Born in Tokyo in 1947, Jo Kondo graduated from the composition department of Tokyo University of Arts in 1972. He spent a year in New York on a scholarship from the John D. Rockefeller III Fund in 1977-78. In 1979 he taught as guest lecturer at University of Victoria, British Columbia, invited by the Canada Council, and in 1986 resided in London as a British Council Senior Fellow. In 1987 he was composer in residence at Hartt School of Music, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, and taught at Dartington International Summer School in England. He is Professor Emeritus of Music at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo and still teaches at Tokyo University of Arts part-time. In 1980 Kondo founded the Musica Practica Ensemble, a chamber orchestra devoted to contemporary music, and was artistic director of the group until its disbandment in 1991.
He has written more than 130 compositions, ranging from solo pieces to orchestral and electronic works, which have been widely performed in Japan, North America and Europe and recorded on Hat Art, ALM, Fontec, Deutsche Grammophon and other labels. He has received commissions from numerous organisations, and his music has been featured at many international music festivals.
Kondo has written extensively on musical matters, and since 1979 he has published five books spelling out in detail his own aesthetic and compositional ideas. He is also an associate editor of Contemporary Music Review. During 2000 he directed the composition classes at the Dartington International School of Music and was on the jury of the Gaudeamus International Composers' competition, and was a featured composer at the 2005 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. The 2011 Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival featured his work.
In January 2012 Jo Kondo was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. At the ceremony he was hailed as one of Japan's most distinguished composers and his distinct style of composition was described thus:
His music is characterised by a unique personality which synthesizes Japanese aesthetic sensibility and western harmonic structure. Perhaps there are echoes of Morton Feldman, the great American composer, but Kondo's music inhabits a far larger universe, at once serene and dynamic, at once contemplative and energetic.