Christopher Butterfield studied composition with Rudolf Komorous at the University of Victoria (B.Mus. 1975) and with Bulent Arel at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (M.A. 1977). He lived in Toronto between 1977 and 1992, where he was active as a performance artist, rock guitar player, and composer. In 1979/1980 he taught in the graduate visual arts department at Concordia University in Montreal, and in 1986 and 1989 he taught in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. In 1992 he was appointed assistant professor of composition at the University of Victoria.