Actor, Pioneer Composer Dane Rudhyar Dies at 90

Dane Rudhyar, a pioneer of polytonal music whose varied career included portraying Christ in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent version of “The Ten Commandments,” has died at his San Francisco home.

He was 90 and died Sept. 14.

Rudhyar was also a psychologist, author, philosopher and astrologer.

But it was the modern music he composed over seven decades that brought him the most fame. He received a Peabody Award for music in 1978 from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which honored him for his lengthy career of artistic integrity.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic is scheduled to perform his last major work, “Encounter,” a piece for piano and orchestra, on Oct. 31. It will be a world premiere.

The world premiere of his “Trois Chanson de Bilitis” was performed here in 1984.


Rudhyar’s works have been played at the Kennedy Center in Washington, and the San Francisco Symphony frequently performed his music, which was influenced by Debussy and Scriabin.

Born Daniel Chenneviere in Paris, he studied at the Paris Conservatory and received a degree in philosophy. While still in his teens, he wrote a biography of Claude Debussy.

He came to America in 1916, and in 1917, when the Metropolitan Opera orchestra performed one of his works, he changed his name to Rudhyar, a Sanskrit word that he said was astrologically related to the color red and the planet Mars.

He moved to Southern California in 1918 where he acted to support himself while he composed. The 1923 “Commandments” was his best-known role. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1926.

Rudhyar moved in his later years to Northern California where he wrote, taught and lectured.

Among his 30 books on astrology is “Astrology of Personality,” and his philosophic writings include “Beyond Individualism” and “Rhythms of Wholeness.”