THE LIFE OF LEONARD ROSENMAN
PART SIX: ROSENMAN TAKES THE ENTERPRISE CREW HOME
(All sources for Rosenman quotes are listed at the bottom of this
column. Paragraphs in italics are contributed by the editor)
Always selective about his projects, Rosenman scored surprisingly
few features following his first Original Score Oscar nomination, for Cross
Creek. He worked more regularly in television, on the miniseries CELEBRITY
as well as the TV movies HEARTSOUNDS and FIRST
STEPS. He returned to his Combat turf with the Amazing
Stories episode "NO DAY AT THE BEACH," and earned a second
Original Score nomination, as well as achieving his highest grossing (especially
if you don't adjust for inflation) feature film hit, the lighthearted STAR
TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, directed by Leonard Nimoy:
Leonard and I have been friends for about 15 years. He tried to get
me on the last one, but they (the producers) viewed the last one as part
two of the second one, so they wanted the same kind of music. I think I
got the best end of the deal. [HE86]
This was the one he felt would be best for me, because it was the original
one, different than all the rest, and would utilize my particular abilities.
I've always wanted to score a hardware film, because I've been a so-called
"modern composer" off the screen, and it gave me a chance to really utilize
a lot of the techniques and dramaturgic abilities that I've accumulated
over 34 years. [CS]
Leonard and I talked about it. Leonard is a real student in the best
sense. We sat down at dinner and he'd ask about the role of music in the
film. I then saw the rushes, the rough cut, and the final film. [HE86]
I was brought in when the script was only half-written. Leonard and
I talked about the music a long, long time. He had a very intelligent approach
to it, which is mainly that where there are an inordinate amount of special
effects, the special effects should be there and let's not have any music.
And when the music is there, let's really have the music come out.
The greatest challenge that it posed was that you're dealing not with
something new but with 20 years of habit with Sandy Courage's theme. The
idea of trying to create, as Jerry [Goldsmith] did, and I think even Jamie
[Horner] tried to do it, a new Star Trek theme is shoveling sand against
the waves. My original idea, and as a matter of fact, even the script,
called for Sandy Courage's theme at the beginning. I thought, "Well, if
I have to do it, I'll make a fantastic arrangement of it, the kind they've
never heard before." I took it a bit slower and very sweeping, and then
for the rest of the film I had my own music. [CS]
So I did the end title, which was very big, but was not based on the
Star Trek theme, it was my own theme. One of the parts of this was
this fugue based on the whale, I thought the whale was so noble that I
decided to do a baroque kind of thing on it to celebrate the living of
the whale. [S55]
When we mated the music to the film, Leonard liked my arrangement of
Sandy's theme for the main title, but felt it didn't show the film was
fun at all.
We were in [Nimoy's] office at the time, and he took a tape of the end
credit and put it at the film's beginning. "That's what we need!" he said.
"Let's throw the Courage theme out and redo the main title." We just used
the opening fanfare of Sandy's theme. Leonard wanted that sense of adventure
and fun, something like a fast chase, which it was.
As a matter of fact, this time I utilized motifs for the various characters,
which had never been done in Star Trek before. There is a main Star
Trek motif, which I repeated throughout the entire film, and also in
the end credits.
It's got "modernity," whatever that means, but basically it's certainly
in this kind of heroic Korngold tradition, although it is orchestrated
in a much more contemporary way.
It's a straight, eight-bar phrase, which is a very strong handle, because
it's memorable, it's repeatable, and it is repeated in the film. And it's
a kind of a thing that I would use in very much the same way I would use
it in a much more intimate film. There's a scene where the girl, in a disconsolate
way, runs to a truck, sits down and thinks for a while of what she wants
to do. And I have this theme suddenly come in, and you know she's thinking
of going to see Captain Kirk. I mean, you simply know it. The theme
reads her mind, which is a kind of thing I would do in a much more intimate
First of all, there's less music in this film than in any other science-fiction
film. Most science fiction films are wall-to-wall music. There are several
reasons for this. First of all, I think this is one of the first science
fiction films in which the relationships are much more important than the
special effects. It's a film that doesn't depend on hardware. We loved
the film just as much when we saw the rough cut without any special effects
as we do seeing the film totally finished. For those of us who know the
film, it doesn't make it any realer for us, because the real thing is in
there already, which is the relationship between the people.
So it's a very warm film, and it's also a comedy. There are very, very
funny lines and the thing is incredibly rich in situation, and the result
was that these lines had to come through and you really didn't need that
If you have a film that lasts two hours, and you've got two hours or
an hour and a quarter of music, diminishing return sets in and eventually
you don't hear it. I don't mean to disparage John Williams, because I think
he's wonderful, but I think that the thing that really gave John Williams
this enormous reputation from Star Wars was the main and end title.
That's about the only thing you can really hear. When I first saw it, my
hat was off to John just for the Herculean task of writing that much music.
