Jon Gillock
Performing Messiaen’s Organ Music:
66 Masterclasses

Jon Gillock’s book, Performing Messiaen’s Organ Music: 66 Masterclasses, was released by Indiana University Press in early 2010. It is available directly from the publisher ( and at ISBN 978-0-253-35373-3, xxi plus 428 pages.

The main part of the book contains Gillock”s own artistic consideration for the interpretation of these works, based on 35 years of performing and teaching them, in masterclasses. Here, he leads the reader through all the organ works in detail drawing on musical structure found in the scores, religious and musical symbolism, and intuitive insights to illustrate his points. The book also contains translations of all biblical quotation cited as subtitles and Messiaen’s own published notes for these pieces, background information about each piece, detailed information about the organ at La Trinité in Paris for which most of the works were conceived), a glossary of terms unique to Messiaen’s musical language, and a biographical sketch of Messiaen.

Reviews & Comments

“For anyone who plays Messiaen on the organ, this is a book to treasure…Gillock discusses every imaginable aspect of performance and interpretation, and since he studied with Messiaen and is one of the players whose performances the composer most admired, his ideas carry authority…The author’s intimate knowledge of the scores and his deep love for the music are apparent on every page…His emphases on meaning and the conveying of the message to audiences is utterly compelling…This is a book that needed to be written and it is hard to imagine that task having been better performed.”
Tom Corfield, Derby, UK, Music & Vision

“With the most complete primary-source guide in English to the performance of this music, Gillock presents an invaluable and deeply felt manual. Given that one-on-one instruction is the most direct mode, Gillock nevertheless imparts vividly in words the involvement and passion the performer needs in order to bring this music to life…Written in conversational style, the book is a compelling read. I couldn’t put the book down because these pieces are like old friends to me, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to revisit them through the discernments of an esteemed Messiaen performer and scholar. The wealth of important material here makes it an indispensable companion to a great body of organ literature.”
David Palmer, The Diapason

“The book is fabulous in every way. It is totally indispensable for the study of Messiaen’s music.”
Ann Labounsky, Duquesne University

“I am utterly overwhelmed, dumbfounded, and in awe by so many aspects of your book. Just to name a few: your being completely in tune with Messiaen’s spirituality, which is the first prerequisite in understanding, performing, and writing about his music; your total devotion to his music, though extremely difficult to understand, by studying it all on your own before you went to study with him; your ingenious ways of using imagery to describe the composer’s intentions; your detailed analysis of the music, at times measure by measure, and even note by note; your clarification of his Hindu rhythms and birdsongs, etc., etc. You have made Messiaen’s music much more approachable and less daunting for students and performers.”
Edith Ho, Director of Music, 1977-2007, Church of the Advent, Boston

“This is a monumental book – a fantastic treasure for professional musicians and for music lovers alike.”
Natsuko Uemura, Harpsichordist, NYC