Simon Holt was born in Bolton, Lancashire. After completing a foundation course at Bolton Art College, he went on to study composition for four years with Anthony Gilbert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Holt first came to prominence as the featured composer of the 1985 Bath International Festival. As a young composer he was also taken up by the late Michael Vyner, then artistic director of the London Sinfonietta, and in response to commissions Holt produced Kites (1983) and Ballad of the Black Sorrow (1988).
Simon Holt finds his inspiration from, amongst others, the world of Greek myth. His Icarus Trilogy culminated in 1995 with the premiere of his cello concerto Daedalus Remembers, commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival for Rohan de Saram and Sinfonia 21 conducted by Daniel Harding.
In addition, he feels a great affinity for the writing of Federico García Lorca, whose dark, passionate and enigmatic texts have much in common with Holt's own sound world. He has set Lorca's texts in his song cycle Canciones and, more recently, his first opera The Nightingales to blame.
Sunrise' yellow noise is the first part of the cycle "a ribbon of time" which encompasses five works of various genre based on poems by Emily Dickinson. It is followed by Two movements for string quartet (2001) which received the Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2002; Boots of Lead (2002) for alto and ensemble which received the Ivor Novello Classical Music Award; Clandestiny (2001) for soprano and organ and concludes with startled Grass (2001) for female voices and small ensemble.
Holt's most recent major work is Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm, an extraordinary hybrid music theatre piece commissioned by Almeida Aldeburgh Opera, which was performed around the UK in 2003 to huge acclaim.
Simon Holt is a recipient of various grants and honours and is a fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music. He is Lecturer in Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London.