Born in 1944 in Frankfurt am Main. His father was a cellist. From 1951, he received lessons from his father in fiddle, viola, recorder and later, cello. He began to learn the piano in 1952. From 1959, Spahlinger developed an intense interest in jazz, took saxophone classes and wanted to become a jazz musician. In 1962, he left school and began an apprenticeship as a typesetter. During the apprenticeship, he took private lessons in composition with Konrad Lechner. After completing his apprenticeship he continued his studies with Lechner at the Darmstadt Akademie für Tonkunst (piano classes with Werner Hoppstock). In 1968, he took up a teaching position at Stuttgart Musikschule (music school) for piano, theory, musical education for children and experimental music. From 1973-1977 he studied composition with Erhard Karkoschka at The Stuttgart Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. In 1978, he became guest lecturer in music theory at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, and in 1984 professor for composition and music theory at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe. From 1990 to 2009 he held the position of professor for composition and head of the institute for new music at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. He currently lives in Potsdam near Berlin.