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Ray Green

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Ray Green


Ray Green (13 September 1908, Cavendish, Mo. – 16 April 1997, New York City) was an American composer and conductor.

Green was raised in San Francisco and studied under Ernest Bloch, Albert Elkus and Giulio Silva. In the mid 30s, he won the George Ladd Prix de Paris, a 2-year composition fellowship from the University of California, Berkeley, to study modern music abroad. While abroad, he studied composition under Darius Milhaud and gained conducting experience with Pierre Monteux. Instead of remaining in Paris as originally intended, he explored the continent but was disappointed with the state of music composition and returned to the U.S. to discover his own way.

When he returned to the United States in 1937, he met May O’Donnell and wrote the score for her first work, Of Pioneer Women. This was the beginning of his career as a composer in the dance field. In 1938 at the Bennington School of Dance he wrote American Document for Martha Graham. 1938 also marked the year he married May O’Donnell and began their long and successful collaboration of music and dance.

During the years prior to and during World War II he was composer-conductor, first with the Federal Music Project in northern California and then as a member of the Armed Forces. During this time, one of his main interests was in getting music accepted as an essential component to medical treatment in the Veterans Administration hospitals. He was Chief of Music for the Veterans Administration, and in 1948 was invited to become Executive Secretary of the American Music Center in NYC, a position he held for over twelve years.

Ray Green’s influence was felt in the worlds of American music composition, music therapy, modern dance, and music publishing. He tried to create a new American music consisting of a harmonic system removed from the European tradition. This was signified by elements of American jazz, American folk music, Asian music, micro tonality, music for dance and electronic music. It was never to be highbrow or too cerebral but accessible to all audiences.

Ray and May lived and worked together for over 50 years and became one of the most formidable combinations of composer and choreographer of their time, producing over forty collaborative works.

Works for Winds