Patterson studied trombone and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He returned there to become Head of Composition and Contemporary Music until 1997, when he became Manson Professor of Composition. In his time at the Academy, it is fair to say that Patterson has almost single-handedly been responsible for the creation of the Contemporary Music Department. A regular guest on composition competition panels both in the UK and further afield, his devotion to new music, along with his desire to introduce the music of contemporary masters to students (in both composition and performance fields), has resulted in the creation of annual festivals devoted to a single composer at the Academy.
He has worked with South East Arts, the University of Warwick, the London Sinfonietta and is currently Composer-in-Residence with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and celebrated his tenth year with them in 2007.
Patterson is an important figure in the choral field and his enthusiasm for music both challenging and enjoyable to performers and audiences has produced a number of important large-scale choral works, most notably the Mass of the Sea (1983), Stabat Mater (1986), Te Deum (1988) the Millennium Mass (2000).
His works are performed regularly by leading performers in the United Kingdom and abroad, most popular among which are the orchestral setting of Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood and the Violin Concerto.
Patterson was awarded the John Armitage Memorial Commission for 2005. For this, he composed The Fifth Continent, a work for solo counter tenor, choir, brass quintet and organ, which received its premiere in Southwark Cathedral in March 2005. Other awards include the PRS/RPS Leslie Boosey Award.
Recent commissions include an Oboe Concerto (Phoenix Concerto) for the International Double Reed Society Conference in Birmingham and a Viola Concerto for the Hampstead & Highgate Festival, both of which received their premieres during the latter part of 2009.
Recent CD releases have included The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, narrated by the TV presenter Chris Jarvis, with the London Philharmonic under David Parry, and a recording of the Cello Concerto with Raphael Wallfisch and the South West German Chamber Orchestra (Pforzheim). Future CD releases include his Phoenix Concerto with Emily Pailthorpe and the English Chamber Orchestra.
- Sonors, Op.17 (1973)
- Fusions, Op.23 (1974), for orchestra & electronics
- Circular Ruins, Op.31 (1975)
- Clarinet Concerto, Op.34 (1976), for clarinet & string orchestra
- Concerto for Orchesra, Op.45 (1981)
- Sinfonia, Op.46 (1982), for string orchestra
- Upside-Down-Under Variations, Op.56 (1985)
- Violin Concerto, Op.72 (1992), for violin & string orchestra
- Four Rustic Sketches, Op.80 (1997)
- The City Within, Op.87 (2000)
- Jubilee Dances, Op.89 (2002)
- Cello Concerto, Op.90 (2002), for cello & string orchestra
- Orchestra on Parade, Op.94 (2004)
- Allusions, Op.99 (2007), for two violins & string orchestra
- Viola Concerto, Op. 101 (2008–09), for viola & string orchestra
- Phoenix Concerto, Op. 102 (2009), for oboe & string orchestra
- Arabesque (2009)
- Voices of Sleep, Op.40 (1979), for S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
- Mass of the Sea, Op.47 (1983), for soprano & bass soli, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
- Missa Brevis, Op.54 (1985), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
- Hell's Angels, Op.81 (1998), for soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir, four percussion & string quartet
- Gloria, Op.83 (1999), for soprano & tenor soli, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
- Millenium Mass, Op.85 (1999), for soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir, organ & chamber orchestra
- The Fifth Continent, Op.96 (2005), for counter-tenor/mezzo-soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir, brass quintet & organ
- Deviations, Op.88 (2001), for string octet
- Tate Modern Mobiles, Op.91 (2003), for ensemble
- Elegiac Blues, Op.97 (2005), for violin/cello & piano
- Aguecheek's Antics, Op.98 (2005), for violin & piano
- Luslawice Variations, Op.50 (1984), for violin
- Tides of Mananan, Op.64 (1988), for viola
- A Tunnel of Time, Op.66 (1989), for piano
- Soliloquy, Op.79 (1995), for clarinet
- Bugs, Op.93 (2003), for harp
- Tsunami, Op.95 (2005), for organ
- Brumba, Op.100 (2007), for organ
- Official website
- Article by Dr David Wright
- Free recordings & Three Step Challenge
- Publisher website: Josef Weinberger
- Publisher website: Universal Edition