John Oliver


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 "City of Varese Prize" at the 1988 Luigi Russolo Competition (Italy), and 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. Based on the success of this work, the Canadian Opera Company commissioned Oliver's first opera, Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance which they produced in Toronto and at the Banff Centre in 1991.

Oliver has been commissioned by numerous Canadian performers and presenters, among them the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Vancouver New Music, La Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, Ensemble Pierrot, and the St. Lawrence Quartet

Based in Vancouver, Canada, John Oliver writes music for acoustic and electronic instruments. Oliver's recent music combines familiar musical materials or techniques with new inventions, with a view to creating a new, exciting listening experience. Master classes with I. Xenakis and Roger Reynolds, along with personal studies in perception, psychoacoustics, and social theory have contributed to this direction. Oliver's formal training with John Adams, Stephen Chatman, John Rea, Bruce Mather, and Philippe Boesmans also contributed to Oliver's formation. He holds a doctorate in composition from McGill University.

He has written several symphonic works, two operas and a great deal of chamber music, some with electronic or prerecorded tape (CD) parts. Oliver was Composer-in-Residence at the Vancouver Opera from 1992-96. His new opera Alternate Visions, with a libretto by Vancouver writer Genni Gunn, was partially funded by Vancouver Opera. The work will have its World Premiere in a coproduction between Chants Libres of Montréal and Vancouver's earsay productions in the year 2001/2002. Oliver's first Opera, Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance, was produced by the Canadian Opera Company in 1991 in Toronto and at The Banff Centre.

Oliver also writes orchestral, and electroacoustic music, and has produced a significant amount of chamber music in recent years as Composer-in-Residence for Music in the Morning and the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival. Recent works include: Raven Steals the Light, commissioned by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra and Music in the Morning; Raven's Cry, commissioned by the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Competition for Young Performers; Forging Utopia, commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra; Gallery, commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for the Principal Winds of the National Arts Centre Orchestra; and a string octet, Summer (F)ayre, commissioned by the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival (which was interpreted by the combined forces of the St.Lawrence and Borromeo Quartets). The chamber music series Music in the Morning commissioned four works from 1993-1994: a string quartet, Traces, for the Saint Lawrence String Quartet, as well as works for Salvador Ferreras & Beverley Johnston (From Thunder and Rain to Crossing the Great Stream), Russell Braun (In the Flesh), and Unseen Rain for Judith Forst and the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, conducted by Mario Bernardi, a work that will be released on the SM5000 series in 1999 (SMCD-5191).

As an advocate for electroacoustic music, Oliver has written and performed music for live electronics (with synthesizers, microphones, etc.), instrument(s) and tape, and tape alone. He was a founding member, in 1983, of G.E.M.S. (Group of the Electronic Music Studio), and was active with the ensemble, as composer, performer, and conductor, until 1987. From 1991 to 1993, Oliver played MIDI guitar with the Vancouver group MORE. In addition to writing music for various groups, Oliver is developing personal repertoire for his own performance project involving guitars, MIDI guitar, computer, and electronics. In the fall of 1997 he performed a half-hour of this new music as part of the Body Electric Festival (Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria). And in 1997 he formed earsay productions with composer/pianist Andrew Czink and designer Tanya Petreman.

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