Born in 1972, Helena Tulve studied composition with Alo Põldmäe and Erkki-Sven Tüür at the Estonian Academy of Music in Tallinn from 1989-92, and with Jacques Charpentier at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris from 1992-94, where she earned a premier prix.

She also studied Gregorian chant and traditional music in Paris from 1993-96. She attended the annual Cursus de Composition et Informatique Musicale at IRCAM in 2001 and has taken masterclasses led by György Ligeti and Marco Stroppa.

Her honours include two prizes at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers (recommendation in the Under 30 category in 1998 for à travers and selected work in 2004 for Sula (Thaw)) and the Heino Eller Composition Prize in 2000 for Sula. In January 2005 Estonian Radio named Helena Musician of the Year.

Her music has been performed in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the UK and the USA, including at the Warsaw Autumn (2001), MaerzMusik in Berlin (2003) and Klangspuren in Schwaz/Tirol (2003) festivals. Tulve served as composer-in-residence to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in 2001-02.

She has lectured on composition at the Estonian Academy of Music since 2000.