Fineberg was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Inspired by a childhood encounter with the musical Camelot, he began his musical studies at the age of five; they have included—in addition to composition—violin, guitar, piano, harpsichord and conducting. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Peabody Conservatory with Morris Cotel where he won first prize in the bi-annual Virginia Carty de Lillo Composition Competition. He has worked with many leading composers in the United States and France, including: George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, Robert Hall Lewis, Philippe Manoury, and André Boucourechliev. In 1991, he moved to Paris and studied with Tristan Murail. The following year he was selected by the Ensemble InterContemporain reading panel for the course in composition and musical technologies. In the Fall of 1997, he returned to the US to pursue a doctorate in musical composition at Columbia University, which he completed in May 1999. After teaching at Columbia for a year, he went to Harvard University where he served as the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humainities until 2007. In 2007 he joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Music and became the director of their electronic music studio.
He has won various prizes, fellowships and scholarships including: ASCAP Foundation Grants to Young Composers Competition; Ars Electronica special jury mention; Rapoport Prize in Composition from University; Arnold Salop Composition Competition; the Palache Scholarship, a scholarship to study at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau; yearly ASCAP Awards from 1991 until he left ASCAP to join the French society SACEM in 1994; and the Randolph S. Rothschild Award in Composition.
In 1992, his work for large orchestra ORIGINS was selected by the international jury of the Gaudeamus foundation as a finalist for the Gaudeamus International Composers Award and was premiered by the Radio Symfonie Orkest of the N.O.S. during the 1992 Gaudeamus Music Week.
He has collaborated with IRCAM as a lecturer for seminars and as compositional coordinator for their 1996 four week summer course. Besides his compositional and pedagogical activities, he has actively collaborated with computer scientists and music psychologists to help develop tools for computer assisted composition and in music perception research. He has been deeply involved in working with performing ensembles as Artistic Director for recordings of many European ensembles and soloists, and during the 1999–2000 season directed both Speculum Musicae and the Columbia Sinfonietta. Joshua Fineberg is also the issue editor for two issues of The Contemporary Music Review on “Spectral Music” (Vol. 19 pt. 2 & 3). In 2003, he became the US Editor for The Contemporary Music Review.
Fineberg’s most recent works include Receuil de Pierre et de sable for two harps and ensemble (commissioned by Radio France and premiered by Continuum), Veils (commissioned by Thomas Kelly and premiered by Robert Levin), and Shards (commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation and premiered by The New Millennium Ensemble). He is currently working on an evening-length modern dance/theatre piece with the Belgian choreographer Johanne Saunier and founding member of the Wooster Group Jim Clayburgh based on Nabokov’s Lolita for premiere in April 2008 at the GMEM in Marseille.
A monographic CD of his music, recorded by Ensemble Court-Circuit, was released in September 2002 by Universal/Accord in their Una Corda collection with the coprodution of MFA and IRCAM. A new CD is currently in production with the Ensemble FA. His works have been performed, commissioned and recorded by leading ensembles and soloists in Europe, Asia and the United States; they are published by Editions Max Eschig and Gérard Bilaudot Editeurs.