Oliver originally studied to become a classroom music teacher at Aberdeen University and in 2000, he moved to Glasgow, where he studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with John Maxwell Geddes, gaining a Distinction for his Masters degree in 2002. He completed a PhD in composition in 2006, supervised by Gordon McPherson and has recently written works for the Paragon Ensemble, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, the Hebrides Ensemble, Psappha, Red Note, the Scottish Reed Trio, the BBCSSO, SYMPOSiA, the Bearsden Choir, NYOS, the New Music Players and the RSNO.
In 2002, he received a silver medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians in London and in 2004 he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship. Over the last few years, he has had works performed at festivals and venues in Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Aldeburgh, Cluj-Napoca, San Francisco, Johannesburg, Verona and Berlin, with several broadcasts in Europe and Asia. Recent endeavours include a PRS 20x12 New Music Award, broadcast on Radio 3 as part of the cultural Olympiad. He is also frequently involved in the creation of music for theatre, has a lecturing post at the RCS and has recently completed a number of music projects for people with cochlear implants.
Oliver currently holds the position of chair of the Scottish Music Centre, where he is also a member.