Barlow studied at Harvard University, as well as with Philipp in Paris and Respighi in Rome. For 30 years he worked to promote music in civic and professional groups in New York. He was the soloist for the premiere of his own Piano Concerto (1931). He was the first American to have an opera produced at the Opéra-Comique in Paris (Mon ami Pierrot, 1935). Barlow was fond of experimenting with new performance techniques such as the use of slide projections with Babar (1936), a symphonic concerto. Despite such innovative methods, Barlow's works are generally conservative and in his own words, contain "tunes that wouldn't shock Papa Brahms."