John is presently working with writer and director Ken Gass on the opera, “Savitri and Sam”, with writer France Ducasse on a second opera, “Kid Catastrophe”and is in the studio with William Blakeney on a new recording of “Network”. Boston Ballet is currently producing Norbert Vesak’s “Belong”, set to Syrinx’s “December Angel” as a company premiere.
Since moving to British Columbia in 1990 John has performed with poet Blake Parker and video artist Ruby Truly in his compositions Stella: Black & White at Vancouver International Writers’ Festival and Wireless Bodies at Havana in Vancouver. He performed his composition Do You Hear the Rushing River?, with actor Mina E. Mina, produced by Donna Wong-Juliani at Vancouver Crafts Museum in 1993. He has most recently received scoring commissions for theatre productions at National Art Centre in Ottawa, Vancouver Playhouse, Citadel Theatre,Phoenix Theatre and Bluebridge (Victoria). He has created scores for radio (King Lear with John Juliani), as well as films and a television series directed by writer/director William B. Davis. In 1994 he was commissioned by Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art with Michael Hayden to compose Music For Heaven. He has been guest lecturer at University of Victoria Theatre Department for the Orion Lectures and the Adaskin Lecture Series.
John has received honours including CFTA Award for Best Score: The Italians (Newcomers episode, directed by René Bonnière), M Award for Best Musical (Dark of the Moon, directed by Brian Richmond, 2008) and Best Drama (Death of a Salesman, 2009), Socan Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Music (1990) as well as nominations for Genie, Jessie & Dora awards. He has won a number of grants from Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council, most recently two Canada Council awards for Savitri & Sam, his new opera with libretto by playwright Ken Gass. He has released ten albums and 3 singles, both on vinyl & compact disk, for Intersystems (Allied, Cortical Foundation & Streamline), Syrinx (True North/Columbia), under his own name (True North/Columbia, Aura, Anubis, Sunburst) as well as with other artists.
John Mills-Cockell studied composition at University of Toronto with Dr. Myron Schaeffer and at Toronto Royal Conservatory with Dr. Samuel Dolin. He studied piano with John Coveart and continued studies at the Electronic Music Studio of University of Toronto under Dr. Gustav Ciamaga. He then instructed a class in electronic music under Dr. Dolin at The Royal Conservatory. During this time (1962 –1966) John had several of his compositions performed at the Conservatory, Isaacs Gallery under the mentorship of Udo Kasemets and other Toronto venues. Fragments for Orchestra and Study for Bassoon, Prepared Piano and Magnetic Tape were recipients of the BMI Student Composer’s Award. Reverberations for Solo Trombone & Tape Loop and Windows for Solo Trombone were both premiered by Stuart Dempster as part of Isaac Gallery’s New Music Series.
In 1966 John left formal musical studies to join forces with light sculptor Michael Hayden, poet Blake Parker & architect Dik Zander to form the multimedia group, Intersystems. Until 1968 Intersystem performed many ‘presentations’ of electronic music using live processed voice and electronic circuitry as well as custom sculptural installations. Presentations took place at Art Gallery of Ontario (Duplex was the first live performance using the Moog Electronic Music Synthesizer), and several other venues in Canada and the United States, including an invitation by Buckminster Fuller to University of Illinois at Carbondale. John developed/composed a live interactive game with Intersystems utilizing 33 telephones and 11 televisions, Network, commission by the American College Editors Conference, premiered in Washington DC (1967). In 1968 Intersystems opened The Mind Excursion Centre in Montréal featuring ten original compositions for tape, voice and multiple loudspeaker systems.
Between 1968 and 1971 John was involved with various bands and commercial recording artists including Kensington Market, Felix Pappalardi, Hydro Electric Streetcar, Anne Murray, Bruce Cockburn, Murray MacLachlan and Syrinx. Stringspace was commissioned by Milton Barnes to be performed by Syrinx and the Toronto Repertory Orchestra. It premiered at Harbourfront and for CBC Television in 1971. Later that year John moved to England where he composed scores for the television series A Third Testament with writer/commentator Malcolm Muggeridge. After his return to Canada (1973) John was commissioned to score many feature films, television drama series and documentaries, theatre productions (including eight musicals: Revolutionary Project, Marco, Victor Jara Alive!, Donut City, Wind in the Willows, Medea and Dark of the Moon) as well as many radio dramas. He also composed and performed scores for dance companies including Starscape for Toronto Dance Theatre, What to Do Until the Messiah Comes for Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Journey Tree & Appaloosa Pegasus for the National Ballet, and Neon Accelerando for the Anna Wyman Dance Company. He lectured for a year at Fanshawe College, London, ON, in music production.