Born in London, Saunders studied violin and composition at the University of Edinburgh, earning a PhD in Composition in 1997. As a DAAD scholar, she studied with Wolfgang Rihm from 1991 to 1994 at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe; Nigel Osborne supervised her doctoral thesis.
Her awards include the Busoni Prize of the Berlin Academy of the Arts, the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for composition, the Paul Hindemith Prize of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, and the composition prize of the ARD. In 2010 and 2012, she taught at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses and was composer-in-residence at the Konzerthaus Dortmund from 2005-2006, Staatskapelle Dresden from 2009-2010, and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2010.
- Behind the Velvet Curtain (1991–92), for trumpet, harp, piano and cello
- Molly's Song 3—shades of crimson (1995), for alto flute, viola, steel-stringed guitar, four radios and music box
- Duo (1996), for violin and piano
- Into the Blue (1996), for clarinet, bassoon, cello, double bass, piano and percussion
- dichroic seventeen (1996), for piano, two percussionists, two double basses, accordion and electric guitar
- QUARTET (1998), for piano, B-flat clarinet/bass clarinet, double bass and accordion
- cinnabar (1999), for violin, trumpet and ensemble
- albescere (2001), for twelve instruments and five voices
- vermilion (2003), for clarinet, electric guitar and cello
- insideout (2003), music for the choreographic installation by Sasha Waltz
- blaauw (2004), for double-bell trumpet
- Choler (2004), for piano duo
- Miniata (2004), for accordion, piano, choir and orchestra
- rubricare (2005), for strings and organ
- Blue and Gray (2005), for two double basses
- Stirrings Still (2007), for alto flute, oboe, clarinet, piano and bowed crotales
- chroma IX (2003–08), for chamber groups in several spaces
- traces (2006–09), for orchestra
- Ire (2012), Concerto for Violoncello, Strings and Percussion
- Fletch (2012), for string quartet
- Shadow (2013), for piano
- Void (2013–14), for two percussionists and chamber orchestra
- "Rebecca Saunders biography (in English)". Edition Peters. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- "Erstes Konzert Rebecca Saunders—Composer in Residence (in German)". Konzerthaus Dortmund. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
- "Capell-Compositeur 2009/10 (in German)". Staatskapelle Dresden (in German). Archived from the original on March 7, 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
- "Pulling Threads of Sound: Rebecca Saunders interviewed". Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
- "Prom 56: Staatskapelle Dresden". BBC Proms 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
- Rebecca Saunders interviewed at the time of the premiere of albescere, Ensemble Modern (in English)
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