Forging Utopia was commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
The first performance took place on January 5, 1998, during the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s New Music Festival in Ottawa, Canada. The orchestra was conducted by David Alan Miller. In 2012, the CBC recording of this performance was released on a compact disc of John Oliver's orchestral music. The following year, Forging Utopia won Classical Composition of the Year at the 2013 Western Canadian Music Awards.
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PROGRAM NOTE for John Oliver’s FORGING UTOPIA
“If this is a report more personal than otherwise, more pop culture than high-brow, that is no more than the first lesson of "brink culture." Today we cannot escape the influence of the popular, and we can find no authoritative standpoint from which judgments can be delivered with finality. This cultural and epistemological vertigo can be frightening, certainly, but it can also be pretty exciting–even liberating.”
Mark Kingwell, DREAMS OF MILLENNIUM
Forging Utopia is a manifestation in sound of my thoughts, ideas and feelings about the world in which we live at the turn of the millenium, and how music might enliven, enlighten and transform the listener. I want to forge a future for music, rather than dwell too much on the past. If new music is to have an important place in society at all, it must aspire to move an audience to reflect on existence. The utopian in me writes to forge a better existence. We need a reference point as we set out on a journey, whether that journey be in time, in space, or within ourselves. My Forging Utopia contains several such references, familiar music in an unfamiliar context. By the time you complete the journey of Forging Utopia you may find you are back where you started…or that you never left…or that you can’t get there from here. Or...