John Oliver came to international attention during 1988/89 when he won six prizes for ﬁve compositions ranging from chamber to orchestral to electroacoustic music. Among these the Canada Council’s Grand Prize at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s 8th National Competition for Young Composers, for his live electroacoustic work El Reposo del Fuego, a work that was performed extensively throughout the world by its dedicatee, electronic musician Sergio Barroso. His performance at the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) Oslo launched Oliver's international career. The Canadian Opera Company commissioned Oliver's ﬁrst opera, Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance, which was produced in Toronto and at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1991 and broadcast on CBC Radio 2 programs Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Two New Hours. Oliver's second opera, Alternate Visions, was presented in Montreal May 1- 5 2007 by Chants Libres.
While studying classical guitar, piano and voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Oliver was encouraged by his ﬁrst composition teacher and mentor, John Adams, to continue to write music. By age 20, Oliver had decided to devote himself to composition. In addition to studies at Canadian universities, Oliver spent time in Europe studying at the famed Darmstadt Summer New Music course (Germany), and privately with Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans, as well as at the Banff Centre for the Arts where he worked with composers Leo Brouwer, Roger Reynolds and Iannis Xenakis in master classes. After a year in Paris (1988-89) studying the science of human perception (phenomenology) at Centre Pompidou and coming to terms with the legacy of the avant-garde, he returned to Canada to settle in Vancouver where he has worked ever since, creating works for various ensembles and electronic media. Oliver holds a Doctor of Music from McGill University.
Oliver has produced a signiﬁcant body of orchestral and chamber music, two operas, and is known for his dramatic electroacoustic and computer music for multiple loudspeakers. He has been commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Opera Company, Vancouver Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Windsor Symphony, Vancouver New Music, La Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, Ensemble Pierrot, & the St. Lawrence Quartet among others. His music has been presented in concert in North America, Europe, and China, and has been heard around the world on radio and the internet. Oliver's symphonic work Raven Steals the Light (based on the ancient Haida story as retold by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst) was commissioned by the CBC Radio Orchestra and broadcast to all 21 member stations of the European Broadcasting Union network in 1999. Recent achievements include commissions from the Turning Point Ensemble, the Five-ring Concerto for the 2010 Olympics, a new work called The Bridge for the combined forces of the BC Chinese Music Ensemble and NuBC Collective, and No Ambition for amplified MIDI band and computers commissioned by the ARS NOVA ensemble of Sweden.
The year 2012 sees the release of two new discs:
- his "immersive sound" project Time is Dust on DVD-audio, The disc features music that uses MAX/MSP software to distribute music to an orchestra of loudspeakers, new surround music commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, GEMS ensemble and Réseau des art médiatiques; remixes of some music from the 1998 earsay release Icicle Blue Avalanche, as well an extended new work for fretless classical guitar and computer called Nylong Symphony #2 - Crystal.
- a Centrediscs release of orchestral music from 1995 to 2006 entitled Forging Utopia, features the CBC Radio Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
Oliver's music is published on CD: earsay, Centrediscs, empreintes DIGITALes, SNE, CBC Records, and ZaDiscs. Oliver also runs a small boutique CD label called earsay that specializes in electronic, soundscape and acousmatic music.
Big World Band
Borealis String Quartet
Borromeo String Quartet (USA)
BC Chinese Music Ensemble
Camerata Transsylvanica (Hungary)
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Opera Company
CBC Radio Orchestra
Fear No Music (Portland OR USA)
Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra
Music in the Morning
National Arts Centre Orchestra
New Music Concerts
Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne
L'Orchestre des Jeunes du Québec
L'Orchestre métropolitain de Montréal
Phoenix Chamber Choir
Réseaux des arts médiatiques (Montréal)
S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatte Competition
Saint Lawrence String Quartet
Société de musique contemporaine du Québec
Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra
Trembling Aeroplanes (Sweden)
Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble
Vancouver Guitar Quartet
Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra
Vancouver Miniaturist Ensemble
Vancouver New Music
Vancouver Recital Society
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
- Guitar suite for Canadian guitarist Alan Rinehart
- Music for Vancouver erhu player Nicole Ge Li with pianist Corey Hamm
- Music for Big World Band
I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts