His father, Yuji Ito, was a composer and costume designer, and his mother, Teiko Ono, was a dancer who worked in both traditional and classical genres. Ito moved with his family to New York at the age of six. In 1952, at the age of seventeen, he began composing music for the films of Maya Deren. He traveled with her to Haiti in 1955, learning ceremonial and secular drumming techniques from the legendary Haitian musician Coyote. Ito had a long and productive career, composing music for Broadway and Hollywood, drama, and dance.
His works feature an innovative combination of sounds and often utilize musical instruments from many world cultures, which he played himself. His music is not as well known as that of many of his contemporaries because few recordings of his music were available until the late 20th century. In 1961 he composed a score for a New York production of Alfred Jarry's King Ubu by The Living Theatre, which was released on CD by Tzadik Records in 1998. He won an Obie Award for his theater music in the 1960-61 season. In 1962 he composed music for dancer Jean Erdman's musical play The Coach with the Six Insides.
In 1963 he composed the score for the original Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Ito was married three times. He married Maya Deren in the late 1950s. His third wife was the photographer and filmmaker Cherel Winett Ito (1947-1999). He had one daughter, Tavia. He died in 1982 while visiting Haiti. Read more on Last.fm.
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