Well, this score is probably about 31 minutes long, and that's probably
the shortest big-picture sci-fi score on record. It's also got much more
humorous music than any other sci-fi score, or anything I've written. It's
got two fantastic chases, and it's a tribute to Leonard too. He is, basically,
a beginner director, he's wet his whistle on one film, and this is the
first time he's been totally on his own. Of course, you'd know that Leonard
would be wonderful with the actors, because he knows them, he's worked
with them for years, and he's a good actor himself. So you'd know he knows
how to direct actors. But then you think, well, what about action? Well,
it's just as good. He's a natural director, and I think, after this, he
will be one of the really big directors.
Most of the music, oddly enough, turns out to be lumped together in
the last five reels of the film, and then, of course, it's wall-to-wall,
because there's a lot of action. That's where I think the score will really
be remembered. Aside from the main and end credits, which are quite thick,
almost symphonic, there's a giant whale fugue that I use, which is a real
cap off to a large scale cue that lasts eight minutes. That came off so
well that I reprised it in a slightly different form in the end credits,
which gave it almost another movement. It is quite long.
This is the kind of film where, ordinarily, one would think "they hired
me because they want me to write some very warm, feeling kind of music."
But most of it is very heroic, which is kind of odd. [CS]
[For the intro to modern-day San Francisco] Leonard wanted something
like An American in Paris by George Gershwin, but I pointed out
to him that San Francisco is the home of jazz. When we previewed the picture
in Tucson, Arizona, and the jazz stuff started, the audience just went
berserk; they started applauding wildly. It was just incredible. I sketched
out the music, and Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip would fill stuff in.
Sometimes we would change the music in accordance to the sounds we got.
We worked well together; it was quite nice. [SL]
[The "Hospital Chase" cue was] like a more classical version of Charlie
Chaplin. I told Leonard Nimoy that's what I wanted to do. He just loved
it. With my technique of music they always asked me to do dramas, fantasies
and so on. I wanted to show that I can do humor also. [S55]
There were a lot of problems with the composition itself, because I
was writing for the film as the special effects were coming in, and very
often the special effects came in at different lengths than what they ordered.
The result was that they had to fix preceding and succeeding scenes in
order to fit those things, so I was constantly re-writing cues. One cue
I wrote about eight times! But that's the racket. I probably would have
been really frustrated if I wasn't working for someone like Leonard. [CS]
I spoke with many composers who had done films with special effects
and I don't think anyone has had smooth sailing. That's just part of the
It seems to me that The Voyage Home is more modern than any of
the other Star Trek films, as far as music is concerned. The other
films are basically interchangeable with most other science-fiction films
-- big themes with electronics that aren't that extraordinary. If they
got someone like Mark Isham instead of Goldsmith or Horner, he would have
done something interesting. He's really a composer for electronic instruments.
Someday, I would like to do a score wherein I use electronic instruments
in a way that has never been done before.
First of all, you have to understand that -- not as far as Goldsmith
is concerned -- but most of these other people don't have their own style.
Horner certainly doesn't. They're very good, but my style existed before
I went into films. I came in as a concert composer, and you need to be
a trained composer to wind up with a style. You can't get it in film; it's
not possible. [SL]
You know, as Leonard said, "Relax, you're riding a hit." To be connected
with a successful film is the key, because very few people know anything
about music. They simply want somebody that's connected with a big hit.
Then, of course, you form a team, although I can't speak for him, I'm sure
that Leonard feels good luck with a team like that and I'm sure, if he
made another film, he'd want to go with as many members of his team as
possible, because they work. And I'd much rather work for one or two or
three people than totally freelance, because after a while it becomes almost
telepathic, you don't have to debate things. [CS]
I thought it was the best of the Star Trek films. [S55]
He scored the TV movie drama PROMISED A MIRACLE, and
reunited with Nimoy for the Disneyland short film BODY WARS,
which took place inside the human body, a familiar dramatic setting for
It was entirely different from Fantastic Voyage. They wanted
loud adventure kind of stuff that would stimulate the audience. It wasn't
really very long -- just a march and three or four sections. [SL]
One of his more obscure projects was a South African film titled
CIRCLES IN A FOREST, featuring Ian Bannen and The Mummy
himself, Arnold Vosloo:
I did a South African film once which was never released. It's called
Circles in a Forest. It was done many, many years ago. A wonderful
film. I recorded the music in Munich with the Philharmonic. The score was
one of the best scores I've ever done. [S55]
NEXT TIME: The final scores, and more words from
Rosenman about his craft.
CS: Cinemascore #15, Winter 1986/Summer
1987; "Leonard Rosenman scoring 'The Voyage Home,'" Interview by Randall
HE86: Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, December 26, 1986:
"Composer's New Frontier? 'Star Trek'" by Susan King
S55: Soundtrack vol. 14, No. 55, September 1995,
interview by Wolfgang Breyer
SL: Starlog, November
1991: "Composer of the Fantastic," by David Hirsch
of this series can be accessed on the website.
Edited by Scott Bettencourt