Jonty Harrison studied with Bernard Rands at the University of York, graduating with a DPhil in Composition in 1980. In 1976 he moved to London, working at the National Theatre and City University. In 1980 he joined the Music Department of the University of Birmingham, where he is now a Senior Lecturer, as well as Director of BEAST and the Electroacoustic Music Studios. He has been a Board member of Sonic Arts Network (Chair 1993-96) and was a member of the Music Advisory Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain and of the Council of the Society for the Promotion of New Music. He plays an active role in the musical life of Birmingham, conducting the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (most notably Stockhausen's Momente) and the University New Music Ensemble; for ten years he was the Artistic Director of the Barber Festival of Contemporary Music.

As a composer he has received First Prize and Second Prize in the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Awards (including a Euphonie d'Or for Klang, cited as one of the 'significant works' of the Bourges competition's history), a Distinction in the Prix Arts Electronica in Linz, Austria, First Prize in the Musica Nova competition, Prague, the Lloyds Bank National Composer's Award and the PRS Prize for Electroacoustic Composition. Commissions have come from many leading performers and studios, including the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, Paris, the Groupe de Musique Experimentale de Bourges, IRCAM/ Ensemble InterContemporain, the BBC, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble, the Nash Ensemble, Singcircle, John Harle, Beverley Davison, Harry Sparnaay and Jos Zwaanenburg.