Composer Friedrich Cerha was born in Vienna in 1926. He started fighting actively against fascism as a student, deserted twice from the German Wehrmacht and survived the end of World War II as the innkeeper of a cabin in Tyrol. In 1946, he entered the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna to study violin, composition and music education. At the same time, he studied musicology, philosophy and German philology at the University of Vienna.
As a concert violinist and music teacher he was in contact with young composers, poets and painters of the avantgarde underground who later joined together to form the Art-Club. He also became part of the Austrian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and analysed works of the Viennese School with Josef Polnauer, a former Schoenberg pupil. In 1956, 1958 and 1959 he attended the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music. With comrades such as the composer Kurt Schwertsik (and later also H.K. Gruber) as well as his wife Gertraud, he founded the ensemble die reihe in 1958 to create a forum for contemporary music. The ensemble toured extensively to great acclaim presenting works of the Avantgarde, the Viennese School and the early 20th century. From 1959 to 1988 Friedrich Cerha held a position at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna, where he taught a class of composition, notation and interpretation of contemporary music from 1976 to 1988.