Gordon Crosse was born in 1937 in Bury, Lancashire. In 1961 he gained a first class honours degree at Oxford, after which he did two years' research on early fifteenth-century music. Since 1964 he has held various appointments at the Universities of Birmingham and Essex, and was for two years Composer-in-Residence at King's College, Cambridge. In 1976, the year in which he won the Cobbett Medal, he returned to his home in Suffolk to devote all his time to composition.

Much of Crosse's work reflects his interest in the dramatic and literary arts. This is evident not only in his four operas (The Story of Vasco, Purgatory), but also in many of the concert works. Examples are Memories of Morning: Night, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, based on Jean Rhys's novel Wide Sargasso Sea (recorded by NMC); World Within, for actress, soprano and ten players with a text taken from the writings of Emily Brontë, and Play Ground for orchestra - later choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, as was the 1981 The Wild Boy. In 1984 he was approached by the choreographer David Bintley, who asked him to extend Britten's eight-minute work Young Apollo into a piece of suitable length for a ballet for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Notable concert works, including Ceremony, Epiphany Variations, the Cello Concerto (also on NMC) and Dreamsongs, have been written to commission for international orchestras and festivals including the BBC Proms.

From the late 1980s until recently, Gordon Crosse moved increasingly towards involvement with computer technology and away from composition. However, recent works include a contribution to The NMC Songbook.