Was born 1962 in Mannheim and studied musicology, philosophy and sociology at the Universities of Heidelberg, Freiburg and Frankfurt am Main. He also studied composition with Brian Ferneyhough. In 1987 Mahnkopf studied at the Staatliche Hochschule for Music in Freiburg, where his teachers were Klaus Huber, Emmanuel Nunes, Peter Foertig and James Avery. In 1989 he graduated in sociology with Jürgen Habermas and in philosophy with Ludwig von Friedeburg. In 1992 he graduated in composition and music theory. One year later Mahnkopf received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Frankfurt am Main. Since 1988 he had following lectureships: Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in Leipzig ( 2003-2005); Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg (2002-2003 and 1992-1996); University of Freiburg (1990-1995); Darmstadt International Holiday Courses (1988-1994).
Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf recieved numerous scholarships and honours. From 2005 to 2009 he is a member of the jury of the Stuttgarter Composition Prize. He had a scholarship from the Heinrich-Strobel-Foundation of the SWF several times (2003, 1998 and 1991) and in 2001 he began the cooperation with the Experimental Studio there. In 1998/1999 he was at the Villa Massimo in Rome and in 1998 he also got the grant from the Siemens-Foundation. In 1995/1996 he got a fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and the Baldreit-scholarship from the city of Baden-Baden in 1994. In 1991 he was composer in residence at the Staatsoper Hamburg and in 1990 he received a scholarship of the Kunststiftung Baden-Württemberg and achieved the Gaudeamus Prize for his creation interpénetrations.
Since 2005 Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf is the editor of sinefonia and since 1997 he is the editor of Musik & Ästhetik. In 2006 he published his book Kritische Theorie der Musik. In the years 2004–2006 he was an artistic and scientific advisor of the Festival of International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM-Festival). 2002 he established the book series New Music and Aesthetics in the 21st century. In 2000 his music theatre Angelus Novus could be seen at the Biennale in Munich.
Extensive works of all genres and premieres. Recent world premieres: humanized void for big orchestra and Dritte Kammersymphonie for chamber orchestra. Currently working on voiced void for the Vocalensemble des SWR Stuttgart and void – un delitto italiano for the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. He is exclusively represented by the Hamburg based publishing house Sikorski.
Since 2005 Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf is a composition professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig.