John Buller was a chorister at St Matthews, Westminster, and had a musical childhood. In 1946 he had an early work accepted by the BBC but decided against a career in music, and became an architectural surveyor; it was not until he was over thirty that he resumed serious musical studies, taking his B Mus (London) in 1964. In 1965 he joined the MacNaghten Concerts Committee and was its chairman 1971-6. During the early 70s he finally gave up his surveying work and in 1975-6 he was composer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh, as holder of the visiting Forman fellowship. In 1978 he was awarded an Arts Council bursary and in 1985-6 he was composer-in-residence at Queens University, Belfast.
Over the years his work has received many broadcasts and high profile performances. Proença, a commission for the Proms Jubilee season in 1977, was selected by the 1978 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. It has since been heard in some twenty-five countries. In 1978 The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies was staged by the BBC at the Round House. The Theatre of Memory, commissioned by the BBC for the 1981 Proms, was also selected by the International Rostrum of Composers (1982). His opera BAKXAI was given its first performances by ENO in May 1992, and this was followed by Bacchae Metres, an orchestral work, in 1993. In 1997 Illusions, commissioned by the Cheltenham International Festival, was premièred there by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2002 Proença was performed and broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Rumon Gamba. The following year the BBC SO’s recording of Proença and The Theatre of Memory was re-released on in NMC’s Ancora series.