Composer, music critic, radio programmer, writer İlhan Mimaroğlu was born in 1926 in İstanbul. He grew up at his step father's house following the early death of his father Kemalettin Bey, eminent architect of the early Rebublic era. He graduated from the Lycée de Galatasaray in 1945 and Ankara University Faculty of Law in 1949. He took clarinet lessons from Hayrullah Duygu for a while in Ankara. Apart from the radio programmes he prepared he began writing articles on music. Dedicating himself to music, Mimaroğlu went to New York in 1955 on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to study musicology under Paul Henry Lang and composition with Douglas Moore at Columbia University. In 1958, he wrote the first jazz book in Turkey. He settled down in New York in 1959, but he never severed his ties with Turkey. He continued to produce from New York the "Contemporary Composers" programme which he had initiated at Ankara and Istanbul radios, and also made jazz programmes. Quickly noticeable in the New York art scene, Mimaroğlu was appointed repertory expert at The Record Hunter company. Moreover, he also started to work as art critic at the famous Voice of America radio. To further his music studies, he began to take lessons from Vladimir Ussachevsky at Columbia University as of 1963 to receive his master's degree in art on electronic music. In the meanwhile, he studied composition with Edgar Varese and Stephan Wolpe. Later, he started to teach electronic music at Columbia. Working under the Ertegun brothers for 30 years at Atlantic Records, he produced many important jazz records, including those for Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus, certainly reflecting his own ideas to their avant-garde leanings. His close relationship with Atlantic allowed him to set up the Finnadar label, which released important modern works from John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as himself. In 1968, upon the invitation by the Radio France, he began working at the Central Studios for Music Research. His compositions were included in the soundtrack of Fellini's Satyricon (1969), along with the director's favourite Nino Rota's work. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971. A member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), he began writing articles and essays on music in early 1990s. He shared his extraordinary ideas on music and art in the articles he wrote for the dailies Cumhuriyet and Yeni Yüzyıl.
As to his perspective on music: İlhan Mimaroğlu believes that atonality is "appropriate for associations" in the context of "Pioneering Music". He has avoided being restricted with electronic tools by realising his electronic work suitable for conventional studio conditions, and he has prioritised tone colour.