Following his studies at the Conservatory and University of Toulouse, and the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (under Ivo Malec and Betsy Jolas), Philippe Hurel carried out musical research at IRCAM in 1985-1986 and again in 1988-1989. Between these two periods, he was a resident at the Villa Médicis in Rome.
Philippe Hurel taught at IRCAM in the Cursus for Composition and Computer Music from 1997 to 2001. From 2000 to 2002 he was in residence at the Arsenal de Metz and at the Philharmonie de Lorraine. Since 1991, he has been the artistic director of the Ensemble Court-circuit.
His works, published by Gérard Billaudot and Henry Lemoine, have been performed by numerous ensembles and orchestras under the baton of conductors such as François Xavier Roth, Ludovic Morlot, Tito Ceccherini, Pierre-André Valade, Kent Nagano, Christian Eggen, Lorraine Vaillancourt, Reinbert de Leeuw, and Bernard Kontarsky.
In 2012, his musical theater piece, Espèces d’espaces, with a text by Georges Perec, premiered at the théâtre de la Renaissance in Oullins, as well as the third installement of his series for orchestra, Tour à Tour, by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo at the Printemps des Arts. In April 2014, the Capitole de Toulouse produced his first opera son premier opéra, Pigeons d’argile, with at text by Tanguy Viel.