Rolf Inge Godøy was born 1952 in Japan and spent most of his childhood there. At the age of 23, he took a graduate degree in piano and a diploma in music theory from the Norwegian State Academy of Music. In 1977 he received a diploma in composition from the same institution, after studying with Finn Mortensen. Godøy has a PhD in musicology from the University of Oslo, where he also studied philosophy and history of ideas. He is a lecturer at the University of Oslo. As a musicologist his subject has mainly been French 20th century music. In his research he works with cognitive music theory, i.e. the perception and organising of sound in our minds.
Godøy has composed music for a wide range of instruments and ensembles, from smaller chamber music works to larger commissions for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, the Norwegian National Opera and the Norwegian State Academy of Music, among others. He has made a name for himself with his music dramas. Eremitten was composed in 1978. In 1981 he wrote Drømmen og tråden for the Norwegian National Opera, a music drama collage based on texts by the novelist Jens Bjørneboe. His latest music dramatic works are the musical Herr Jonatan Grunts tragiske levnet (The Tragic Life of Jonatan Grunt), with a text by Lennart Lidström, for Det Norske Teater in Oslo and electronic music for a ballet, Margits drøm (Margit's Dream), with choreography by Jane Hveding.
Among his other works Transfiguration für zwei Klaviere, the orchestral work Coup and the vocal works A Poem by Hölderlin and Whilst I Alone did Call upon Thy Aid may be mentioned as significant for his development.
Rolf Inge Godøy has had a number of honorary offices in the Society of Norwegian Composers and the Norwegian Section of the ISCM. In the period 1986-1993 he was chairman of the board of the Norwegian Music Information Centre.