His film work includes Hilary and Jackie, based on the life of the Cellist Jacqueline du Pré, for which he was nominated for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music at the 52nd British Academy Film Awards. Other works include A Previous Engagement, Little Fugitive, Shopgirl, Touching Wild Horses, Twin Dragons, Shopping and The Mangler. He also composed the scores to Revolution Software's adventure games In Cold Blood and the first two Broken Swords.
Pheloung was born 10 May 1954 in Manly, New South Wales and grew up in Sydney's northern beaches suburbs. He began playing R&B guitar in clubs, but his discovery of Bach in his late teens drew him to the classical repertoire.
In 1972 at aged 18, Pheloung moved to London where he studied guitar at the Royal College of Music under John Williams and Julian Bream. There he also took instruction in composition and conducting. In his second year, he received his first commission for a ballet score.
Pheloung is best known for the theme and incidental music to the Inspector Morse television series, for which he was nominated for 'Best Original Television Music' at the British Academy Television Awards in 1991; the sequel Lewis, and the prequel Endeavour. He has also composed for dance companies such as the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and for events including the opening night of the Millennium Dome. Pheloung also wrote the theme music for the BBC television series Dalziel and Pascoe.
In 2009 he composed the music for 1983, the concluding episode of the Channel 4 drama series Red Riding.