Michael Finnissy was born in Tulse Hill, London in 1946. He was a Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, where he studied composition with Bernard Stevens and Humphrey Searle, and piano with Edwin Benbow and Ian Lake. Afterwards, he studied in Italy with Roman Vlad.
Finnissy created the music department of the London School of Contemporary Dance, and has been associated as composer with many British dance companies including London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Ballet Rambert, Strider, and Second Stride. He has taught at Dartington Summer School, Winchester College, the junior department of the Royal College of Music, Chelsea College of Art, and is guest lecturer at many colleges and universities. He has also been musician in residence to the Victorian College of the Arts, the City of Caulfield in Australia, and the East London Late Starters Orchestra. In 1999 he was made Professor of Composition at the University of Southampton. Finnissy was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 2008.
Finnissy has been featured composer at the Bath, Huddersfield, and Almeida festivals amongst others, and his works are widely performed and broadcast worldwide. In February 1999 a festival at Harvard University, Boston, was devoted to his music, and several world premieres took place at the 1999 Music Factory Festival in Bergen, Norway.
In 1990 Finnissy was appointed President of the International Society of Contemporary Music. He was re-elected in 1993, and in 1998 was made an honorary member of the ISCM. In 1999 he was appointed Senior Fellow of the KBC-chair in New Music at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium for two years. The appointment included the commission for a work for the Beethoven Academie,Onbevooroordeeld Leven.
Finnissy’s epic piano cycle, The History of Photography in Sound, the product of several years’ work and lasting over five hours, received its complete premiere in January 2001 at the hands of Ian Pace.
In 2005 Michael Finnissy was the recipient of two British Composer Awards, for Molly-House, a work written for COMA. 2006 was the composer’s sixtieth birthday year, and highlights included ‘The Finnissy Weekend’ - a series of concerts at the BMIC Cutting Edge series, as well as a full performance of his epic piano cycle The History of Photography in Sound. 2008 saw the revival of his major orchestral work Red Earth by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, chosen by Judith Weir to form part of her BBC composer weekend; in 2009 he was featured composer at the Borealis Festival, Norway, and the Time of Music Festival in Finland.
Latest commissions include a stage work for mixed professional and amateur performers, Mankind, which received its London premiere at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music in May 2009, and The Transgressive Gospel, an evening-length setting of the Passion of Christ which was premiered at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of the 2009 Spitalfields Festival.