Hamish Oliver - Composer Hamish Oliver - Composer

Current/Recent projects

Composition for TV/Film/Theatre/Games

It has been an amazing experience to spend half my summer collaborating with the wonderful songwriter/singer/keyboard player/deep human Mark Vanilau and his "The Orchard" initiative on a new commission I received from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Together we've created a new composition known as "Simplicity Suite"; mixing in my own ideas with Mark's song "Simplicity", a Samoan fishing chant called "Malie Tanifa" and the beautiful spoken word creations of Solomon Smith. The piece will be premiered in front of an outdoor audience of thousands on Saturday February 15th 2020 at YES Power Sparks by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and a vocal group and rhythm section from "The Orchard"

February 2020: I'm enjoying working on a very 'artistic' visual arts project. It's like a cross between a short film and an art gallery installation. More details to come.

I helped organise one of the New Zealand sites for Global Game Jam in January 2020, and had one afternoon to contribute music and sound to two games.
Block Burglar was almost a wacky musical experiment for me (1 hour to create the music, 10 minutes to create the Wwise project), working with frequent coding-collaborator Jared Bakker - I used Wwise to transition between various intensities/styles of music, depending on how 'complete' the player's body is.
In Debris , I made some synthwave for the gameplay, but I really like the brief menu music idea I made just before copying the synthwave to a USB stick to transport across the room to the developers (the very cool team at Horizon Drift).

It was fantastic in November and December 2019 to teach the first iteration of the "Introduction to Game Audio" course that I've created. It's the first such course to be taught at the University Of Canterbury, and first in NZ's South Island that I know of (so thanks to the initial intake of guinea pigs students for the maiden voyage we undertook together). Here's a little promo video for the course.

I participated in Kiwijam 2017 in August - a 'game jam' (a concentrated weekend of game creation). My team has chosen to continue development on "Monstrocity", it's becoming bigger and better by the day.

In June and July 2016 I was privileged to be able to work with acclaimed film-maker Peter Young again on a short film;"A Story For Christchurch", which I composed the score for. It's a look at how people feel about the revival and regrowth of Christchurch.

June 2016 - I'm currently finishing work on a score for a corporate video with Fisheye Films, a jingle with Tandem Studios, and an online video with film-maker and photographer Giora Dan.

In November 2015 I won an APRA Professional Development Award. The awards are given to three NZ composers biennially, each award is a cash grant of $10,000 given to enable career development. I plan to attend the 2017 GDC (Game Developers Conference as opposed to Gisborne District Council) in San Francisco and improve my Wwise knowledge (software for the integration of interactive music and sound with a game engine).
The deserving winners of the other two 2015 awards were Sarah Ballard and Mara TK . More details about the award are here.

I enjoyed creating surreal abstract sound design and music and stuff-that's-both for Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play "Exit The King" at the Court Theatre in October 2015. It required the world around the characters to be gradually disintegrating, falling into the abyss, cracking and rumbling. So although the sounds had to sound vast, they were also straddling the line of audibility and also ever-present. These particular sounds were created from a piece of a short length of wooden veneer, a file and a piece of lighting gel, with my pitch-shifted vocal harmonics as the other main sound source in the play. All using 10.1 surround.

A real creative highlight of 2015 was making a variety of video-game-style music and sound for "Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show)" which was part of the 2015 Christchurch Arts Festival. I started looking forward to this project several months before I was asked to do it... It's part improvised, part scripted, so the music has to be adaptive, just like in video games themselves. I was onstage improvising, with lots of technology, in a Shakespearean minstrel costume... The script was written and directed by Simon Peacock (the Voice Director of Assassins Creed; Voice & Motion Capture Director of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided). It featured the amazing acting and improv skills of The Court Jesters..

"Words With Smudge" is a playful iPad game I composed and designed sound for. "A fun way for children aged 3-6 to interactively learn words and letters." "Utilises the Dulch word list, considered to be the most important words for early childhood development." It's by Savant Games.

Dan Bain's fantastic play "Cat vs Dog", which I did composition and sound design for, got nominated for the "Best Touring Production" award at Dunedin's Fortune Theatre.

In early 2014 I did sound design and QLab implementation for "MAMIL" (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra for those perhaps outside of the cycling community who don't know this acronym), a one-man play starring Mark Hadlow and masterfully written by Greg Cooper. "MAMIL" has had Auckland and Wellington seasons so far.

In 2014, I created several epic ghoulish orchestral cues for an iOS game; "Zombeeze" for Desolate Spectre Studios along with my fellow co-composer Vahid Qualls.

Also in 2014 I did the sound design and composition for Savant Games' cheerful 8-bit-esque iPad game "Super Snapple".

In February 2013 I created the music and sound design for the Court Theatre's production of "August:Osage County", which I think could be the best play I've ever been involved in. Every aspect of the production was fantastic. I had a lot of fun routing audio to speakers placed in different parts of the set AND writing some atmospheric dobro music with the talented Harry Harrison.

In 2012 I wrote and produced the theme and all other music for the 13-episode Whitebait Productions' "Hearts And Crafts" show. It's a show "celebrating Kiwis' appetite and passion for handmade crafts". Episodes are available on demand here for those living in New Zealand.

Here's the Nikon HD Video Showcase - four beautifully-shot video clips that I was commissioned to compose and produce music for Nikon Asia in 2010 and 2011. Thanks to Mike Fudakowski (bass and co-writer of "Coffee"), Mike Ferrar and Harry Harrison (guitars) and Laura Tomlin (vocals). And thanks also to the amazing guys at Nomadic Planet for the chance to work on their beautiful footage.

I was proud to be part of the Loons Circus Theatre Company as composer/sound designer/musician for "Macbeth". The rubble of demolished buildings in Lyttelton created a fantastic opportunity to have a suitably ravaged and even post-apocalyptic feel for our version. And my duduk playing is slowly getting better and better...

Other miscellaneous things

Early 2016 has been busy with music and sound design for the Royal NZ Navy 75th celebrations, music direction, arranging and sound design for the Court Theatre's production of "Badjelly The Witch", keyboard programming (Mainstage) for a local production of "Our House", arranging for a gala show as part of "Centenary 2017" at St Andrew's College, performance in Showbiz Christchurch's "Mamma Mia" and Music In The Mountains music festival, and an exciting interactive movement and music workshop - a collaboration between the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Jolt dance trust.

It was fantastic to work with Gao Ping and Hamish McKeich on a Christchurch Free Theatre project (part of the 2015 Christchurch Arts Festival) called "The Mauricio Kagel Project". I performed on piano, synth, duduk and hulusi. There's a video of Gao Ping and I near the top of this page rehearsing the piano duo part for the "Dance" movement of his commission for this project.

In June 2015 Claire Cowan and I did the bulk of the arrangements for "Rock Divas" concerts that combined the stunning work of Julia Deans and Anika Moa with the CSO (details here) and the APO (details here).

It was very nice to get a complimentary email from NZ music legend Tim Finn. I had done two re-inventions of I See Red - a Piaf-like voice and accordion version and a punk-ish Flying Nun version, both sung in French and named "Je Vois Rouge" - and Tim said such things as; "A very enjoyable interpretation", "Well done", and "That was probably the oddest thing so far today."

Work is progressing well on the album I'm producing and composing for - Bex Murray's new album.

The big news of early 2015 was the completion of Rosie Roulette's album "Racing The Dark" which I produced, arranged and engineered. Her music is fantastic, it's been a real highlight of 2014/2015 working on this project. The album was released in Melbourne on February 28 2015 and is available physically and digitally from Bandcamp, also from iTunes, CD Baby, etc

The OSTAs (Otago Southland Theatre Awards) gave me a nomination for "Best Musical Direction" for "Jesus Christ Superstar" that I musically directed for Showbiz Queenstown in May 2014.

I was pleased with my arrangements for an unusual Christchurch Symphony Orchestra 'pop-up' performance in the Christchurch Airport departure hall. We teamed up just a few days before Christmas with Moorhouse to perform "Silent Night" and "All I Want For Christmas" . Always good to get a Rite Of Spring quote into a song made famous by Mariah Carey.

I was MD, arranger and performer for "NZ Rocks", another hilarious production of the Outwits. It was a celebration of New Zealand music. I arranged the opening song for performance by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in "Classical Sparks".

The Adults did another performance similar to the one we did with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. It was with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (January 30, 2014, Aotea Centre in Auckland). My two arrangements ("Short Change" and "Up & Gone") along with the utterly fantastic arrangements of Claire Cowan, Steve Small, and Steve Bremner got another airing. Here's the live album of the Adults / CSO concert, and here's a video of Steve Small's arrangement of "Anniversary Day" from that concert (me on piano).

In August and September 2013 I was musical director for the world premiere of "The Great Art War", a new musical by Philip Norman and Stuart Hoar, at the Court Theatre. Intriguing subject matter, talented cast and fellow violin muso Juno Pyun.

I was 'fixer' and keyboard player on Elaine Paige's 2012 NZ / Australia / China / Singapore tour. It was great to see some of the same UK team from the 2009 tour, spend some quality time in Shanghai (after some cancellations due to the government choosing a new leader), hang out with Danny Troob (who did a few arrangements), hang out with Kris Phillips (Fei Xiang) , and play some top quality Chris Egan arrangements with some talented NZ friends.

My orchestral arrangement of the NZ classic, Hello Sailor's "Gutter Black" was well-received in mid-2013, and beatifully performed with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra by the divine pairing of L.A. Mitchell and Anika Moa.

Hamish Oliver - Composer