Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Herndon Spillman


During the mid to late nineteenth century organ building and organ music in France underwent radical change. The French organ of the early nineteenth century was still the instrument of the French Classical school, the instrument of Clicquot and his predecessors. These instruments were limited in manual and pedal compass, variety and power of stops, and in their ability to vary expression and nuance. The great organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll changed all this and introduced to France instruments that were capable of tremendous tonal variety, nuance, and expressions. His instruments introduced many tonal changes particularly harmonic stops and stops that imitated orchestral colors. He built the symphonic organ. The symphonic organ of Cavaille-Coll inspired generations of organists and composers and helped to change the nature of organ compositions in France. Cavaille-Coll himself helped to improve the ability of organists to play his instruments by sending Charles-Marie Widor to study with Lemmens in Brussels, thus acquiring a virtuoso pedal technique that had been commonplace to German organists for a long time. French organists/composers inspired by the Cavaille-Coll instruments composed "organ symphonies." These composers ranged from Widor and Louis Vierne to Naji Hakim (1986). In the United States the first organ symphony was composed by Leo Sowerby in 1930. American composers Garth Edmundson, David Diamond, and William Albright have also written symphonies for the organ. The purpose of this study is to examine the changes that Cavaille-Coll introduced to his organs, to trace the development of the organ symphony from Cesar Franck to Louis Vierne, and to examine the ways that the four aforementioned American composers have transformed the medium with their compositions. This is not a bar by bar analysis of the works, but rather an examination of the musical ideas that have been adapted to the medium through the works of the various composers.