In her review for The Times, Anna Kisselgoff described the score as containing “wheezing sounds, pop tunes and the occasional mean whack with a drumstick that bursts through the classical structures struggling to stay intact at the bottom of the pit.”
At one point Mr. York waved his baton and conducted an absolutely silent orchestra.
Donald Griffith York was born on June 19, 1947, in Watertown, N.Y. His mother, Magdalene (Murphy) York, was an organist and a choir director; his father, Orel York, was a history teacher who later worked as an instructor for the F.B.I.
Donald grew up in Delmar, a suburb of Albany. He had perfect pitch, and was composing music on the piano by the time he was 7. As a teenager he attended a summer program at the Juilliard School in Manhattan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in composition from Juilliard in 1969.
After graduating, he played in a few contemporary bands, including a synthesizer group called The First Moog Quartet, and for the pop duo Hall and Oates before joining Paul Taylor in the mid-1970s. He also conducted for the New York City Ballet and for Broadway musicals, including “Clams on the Half Shell Revue,” Bette Midler’s lampoon of Broadway show tunes. And he composed choral works and song poems.
Mr. York moved to Southern California in the early 1990s. He is survived by his companion, Debbie Prutsman, a performer and educator; his wife, Anne York, a graphic artist from whom he was separated; three stepchildren, Nick, Tasha and Andrew Bogdanski; and a brother, Richard. He and his first wife divorced in 1985.
Mr. York was a nocturnal composer. It was his habit to go to bed at 7 p.m., wake up between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., make a pot of coffee and get to work. He called those hours his “mad time,” said Ms. Prutsman, adding that he would typically finish by dawn.
Mr. York retired on November 17, 2019, taking his last bow at the final performance of the Paul Taylor Company’s season at Lincoln Center. His last concert composition, for the American Brass Quintet, will be performed in July at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he had studied as a teenager. At his death, Mr. York was writing an operatic musical about a child prodigy called “Gifted.”