After The High School of Music & Art in New York City, Philip Corner received his BA (1955) at CCNY, where his most important teacher was Fritz Jahoda; and an MA (1959) from Columbia University where his composition teachers were Otto Luening and Henry Cowell, The two years in between (1955–57) were spent in Paris at the Conservatoire Nat'l de Musique, following the class "Philosophie Musicale" of Olivier Messiaen. Equally important was his friendship with the Canadian painter Paul-Emile Borduas, who introduced him to "la grande aventure nord-américaine", to which he returned and became part of the group around John Cage. At the same time he resumed his studies of the piano with Dorothy Taubman, which was to have a significant role in his compositional as well as performing life.
He taught Modern Music at the New School for Social Research from 1967–1970, inheriting the class founded by John Cage at double remove after Richard Maxfield, with whom he was teaching assistant, and Malcolm Goldstein. His teaching career started at a New York City high school and continued at the New Lincoln School where he helped develop the music department and introduced innovative courses (1966–1972). During this period he was married to the astrologer and trance medium Julie Winter who was also a minister in the Church of Religious Science, with which he too was associated, composing music to be sung at meditation sessions. From 1972 to 1992 he continued as professor at the newly established Livingston College, a part of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, soon to be absorbed into the Mason Gross School of the Arts. He then took early retirement and moved to Reggio Emilia, Italy where he had previous contact through the Pari e Dispari "Arte Club Internazionale". An early friend, the dancer and choreographer Phoebe Neville, joined him there and became his wife and performance partner.
He was a founding participant of Fluxus since 1961, was a resident composer and musician with the Judson Dance Theatre from 1962 to 1964 and later with the Experimental Intermedia Foundation upon the invitation of Elaine Summers, for whose dance company he served as musician. He co-founded with Malcolm Goldstein and James Tenney the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in 1963 (active until 1970), with Julie Winter Sounds Out of Silent Spaces in 1972 (active until 1979) and with Barbara Benary and Daniel Goode, Gamelan Son of Lion in 1976 (still active).