• …a spectacular success…a triumph – Alex Varty in MUSICWORKS on PRESSED FOR TIME (sitar concerto with Mohamed Assani)

  • "…blown away by the John Oliver piece" [Traces performed by the Vaughan String Quartet, Edmonton, AB, April 2, 2016] - Dave Selsky

Oliver is among Canada's leading composers

of music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, opera, and electroacoustic media. Oliver’s music embraces a range of possibilities, resonating the past, and forging new associations that reflect our time and place.

New Release

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Recent Recordings


  • My new CD is out. Listen now and download on bandcamp where I get the best share of revenue. This is a collection of pieces based on granulating and remixing older orchestral and instrumental pieces, as well as some pure electroacoustic music creation: an evocative collection of mostly shorter works that are sometimes cinematic, reflective, satirical, meditative… Enjoy!

  • I finally have my own profile on Spotify. I used to be lumped in with the comedian, conductor, and country singer! Imagine this: my picture and biography; top track Pavane op.50 by the Boston-area conductor; related artists James Corden, Craig Ferguson and Woody Allen. "I" had a lot of followers though, hahahaha. So, now that I have my own profile, I'm down to 0 followers/listeners! So please come by, have a listen to a track or two and please follow me. You may be asked to create an account. It's free. With a free account, you have to listen to annoying very loud ads every couple of tunes, but I appreciate your support to get me visible in the thick of contemporary music tracks there. Thanks! Here's the link.

  • A multicultural creation of live music (erhu/Chinese violin, zheng/Chinese zither, vocals, percussion) and multimedia animated visuals that tell ancient astrological stories from Asia, Greece, and the First Nations. East meets West, and traditional cultures meet technology. Premieres of music by Oliver, Lan Tung and Stefan Smulovitz.

    More info
    Vancouver tickets, in person at Norman Rothstein Theatre (950 W 41st Ave. Vancouver), by phone 604-257-5111, or online $20 regular, $15 students/seniors/children

    “Could I ask you to explain the music of heaven for me?” “Sounding the ten thousand things differently, so each becomes itself according to itself alone—who could make such music?” — Chuang Tzu (369-286 BCE)

  • Come hear me create edgy soundscape improvisations with Vancouver clarinetist and composer François Houle this coming Wednesday night November 15, 9pm at the China Cloud, 524 Main St. Vancouver. Pictured is my instrument of choice! More info

  • Honoured and pleased with the standing ovation we received Monday night (Nov.5) at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra world premiere of PRESSED FOR TIME by Mohamed Assani and myself, performed with Mohamed on sitar and his longtime colleague Shabaz Hussain on tabla (pictured to my left and right respectively). We hope for a long life for this exciting and unique sitar concerto.

  • I have formed a new duo with Vancouver artist, singer and improviser Carol Sawyer. We've been developing our improvised music for voice and electronics on the theme of water for about a year, and we launched our project this past summer in a public performance at Access Gallery in Vancouver on June 22, 2017. To see an excerpt from the performance, with Carol improvising a song based on a poem "Raining Buckets" by Daphne Marlatt, go here.. Carol's visual art is part of a major exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, a retrospective of The Natalie Brettschneider Archive, opening October 28. Learn more

  • I was guest composer at the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival this past July (Casalmaggiore, Italy). I attended the festival to hear a concert dedicated to my chamber music for strings and piano, spanning over three decades. The young musicians performed with conviction and passion after I led several coaching sessions with the them, with the help of faculty pianist Megumi Masaki and cellist Bo Peng. It was lovely to attend this classical music festival and hear some old favourites from the standard repertoire championed by these talented young musicians. Thanks to Meg and Bo and all these fine musicians!

