Iris ter Schiphorst was born in Hamburg. Since 1986 she lives in Berlin as a free-lance composer.
After completing her piano studies and giving numerous concert performances, she spent two years travelling the world. Back in Germany, she took up theatre studies, cultural studies and philosophy in Berlin; she also attended seminars with Dieter Schnebel, Luigi Nono and Helga de la Motte. At the same time, she began to explore electronic music and sampling techniques intensively. Towards the end of the eighties, she co-founded the association ‘zeit-Musik’, together with the composers Mayako Kubo, Franz-Martin Olbrisch and Berthold Türcke as well as the musicologists Frank Hilberg and Gian Mario Borio. Her compositions from that period centre mainly on the relationship between script and sound. In 1990, she founded the electro-acoustic ensemble intrors. The years 1996–2001 saw intensive collaboration with fellow composer Helmut Oehring, which produced a number of joint compositions.
Iris ter Schiphorst has received numerous accolades and scholarships. In 1992 she was awarded first prize in the third Composition Competition for Synthesized and Computerized Music, in 1997 she won the composition competition BLAUE BRÜCKE. She received prizes at the Internationaler Komponistinnenwettbewerb in 2008 as well as at the "ad libitum" composition competition in 2011.
In 2009, she was nominated for the German Music Authors’ Prize in the symphonic section. Her orchestral piece Dislokationen featured in the final selection of the 2012 Rostrum of Composers and was broadcasted in more than 32 countries. In 2015, she received the prestigious Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis. Since June 2013, she is a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, and since 2018 of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. Since 2015 she is professor for Media Composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.
Her works have been premiered at festivals in, among others, Donaueschingen, Witten, Helsinki, Paris, Munich, Basle, Glasgow, Berlin, Stockholm, Cologne, Amsterdam, Porto, Vienna and London as well as at the EXPO and documenta exhibitions.
Ter Schiphorst’s extensive years of experience as a musician (at first as a classical pianist, later as a bass player, drummer, keyboard player and sound engineer in various rock and pop bands) has had a formative influence on her attitude towards composing and her concept of music. She received commissions from the most renowned ensembles in Germany and abroad; her wide-ranging output includes all genres, such as 7 large orchestral works, several film scores and full-length stage works. Latest compositions include her much acclaimed youth opera Die Gänsemagd (The Goose Girl) as well as music for a concert or stage version of The Gruffalo; in 2016 the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain premiered her Gravitational Waves at the BBC Proms and Aldeburgh Festival.
Iris ter Schiphorst currently is a visiting professor for experimental composition at the Berlin University of Arts.