Sorry, but just got back from a Seminar about Ravel & his works, and couldn't leave a 1.5 liner as the only hint of his existence on e2.
Ravel was born to a Swiss father and a Basque mother. He had been into music since a fairly young age, and at the age of twenty began attending the Paris Conservatoire, which he studied at till the age of thirty. Ravel composed most of his major works between 1900 and 1915, after WWI broke out it drastically effected his ability to compose, most of his post WWI work is whimsical in nature and generally not considered as complex.
Ravel is part of the Impressionist composition movement, and is mainly known for his great indepth works for piano, which he explored very in depth. Ravel composed a string quartet, many ballets, operas, and a large body of work developed exclusively for the piano.
The music of Ravel is very world-knowledgable, he wrote pieces borrowing themes from Russia, Persia, Spain and Iberia, among other places. He also has a recurring musical element in his works: the three note motive. In almost every work he composed, it is around. It is a simple yet beautiful pattern of a single note, then another note a half/whole step up, then a third at the fourth or fifth interval. This is almost Ravel's musical thumbprint, as it pervades his work.
some of this information from a seminar & recital by William Koseluk at UCSB.