Oscar winner helped modernize film music

Leonard Rosenman, a two-time Oscar-winning composer who was credited with helping to modernize film music in the 1950s and ’60s, died Tuesday of a heart attack at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 83.

Rosenman composed the scores for about four dozen films including the James Dean classics “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause,” as well as such science-fiction films as “Fantastic Voyage” and “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” and period pieces including “A Man Called Horse.”

He won back-to-back Oscars in 1975 and 1976 for adapting the classical music of “Barry Lyndon” and the Woody Guthrie songs of “Bound for Glory.” He also received Oscar nominations for the original music of the mid-1980s films “Cross Creek” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and a Golden Globe nomination for his music for the 1978 animated version of “The Lord of the Rings.”

Rosenman emerged from the New York concert music scene in the early 1950s to bring a more contemporary approach to film music. He applied 20th-century compositional techniques — including serialism, atonality and microtonality — that were not then in common use among the more traditional Hollywood composers but are widely accepted today.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he studied with composers Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions and Luigi Dallapiccola and was writing chamber music and teaching piano when director Elia Kazan invited him to compose the score for “East of Eden” in 1954.

Rosenman, a frend of Dean’s, was on the set during shooting and remained in California to score Dean’s next film, “Rebel Without a Cause.” His subsequent scores for “The Cobweb” and “The Savage Eye,” among others, were notable for their complexity and dissonance.

The composer was also active in television, winning Emmys for his TV-movie scores for “Sybil” and “Friendly Fire” and scoring such prominent weekly series as “The Defenders,” “Combat!” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” He wrote the music for about three dozen TV movies and miniseries including “Vanished,” “Murder in Texas” and “Celebrity.”

Throughout his Hollywood career, he continued to write music for the concert stage, including numerous chamber works, two violin concertos and a symphony.

Survivors include his wife, Judie Gregg Rosenman; three children and four grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned; donations are suggested to the Motion Picture & Television Fund or to the Association for Frontotemporal Dementias (www.ftd-picks.org).

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