In his youth, Sciarrino was attracted to the visual arts, but began experimenting with music when he was twelve. Though he had some lessons from Antonino Titone and Turi Belfiore, he is primarily self-taught as a composer. In 1969 he moved to Rome, where he attended Franco Evangelisti’s course in electronic music at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Osmond-Smith 2001).
In 1977, Sciarrino moved from Rome to Milan, where he taught at the conservatory until 1982. By this time his compositional career had expanded to the point where he could withdraw from teaching, and he moved to Città di Castello, in Umbria, where he has resided ever since. He nevertheless has continued to teach sporadically in Florence and Bologna, as well as in Città di Castello. Some of his notable students include Francesco Filidei, Lucia Ronchetti, Fabrizio De Rossi Rei, and Maurizio Pisati.
Sciarrino’s work is avant-garde, and he is known for his use of isolated sonorities, extended playing techniques, frequent silences, and ironic or confrontational quotation of previous music (for instance, American pop music) or stories (such as in Lohengrin).