July 3rd, 2008


The Life of Leonard Rosenman, Part One

Film Score Monthly, as it did for film music composers Basil Poledouris and Shirley Walker, has compiled an "in his own words" summing-up of the life of late film composer Leonard Rosenman. He was the often modernistic composer who scored (among others) Rebel Without a Cause, Fantastic Voyage, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Barry Lyndon, and the '70s animated Lord of the Rings. Part One ran this week, where he speaks of his friendship with James Dean and his entrance into film scoring with East of Eden:
I knew absolutely nothing about films, and I asked for something I thought was impossible. I wanted to go through the whole process, from beginning to end, to watch the filming, work with the actors, and let the music be an integral part of the film...

On East of Eden, I went along on location; I wrote the scenes while the film was being shot. I worked with Kazan right from the first day of shooting. And when the film was rough-cut the music was rough-cut. I played the music for the actors before they went out to do their scenes. In scenes where the music carries forth the rhythm of the scene rather than the dialogue, Kazan let me dictate the action of the scene by directing it with me like an opera. To my amazement, he said that he had often wanted to work like that. That's ideal.
Good Omens


Oh yes, Portland can have thunderstorms. It can have lightning. (Eugene can, too, but in the four years I lived there I could count the number of lightning strikes I heard on one hand. The thing is, thunder and lightning in Western Oregon is rare.)

I got to watch a distant lightning storm last night while being A) outside and B) not rained on, because rain hadn't reached Portland yet, as I sat in a lawn chair in a backayrd watching the Twilight Zone-ish black-and-white British science fiction film Unearthly Stranger. The eastern sky was lighting up -- mainly back-lighting the clouds to create these washes of white against the dingy grey of after-dusk -- and a breeze breezed, not yet insistently but with a hint of building punch, through SE Portland. The color was draining from my part of the world in an interesting way, with the black-and-white clouds above the black-and-white film.

(Interesting flick, by the way, working around its low budget much as '60s anthology shows like The Outer Limits or Alfred Hitchcock had to. Unearthly Stranger is the usually low-key -- though with rather hyped music telling you Uh-Oh Something Bad Is Happening -- story of scientists who keep dying on the verge of making a key discovery that, if built upon, would allow humans to travel to other worlds via the power of thought. The discovery is being withheld from humanity, however, by aliens who have already mastered this travel...and have appeared on Earth disguised as women. One alien-woman, the new wife of the scientist John Neville plays, complicates things: she clearly doesn't want to stop his work, and instead she wants to go native, which her fellow aliens do not want to happen. (Neither do kids, who somehow sense something's "off" about her: first a baby in a stroller cries at her, then dozens of grade schoolers in their schoolyard start to back away from her en masse.) Unearthly Stranger is from a different enough time and place (1963 Britain) that the mainly 20-something and 30-something crowd in the backyard found a lot more of it funny than Sixties audiences probably did; we're not used to the acting and filming styles employed. Still, we appreciated it. Writer D.K. Holm, the programmer of half of these movie nights and who was able to attend the very end of the screening, joked "that's the most boring film I'll show!")

Post-film, I treated myself to a sharply tasty Cherry Limeade Slurpee and drove home, then I went to bed. And for the first time in years was awakened by lightning and thunder. Almost immediately the thunder; the stormy weather had reached me. I wasn't yet to restful sleep, anyway, so I was jolted and shaken and close to full wakefulness in a moment. More almost-right-on-top-of-me strikes struck, obliterating for the time being my chances of getting back to sleep. For a moment of insanity, I thought of getting out of bed, getting on the computer and live-blogging the storm, before I thought Dude, using electricity during an electrical storm? Be glad you're awake enough to know that's a bad idea. I waited, watching through the slits in the blinds hoping to see something dramatic -- but not too dramatic, like a tree behind my place getting split in two The Natural-style.

I would like to say now that no tree behind my place was split in two The Natural-style. (Jeez, Chris, if you're gonna be a writer you might want to learn how to build suspence! Get better at making people say "And then?" And not in the Dude, Where's My Car? way, either!) The rain arrived and began to hammer, though, and for another moment of insanity I started to wonder if my car's window was slightly open, and that I should go out in the oh-my-God-Mother-Nature's-water-broke rain splatter and check it. I came to my senses then, too (good thing, 'cause my windows were rolled up tight, I discovered this morning) and simply waited, for the storm to ease (it did) and for me to fall asleep again (I did).

That was my night of not enough sleep, for good reasons and for not-as-good reasons.

Oh, and to borrow from myself, earlier I looked back at my dramatic-weather experience in a comment on this entry by author Cherie Priest:
Portland had that slamming-lightning weather last night: actually woke me up with one lightning strike really close to my apartment.

Before that, lightning was east of town, so while Portland was dry I got to hang out in a backyard, watching an old SF film projected onto an outside wall, with the sky lighting up soundlessly. Neat.

I'm a thunderstorm aficionado, as a lot of former Southern residents seem to be. (I lived for several years in Virginia Beach and then Northern Virginia. Spiritually not the South, not really, but geographically sort of Southern.) I was lucky enough never to go through really serious damage from these storms; never got hit by a hurricane, for instance, though I sat through storms that were close to hurricane-power in Virginia Beach. But being on the dry side of a sliding glass window: good times.