Philippe Manoury was born in Tulle. His first composition studies were at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, with Gérard Condé and Max Deutsch. He continued his studies from 1974 to 1978 at the Conservatoire de Paris with Michel Philippot, Ivo Malec, and Claude Ballif. From 1975 he undertook studies in computer assisted composition with Pierre Barbaud. He joined IRCAM in 1980. He is currently on the composition faculty at the University of California, San Diego where he teaches courses in composition, real-time signal processing, and musical analysis.
Manoury's work is strongly influenced by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis, and his early work from 1972–76 combines serial Punctualism with the densely massed elements characteristic of the music of Stockhausen and Xenakis, and the paintings of Jackson Pollock.
Works such as Sound and Fury are of interest because of the use of computer assisted composition. Sound and Fury also uses a very large orchestra, which is symmetrically disposed, and makes quite extensive use of left-right spatial effects. The Sonus ex machina series of works, which were developed in collaboration with Miller Puckette, are among the first pieces to utilize real-time audio signal processing.
His substantial "Abgrund—pour grand orchestre" was commissioned by the Bavarian State Opera together with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and premiered by the Bavarian State Orchestra on November 26, 2007. It has been described as "a work that will neither disturb nor annoy [...] a pleasant and perhaps harmless string of dissonant semi-climaxes, little jolts, and resting phases. It has an invigorating effect, is easy to concentrate on. . . ." In it "Manoury [...] mercifully knows how to use [the abundance of percussion instruments] in ways far more discriminately than his contemporaries beholden to one bongo-frenzy after another." "Philippe Manoury hit[s] the right mix between shallow and deep, melodic and dissonant, placating and strident, stasis and progress, simplicity and complexity. The steady run-up—stop—tighten—burst—relax scheme may not be novel at all, but it paid dividends [in 'Abgrund']."