On graduating from the Brussels Conservatoire where he had studied the organ and harmony, Jean Absil decided to devote his time to composition combined with teaching harmony and later, counterpoint at the same Conservatoire. He was unusually prolific for his time and, according to the library of the Belgian Centre for Contemporary Music, wrote nearly 230 works covering a wide range of genres. He was initially inspired by the lush late Romanticism of Wagner and Richard Strauss but winning the Prix Rubens in 1934 enabled him to travel to Paris where he met Ibert, Milhaud and Honegger. Their dry and tonally uneasy styles influenced his subsequent compositions which, although not strictly atonal give that impression by the independent writing for each voce in an ensemble. These ultimately resolve into a tonality which is unique to the piece. The alto saxophone sonata Op.115 of 1963 seems to bear this out.