The artist was born on September 7, 1907 in İzmir. He is a Turkish musician, a music educator, and a music scientist (ethnomusicologist) who gave works in classical western music. Saygun is the first Turkish state artist.

Saygun, one of the composers who are known as Turkish Fives in Turkish music history, is the composer of the first Turkish opera. "Yunus Emre Oratorio", one of the most frequently performed works of Turkish music during the Republican Period, is the most important work of him.

Saygun's father Mahmut Celalettin, who came from a well-known İzmir family, educated important religious scholars, will later become the founders of the National Library of İzmir, mother Zeynep Seniha, the daughter of a family who came from Konya and settled in Izmir.

Saygun became a student of Hungarian Mr. Tevfik in 1922. In 1925, he created a great musical lugatie, translating music-related articles from La Grande Encyclopedie.

When he was a teacher in elementary schools he wrote school songs on the poems of Ziya Gökalp, Mehmet Emin, Bıçakçızade Hakkı. In 1925, the young musician, who wanted to enter the art exam that the government opened to send talented young people to major conservatories in Europe for music education, missed this opportunity on the sudden death of his mother. In 1926, he became a music teacher at Izmir Boys' High School for a while after passing an exam to become a music teacher in secondary schools.

The artist composed "Re Major Symphony" from 1927 to 1928 and was sent to Paris by state scholarship after passing the test this time for young talented musicians in 1928. He studied with Vincent d'Indy (composition), Eugène Borrel (fugue), Paul le Flem (counterpoint), Amédée Gastoué (gregorian chant). He wrote Op. 1 his first orchestra called Divertissement. This song of Saygun won a prize in a contest in Paris in 1931, when the jury president was Henri Defossé (Cemal Reşit Rey's orchestra conductor).

Saygun, returned to Turkey in 1931 and began a period of time as a music teacher; gave music lessons and counterpoint lessons in Music Teachers' College.

Ahmed Adnan Saygun and his family received the surname "Saygın" with the request of his father after the Law of Surname in 1934; but after a while the reason of received by someone else their surnames were changed to "Saygun".

Saygun composed the first Turkish opera, Opera Özsoy Op. 9, only in one month in honor of the Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi, who will visit Turkey in 1934 at the request of Atatürk. The opera written by Munir Hayri Egeli, expressing the birth of the Turkish nation and the fraternal brotherhood of the Iranian and Turkish nations. The premiere of the work took place in the night of June 19, 1934, in the presence of Atatürk and Reza Pahlavi.

After the performance of Özsoy, the artist presented a report about Turkish music to Atatürk, who accepted him at the summer house in Yalova. This report, which was prepared by being influenced by the theories of sun-language and Turkish history, was published in 1936 under the title of "Pentatonism in Turkish Music".

The artist, who was brought to the conductor of the Presidency Orchestra by proxy, was able to perform this task for several months due to his health. He gave his first concert with the orchestra on November 23, 1934.

At the end of November 1934, an opera was ordered to Saygun by Atatürk. The artist who succeeded in composing Taşbebek's opera to be represented on December 27, narrated the birth of the new Republican person in this opera. The work was staged at Ankara community home on December 27, 1934; Saygun directed the orchestra despite being very sick.

After the representation, Saygun went to Istanbul and had two ear operations with five months interval. The presidential symphony orchestra and the Musical Military School were suspended for the reason that he neglected his duty and he was removed from the foundation works of the Ankara State Conservatory.

Saygun returned to teaching at the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory in 1936; he remained on this mission until 1939. The artist fall out of favour that would last until the performance of his famous work "Yunus Emre Oratorio".

The work of establishing a new conservatory in Ankara, while Saygun was in Istanbul, was not the idea of “cultural nationalism” defended by Saygun; was maintained by those who supported the concept of "universal music". The Conservatory was founded in 1936 in the direction of universalist musical views of Paul Hindemith, who was brought in as a consultant for this work. Saygun accompanied Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist Bela Bartok who came to Turkey upon the invitation of the Community Centers In 1936 on her Anatolian trip. They notated the folk songs compiled from especially around Osmaniye. Their studies have turned into a book titled "Bela Bartok Folk Music Research in Turkey", pressed in english by the Hungarian Academy of sciences in 1976.

Saygun accepted the inspectorate task proposed by the community centers in 1939 and traveled to Turkey on the occasion. In 1940 he married Hungarian-born Irén Szalai (who later took the name of Nilüfer), a member of the Budapest Women's Orchestra, who came to Ankara for a concert in 1940 but did not return to his country due to Nazi poetry and they did not have children. In addition to his duty at the community centers, Saygun founded a choir called "Turkish Music Association" in 1940 and regularly gave chamber music concerts with this choir. He published a book entitled "Music in community centers." Yunus Emre Oratorio shared the first prize in the competition organized by CHP in 1943 with Ulvi Cemal Erkin's piano concerto and Hasan Ferit Alnar's Viola Concerto.

Yunus Emre Oratorio, completed by Saygun in 1942, was performed at the Faculty of Language and History Geography in Ankara on May 25, 1946 and won great success. The work, which was considered to be the most important work, was then performed in Paris and under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) anniversary by the conductor Leopold Stokowski in New York in 1958. When he was a child, the songs he heard from the Mevlevi dervishes in İzmir Kemeraltı Bazaar on Dervişler Street were moved to Europe and America, and later translated into five different languages. After the first representation of the work in Ankara, in 1946, he was appointed as a teacher of the Ankara State Conservatory, as well as the consultants and inspectors of the community centers. He went to London and Paris on the invitations he received; he studied folk music; gave lectures.

He composed Kerem, Köroğlu, Gılgamış, choral works, 5 symphonies, various concertos, chamber music, vocal and instrumental pieces, numerous folk songs, books, researches, articles. His works were performed by ensembles such as New York NBC, Orchestra Colonne, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia, and Julliard Quartet. Adnan Saygun was given the title of the first State Artist in 1971.

On 6 January 1991, the artist lost his life due to pancreatic cancer.

Saygun has publications in ethnomusicology and music education. The works and other documents are located in the "Ahmed Adnan Saygun Music Education and Research Center" established in Bilkent University in Ankara.

The rights of the works of Ahmed Adnan Saygun over the voice belong to SACEM. The copyright of some of the published works belongs to Peer Musikverlag in Southern Music Company, New York and Hamburg.

A comprehensive biography taken by the musicologist Emre Aracı was published in 2001 by Yapı Kredi Publications under the name Adnan Saygun – Doğu Batı Arası Müzik Köprüsü; the story of life is also novelized by Miracle Özinal in the name of Dar Köprünün Dervişi (2005).

• Türk Halk Musıkisinde Pentatonizm, 1936.
• Gençliğe Şarkılar: Halkevi ve Mektepler için, 1937.
• Halk Türküleri: Yedi Karadeniz Türküsü ve Bir Horon, 1938.
• Halkevlerinde Musıki, 1940.
• Yalan (Sanat Konuşmaları), 1945.
• Lise Müzik Kitabı (Halil Badi Yönetken ile birlikte), 1955.
• Karacaoğlan, 1952.
• Musıki Temel Bilgisi, 1958 – 1966.
• Mod öncesi Ezgilerin Sınıflandırılması, 1960.
• Toplu Solfej, I – 1967, II – 1968.
• Töresel Musıki, 1967.
• Atatürk ve Musıki: Onunla Birlikte, Ondan Sonra..., 1982.