Nono was born in Venice. He studied at the Venice Conservatoire where he became acquainted with serialism. (He married Schönberg's daughter Nuria in 1955). He worked for a time at the electronic studio in Darmstadt, and became a leading composer of electronic, aleatory, and serial music.
Nono was committed to socialism, and his avante-garde music was also a revolt against bourgeois culture. As such, he avoided of normal concert genres in favor of opera and electronic music, and bringing music to factories. He made frequent recourse to political texts and his work. His Il canto sospeso (1956), based on the letters of victims of wartime oppression, brought him international recognition.
Other works of Nono include Intolleranza (1961), Ein Gespenst geht um in der Welt (1971), Canto per il Vietnam (1973), and Al gran sole carico d'amore (1975).