Milhaud was born in Aix-en-Provence and studied in Paris under Charles Widor and Vincent d'Indy. He emigrated to America in 1940, where he secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California. His compositions are particularly noted as being influenced by jazz and for their use of polytonality (music in more than one key at once).
Noted works include Le Boeuf sur le Toit (ballet), La Création du Monde (jazz), Saudades do Brazil (dance suite), and Notes Without Music (an autobiography).
Notable students of Milhaud:Geneva.