtrack from ST5 while driving into the mountains of New Mexico. The rugged terrain was the perfect place to hear the Klingon theme, and the forrested areas were perfect for the Yosemite theme.

Leonard Rosenman may be gone, but he left a legacy of great music. He will not be forgotten.

27. John in Canada, eh? - May 2, 2008

I wasn’t aware Mr. Rosenman had passed away. Sounds like a wonderful night of tribute. Funny enough, the STIV soundtrack is in my CD player right now; my 8-month old son enjoys several tracks when we’re playing.

This was one of the first soundtracks I bought on cassette. I remember ripping off the plastic wrap and shoving the tape into my walkman as my father drove me home from the store. I was transfixed then, and listened to it constantly for a week. To this day, STIV is the only Trek movie I’ll watch through the end credits, just to hear the end title track.

My only regret is that the soundtrack doesn’t include the musical cues when we see StarFleet HQ and the Bird of Prey on Vulcan.

A great score, and a wonderful tribute by Mr. Bond. Thank you.

28. COMPASSIONATE GOD - May 3, 2008

Re: 10. Redjac – April 29, 2008
“A fine composer with a very unique sound! His score for Beneath the Planet of the Apes is one of my favorites.”

Same here; its a powerful score–very grim, while the mutants’ deliberately off-key singing (to the missile) underscored just how twisted they were.

Re: others’ comments on TOS scores: yes, its too bad the wealth of great, memorable music from TOS has not been treated to a proper release..but Jeff Bond’s suggestion about MP3s may be the only solution for the moment.

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