  • John takes a bow with composer colleagues John Burge (his left), Vincent Ho (his left), and conductor Eric Paetkau, Saturday May 13, 2017 at the TCU Place, Saskatoon. This concert, titled O Canada, featured an opening fanfare (Élan) by Derek Charke, followed by a citizenship swearing-in ceremony, onstage. The first half ended with the brilliant percussion concerto by Vincent Ho called The Shaman, performed with exceptional style, grace, virtuosity, and intensity by SSO percussionist Bryan Allen. After intermission, the wonderful actor Carol Greyeyes narrated the story in Oliver's monumental and iconic work Raven Steals the Light, with the original art piece commissioned by Music in the Morning from Sto:lo artist Karl Harris hanging behind the orchestra. (Oliver can be seen in the photo wearing the matching vest.) Carol's storytelling, combined with the evocative playing of the Raven theme by SSO oboist Erin Brophey, made for a memorable rebirth of Oliver's newly-revised score, which was heard for the first time at this event. The concert ended with John Burge's work Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag. Bravo to all for creating a stunning evening!

  • Oliver conducted the Sound of Dragon Ensemble on March 9 at the Orpheum Annex: his own revised Consensus, arranged especially for the ensemble, and Vancouver composer Itamar Erez's Rikkud. On March 10, Vancouver cellist Bo Peng performed 3 Trains with Fei Dai at his faculty recital at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley. And this past Saturday, cellist Marina Hasselberg performed my Re-act-ion for melody instrument and computer at the SONIC BOOM festival in Vancouver.

  • American violist Brett Deubner premiered my World Enigma 2 for solo viola at a private concert last week. Here's a link to the youtube video.

  • Paolo Bortolussi, flute, performed my "Birds of Paradise Lost" for flute and computer at the Western Canadian Music Awards Classical Music Showcase (organized by the Canadian Music Centre, Prairie Region) on Saturday afternoon October 15. (Composer performed on computer LIVE.) This is a shot from the dress rehearsal. (Thanks Benton!) It was a real pleasure to perform for the ample and appreciative audience at the Westminster United Church in Regina and to see old colleagues again and hear their music! Paolo's CD Israfel was nominated for classical album of the year, and my composition for classical composition of the year. Although neither of us won, we gave a stellar performance!

  • The great and hilarious short film by Carol Sawyer and Evann Siebens for which I created sound and music is now on Carol's web site for all to see. Go here. Inspired by the experimental films of the 1930’s Parisian avant-garde and the work of Maya Deren, The Rehearsal documents a musical gathering which is interrupted by a series of surreal encounters between the heroine, Natalie Brettschneider, and various objects. The film was premiered recently in Ottawa at the CUAG as part of Carol's show The Natalie Brettschneider Archive, curated by Heather Anderson, and will be shown this fall at the AGGV when the show opens in a new iteration at that gallery on September 30th.

New Music

  • Plastic Ocean and Howl for François Houle and John Oliver duo. Premiere Nov. 15, China Cloud, Vancouver

  • Pressed for Time, a collaborative composition with Mohamed Assani for sitar, tabla, and full orchestra, premiered November 5, 2017 by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the direction of maestro Bramwell Tovey; Shahbaz Hussain, tabla.

  • World Enigma 3 for (Chinese) sheng solo. Written for Vancouver musician Zhongxi Wu. Thanks to Zhongxi for the jianpu version!

  • Cool Take for computer musician. A suite of 7 pieces of cut-up jazz performed by the composer to a live audience.

  • Re-act-ion for one or more melodic instruments and computer

  • light ripple light for any melodic instrument and computer

  • Cool Cut for alto saxophone and chamber orchestra. Commissioned by Vancouver saxophonist Julia Nolan.

  • World Enigma 2 for solo cello (or viola) – commissioned by Richard Carswell

  • Flight 182 Meditations with Renée Saklikar, poet. A work for poet and computer processing

  • Shaking the Core for string quartet – commissioned by the Langley Community Music School

  • Scenes from an Intercultural Marriage for traditional Chinese Orchestra – commissioned by the Little Giant Chinese Orchestra

  • World Enigma 1 for erhu and piano for the PEP Project. – commissioned by Nicole Ge Li and Corey Hamm


  • Happy to announce that I'm working with Vancouver sitarist Mohamed Assani on a collaborative project for sitar and orchestra!

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