Rebecca Saunders was born in London in 1967. She studied composition at Edinburgh University with Nigel Osborne and with Wolfgang Rihm in Germany. She currently lives in Berlin.
One of the leading and most original compositional voices of her generation her music has been recognised with several prestigious awards, including the Ernst von Siemens Förderpreis, the ARD und BMW musicaviva Prize, the Paul Hindemith Prize, the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Award For Chamber Music (twice, in 2008 and 2012), and the GEMA Music Prize for Instrumental Music 2010. Following nominations in 2012 und in 2013. she won a British Composer Award in 2014. Most recently in 2015 Saunders received the Happy-New-Ears-Prize from the Hans und Gertrud Zender Stiftung, and the prestigious Mauricio Kagel Musikprize 2015.
In 2009 she became a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, and in 2013 she was honoured with membership of the Sachsen Academy of Arts in Dresden. Saunders was Composer-in-Residence at the Staatskapelle Dresden for the 2009/2010.
Rebecca Saunders is regularly in demand as a guest composition tutor and has taught at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse, most recently in 2010 and 2012, at Impuls in Graz in 2011 und 2013, and at the Ostrava Music Days. In the Summer of 2015 she will be teaching at the Schloss Solitude Summer Academy. She was Professor for Composition at the Hochschule for Music Theatre and Media Hannover 2012–2014.
Since 2003, Saunders has intensified her interest in the sculptural properties of organised sound. chroma (2003-2013) explores a collage of twenty-four chamber groups and sound sources in several spaces. Since its premiere in 2003, 19 new versions have been created for radically different performance spaces. The characteristics of each new architecture define the formal juxtaposition of the various chamber music groups, whereby each solo or group is like a protagonist in a form of instrumental theatre. insideout, music for a choreographed installation, was her first work for the stage and was created in collaboration with Sasha Waltz.
More recent works, such as Stirrings Still I and II, and murmurs, are quiet and fragile collage compositions. Her most recent spatial collage work, Stasis (2011), comprises 23 modules for 16 soloists, and expands her complex collage structures over an extended time-frame of 50 minutes.
Saunders´ present compositional preoccupation is an investigation of the musical soloist in two distinct ways: since 2013 she has been writing an expansive series of works for individual performers, and simultaneously continuing her interest in works for soloist in a concerto role; either for solo and orchestra or for solo and special ensemble instrumentations, with concertos for double percussion and for trumpet planned in 2014 and 2015, and further solo and duo works. A 90-minute music theatre work is planned for Autumn 2017.