Fugue State Films is run by film-maker Will Fraser. Founded in 2007, for ten years it was a partnership between Will and Simon Still, during which time they established themselves as one of the leading makers of films about music such as The Genius of Cavaillé-Coll and Maximum Reger. Their goal is to make films of the highest quality about the best classical music, films that both summarise present attitudes while seeking new views and pushing new opinions. Central to this goal is the creation of an ongoing set of wonderful films to promote the organ and the beautiful music of its repertoire, the intricate details and magnificent totality of the instrument itself, and the work of the celebrated artists who play it.
We want to make a lot of films about the tremendous French tradition of organ music – we’ve made films about Cavaillé-Coll, Franck, Widor and Vierne, but there is much more to cover – particularly the classical school of the Ancien Regime – Couperin, de Grigny etc, and of course the organists, composers and/or improvisers who followed Widor in the 20th century – Dupré, Duruflé, Litaize, Langlais, Alain, Cochereau, Guillou, Grunenwald, Hakim, Florentz and many more. There’s also of course the 21st century!
But one name stands out, a composer of organ music who both dominates the instrument but also the general musical landscape of the 20th century: Olivier Messiaen.
There are many ways to approach Messiaen and his organ music, but for now we have picked one of his later and slightly less well known works, the apocalyptic Livre du Saint-Sacrement (1985), an extraordinary and earth-moving compendium of drama, colour, evocation and a myriad of different languages, forms and techniques. The composition is an exploration of the sacrament of communion, each movement being based upon a Bible passage. It is the last and longest of all Messiaen’s organ compositions, and draws upon his lifelong experience as an organist and composer.
We will record this with Tom Bell, who recently performed the work at both Westminster and Blackburn Cathedrals. Tom is one of the directors of the Royal College of Organists and is known for his concerts and classes around the UK and in Singapore, Australia and the USA. He is an avid proponent of 20th and 21st century music, from Schoenberg’s Variations on a Recitative through the recent Orgelbuchlein Project to Jean Guillou’s nine-organ epic, La Révolte des Orgues. An expert on Messiaen, not only will Tom perform the Livre du Saint-Sacrement and offer a presentation guiding the viewer through this work, but he will also co-present a documentary with leading Messiaen-scholar Christopher Dingle. They will also film with Messiaen’s musical descendants Thomas Lacôte and Loïc Mallié who are among the current organists at the composer’s church in Paris, La Trinité.
Tom Bell is one of the regional directors of the Royal College of Organists, and has produced a set of 10 films for the RCO about Messiaen, as a sort of vlog - you can see Tom discussing Messiaen here
Tom Bell himself says:
‘Messiaen's Livre du Saint-Sacrement (LSS) is the ultimate and longest organ piece by one of greatest composers of the 20th century. It is an ideal way to discover the sound world of Messiaen, as it is an almost comprehensive account of the major styles he used within his compositions, such as innovative use of rhythm, birdsong, richly colourful harmony and the influence of world music.
‘We shall also include Le Banquet Céleste and the Messe de la Pentecôte in this DVD for as full an account as possible of Messiaen’s style.
‘Therefore this one boxset shall showcase Messiaen's full range as a composer of organ music. Also, the LSS incorporates ideas present for the first time that Messiaen would explore in the last decade of his life, for instance a more ethereal sense of harmony that we find in his late piano works.’
Tom's co-presenter is Professor Christopher Dingle, author of The Life of Messiaen and Messiaen’s Final Works. Chris is one of the most authoritative Messiaen scholars in the world. Together they will explore the history, style and language of the piece.
The DVD/CD boxset we produce shall be therefore be both a spotlight on a particular work and an overall summation of Messiaen’s work as a composer!
We need to crowdfund £40,000 to make this set of films.
Please prebuy this multi-disc boxset from Fugue State Films.
You can do this at various levels:
Gold Patron (£2000)
Educational (one course) (£600)
Screener or Library (£300)
Gold Recognised Subscriber (£195)
Recognised Subscriber (£99)
All options are available in our webshop, though if you want to support at one of the higher options, you can also email Will Fraser to arrange payment in a way that involves less expensive Paypal / transaction and exchange fees.
The UK is going through what is hopefully a short-term economic crisis, and if you live abroad now is a great time to pay for this project as the pound is so low against every other currency.
All supporters at these levels will be credited in the film and booklet.
Please note – we are now offering two levels of Recognised Subscriber. As well as the ‘gold’ one, more or less analogous to what we have offered up to this point, there’s now also a £99 option.
At the moment we are just accepting support at these levels, but soon we shall also offer the normal discounted prebuy:
Early-bird Discount: Subscribe to Messiaen DVD Boxset (£35) – Available Soon
All supporters will receive the multi-disc boxset when it is released in 2023. Your generosity will allow us to make this set of films. Please prebuy now!
For this set of DVDs we will explore the form, style and language of Messiaen’s organ music, showing the extraordinary range and expressive depth of this composer’s work. We shall ask many questions, but one of them will certainly be:
Is Messiaen the greatest organ composer since Bach?