John Mills-Cockell

JMC Retrospective release
1967-77 9 Disc collection


About John Mills-Cockell

John Mills-Cockell is a electronic composer living in western Canada. He has created scores for The National Arts Centre, Firehall Arts Centre, Citadel Theatre, Glasgow Museum of Art, Vancouver Playhouse, University of Victoria Theatre, and  Bluebridge Theatre among others. Past commissions include works for the National Ballet, Toronto Dance Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, Toronto Repertory Orchestra, St. Lawrence Centre, as well as film scores for National Film Board, independent film makers, and various television series.
Nine of his albums are being re-released this year and next in a collection of works called the JMC Retrospective.
He is also working with writer and director Ken Gass on a full opera, “Savitri and Sam”, and with writer France Ducasse on a second opera, “Kid Catastrophe”.
Here is a link to a recent interview with Robert Fantinatto, the producer of “I Dream of Wires”

JMC Retrospective

The JMC Retrospective was conceived by producer William Blakeney and is a collection of works recorded between 1967 and 1977. It is a series of 9 disks (both cd & vinyl), 3 each for Intersystems, Syrinx and Heartbeat.


Intersystems” was the collaborative union of Michael Hayden,installation artist, Blake Parker, poet, the sound artist/composer, John Mills-Cockell and the architectural designer, Dik Zander.  The three album set has been reissued by Alga Marghen and is being distributed by Forced Exposure 


Canadian trio Syrinx , lead by electronic music composer John Mills-Cockell , presents an unusual story. The two instrumental albums that Syrinx issued in the early 1970s sound little like the psychedelic rock music that shaped their Toronto subculture, and more different still from the electronic tape music that Mills-Cooke absorbed as a young composer. Instead, the fortuitous path of Syrinx , and their surprising commercial success, stands apart as a beautiful tangent from the dominant mode of 1970s experimental music.


The final set of jmc retrospective 1967-1977  will be of the material recorded after the breakup of Syrinx, including previously unreleased recordings. When Syrinx disbanded John was engaged in broadening his musical horizons and means of expression.  A number of recordings were made with Doug Pringle and session musicians.  He moved operations to London, UK, and there worked on film & tv scores.  A Third Testament with British journalist & commentator Malcolm Muggeridge was a result of this period. Read more...

 When he returned to Toronto in 1974, it was to rehearse the Heartbeat Band. He was accompanied by Gordon Philips, the drummer/percussionist he worked with in London.  They formed the Heartbeat Band which had a somewhat fluid makeup of musicians & singers.

They formed the Heartbeat Band which had a somewhat fluid makeup of musicians & singers.  Some of his best work was done as a score in collaboration with artist Michael Hayden for a commission for Vancouver’s Anna Wyman Dance Theatre.  It was recorded under the title of Neon Accelerando in the Heartbeat Studio with engineer Jim Bungard and then at Mercey Brothers Studio with producer Bart Schoales.  The resulting sides appeared on Gateway on Anubis in Canada, aka Neon Accelerando on Aura in the UK.  At the same time Mills-Cockell managed to record a number of other tracks which were released as Heartbeat on True North Columbia.

It was a busy time for him with a number of film & tv assignments as well as a Heartbeat tour and a number of appearances with illusionist Doug Henning.  The Heartbeat segment of jmc retrospective is an anthology comprising much of his recorded output during this period.  One outstanding full piece was discovered only recently when John with producer William Blakeney opened an unidentified 10” reel during a listening session at Grant Ave Studio in Hamilton.  after only a few moments Blakeney recognized the music on the pristine quarter inch safety master as a live to tape recording of Neon Accelerando, completely forgotten.  He had heard the music in Rebecca Cohn auditorium, Halifax, when John was touring the Heartbeat Band.


Savitri & Sam

Currently in development, SAVITRI & SAM is a full-length opera composed by John Mills-Cockell with libretto by Ken Gass.

A workshop presentation of 95 minutes from the opera was held at The Citadel (home of Coleman, Lemieux & Co) in September, 2013, starring Zorana Sadiq (Savitri), Michael Barrett (Sam), Marion Newman (Sarindar) and Giles Tompkins (Manjinder), conducted by Gregory Oh and directed by Ken Gass, co-produced by Canadian Rep Theatre and Savitri Project Collective.

A review by Leslie Barcza in Barczablog, called the presentation “a stunning achievement.”

A follow-up workshop presentation is planned for August 2016, with the aim of a full production within the next two years.

Read more…

photo: Jean Wells


John Mills-Cockell has created scores for The National Arts Centre, Firehall Arts Centre, Citadel Theatre, Glasgow Museum of Art, Vancouver Playhouse, University of Victoria Theatre, and  Bluebridge Theatre among others.

Scoring music for plays, musicals, dance or film is one of my great passions.  I began doing it early in my creative life and have continued ever since.  After I had completed a handful of such works, I began to think that I knew how to do it.  After doing it more, I learned, sometimes by making big mistakes, that each and every score in support of works in any discipline is for the first time.   It is so tempting to assume that one knows how to score a new project having done others that seem similar. It causes great misfortune, because each production is unique.  Every time is the first time! 

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