An active figure on the Vancouver new music scene, John Oliver cumulates credits as a composer of chamber, orchestral, and electroacoustic works, to which we must add his electric guitar playing and his duties as co-founder of the record label/production company/webzine Earsay Productions. He released his first studio album in 1998 and is a member of the performing duo Structural Damage.
Oliver studied composition with John Adams and guitar with George Sakellariou at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, before moving to Montreal where he studied at McGill University for 10 years, from 1983 to 1993, mainly with John Rea and Bruce Mather. Upon his arrival he co-founded G.E.M.S., the Group of the Electronic Music Studio with Claude Schryer and Alcides Lanza. He worked actively with the group until 1987, starting a career in electroacoustics that continues to parallel his instrumental works. He came to international attention in 1988-1989 when five of his compositions won him six prizes. "El Reposo del Fuego" was awarded both the "City of Varèse Prize" by the Luigi Russolo Competition in Italy and the Canada Council's Grand Prize at the CBC's 8th National Competition for Young Composers. The electroacoustic piece was included on Sergio Barroso's CD New Music for Digital Keyboard in 1989.
After his studies in Montreal, Oliver moved to Vancouver where he became an often-commissioned composer. The Canadian Opera Company commissioned his first opera "Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance" (premiered in 1991). He was composer-in-residence at the Vancouver Opera from 1992 to 1996, during which time he started work on his second opera "Alternate Visions," to be premiered in 2003. In 1997 he co-founded Earsay Productions with pianist Andrew Czink and designer Tanya Petreman and a year later released a CD of his electroacoustic pieces, Icicle Blue Avalanche. In the late ‘90s he also became more active as a guitarist and has played with François Houle, Paul Dolden, Rainer Bürck, and Sergio Barroso. Structural Damage, his duo with Czink, toured Canada in the fall of 2002 with Ron Samworth, Yasuhiro Otani and Kazuyoshi Uchihashi.