Composer and guitarist 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. 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's second opera, Alternate Visions, was presented in Montreal May 1-5, 2007 by Chants Libres.
In addition to his electroacoustic music, Oliver has produced a significant body of chamber and orchestral music commissioned by leading Canadian ensembles. His symphonic work Raven Steals the Light was commissioned by the CBC Radio Orchestra and broadcast to all 21 member stations of the European Broadcasting Unions network in 1999 on their special series Myths and Music.