David Sawer, born at Stockport, and brought up in Suffolk, studied composition, singing and violin at the University of York. In 1984, he was awarded a DAAD scholarship to study with Mauricio Kagel in Cologne
David was the recipient of the 1991 Fulbright-Chester-Schirmer Fellowship in Composition, which enabled him to study in the USA for nine months. In 1993 he received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award and, in 1995, the Arts Foundation's Composer Fellowship.
In the early 1980's, high-profile performances of Sawer's compositions by the London Sinfonietta and Music Projects London resulted in commissions from MusICA and the Almeida Festival. His radio composition, Swansong, a commentary in words and music on a short story by Hector Berlioz, was the BBC's radio entry for the 1989 Prix Italia and subsequently won a Sony Award.
Cat's-Eye was choreographed by Richard Alston for Ballet Rambert and Hollywood Extra, written for the Matrix Ensemble to accompany an expressionist silent film, was taken on a Contemporary Music Network Tour by the Asko Ensemble.
From 1995-96, David was Composer-in-Association with the Bournemouth Orchestras. The Memory of Water, originally a BCMG commission in 1993, was reworked and taken on tour by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta in 1995. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra performed his 1992 BBC Proms commission, Byrnan Wood, at the 1996 Cheltenham Festival.
In 1995, Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra premiered the Trumpet Concerto with Graham Ashton and made a CD recording of Byrnan Wood. In 1997, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales gave the premiere of the greatest happiness principle at St. David's Hall, Cardiff and at the BBC Proms.
Tiroirs, commissioned by the Michael Vyner Trust, received its premiere in 1997 by the London Sinfonietta, to whom the piece is dedicated. Since then, the work has been performed in several European countries, in the USA and at the 1998 ISCM World Music Days.
From Morning to Midnight, a full-length opera written for English National Opera, received its world premiere at the London Coliseum in April 2001.