Project 2000: The Diapason Index enters Y2K

January 16, 2003

Part 1 was published in the January, 2000 issue of The

As early as 1917 the grim effects of war became all too
apparent with the confiscation of organ pipes for war industries in Europe. A
few terse announcements bespeak the horror of having pipes ripped out of ancient
instruments for the tin they contained. By 1918, pipe organ construction was
curtailed in the U.S. by a war industries board. In the absence of production,
plans for war memorial organs dominated stoplists. An editorial appeared in
1919 which was entitled "Organ Boom Has Begun." In 1927 Mathias Peter
Möller presented an organ as a war memorial to the Thanksgiving Lutheran
Church in Copenhagen, Denmark, the country of his birth.

War measures returned in 1942 when the Office of Production
Management in Washington, DC forbade construction of organs and ordered the
conversion of the industry to defense work. These restrictions continued
through 1946. Once again, generosity prevailed when the Canadian College
of  Organists announced that it
would raise $50,000 for the British Organ Restoration Fund to restore organs in
England which were destroyed in the Second World War.

Post-war topics tended to polarize into romantic and classic
camps, a trend that still continues unabated. In 1945, Dr. Wilfred Payne penned
an article, "Choosing a Design for a Post-War Organ." The author
attempted to show how to avoid confusion in deciding between romantic and
classic specifications.(45:Aug. Record 1932, year 1945.)

Perhaps these dialogues and disputes reached their zenith with
the "Great Sludge Debate of 1976." The intervening years were full of
articles on the pro and con side, including those by William Barnes, Isolde
Ahlgrimm, Henry Willis, Rudolph Von Beckerath, Joseph Whitehead, Lawrence
Phelps, George Lee Hamrick, and Ernest White. Not the least of these
contributions came from the pen of Ernest M. Skinner. In the January issue of
1961, it was noted that

Mr. Skinner was a distinguished figure at innumerable AGO
conventions. Always articulate and often argumentative he was widely known as a
personality as well as the outstanding builder of his generation. A frequent
writer of "letters to the editor" in this publication, his article on
his career  which he wrote on his
85th birthday is reprinted.

The reappearance of American tracker organs in 1960 began a
decade-long series of "Two Manual Organ" issues of The Diapason. All
manner of organ architecture received a thorough going over, not the least of
which was Ernest White's exposition on "The One Rank Mixture." Far
from tongue-in-cheek, this article was a very successful and forthright
discussion of the concept of 
breaking mixtures in contrast to compound stops.

The middle years of the long 90-year publication of The
Diapason highlight the transition of American and European organ building and
architecture toward what was perceived as classic ideals of the period. They
also chronicle what might be considered the industrial period of American organ
building and the mileau in which domestic organs were built, ranging from the
opulence of Aeolian Organ clientele to the mid-town churches that ordered
enormous pipe organs from Austin, Möller, Aeolian-Skinner and Casavant, to
name a few.

Part III of this series will take a look at the appearance
of artisan organ builders and the changing organ playing aesthetic as it
appeared in The Diapason Index from the 1970s to the present day. In the
meantime, the reader can investigate these 15,000 entries first hand at the
Osiris Archive, home of The Diapason Index, at the following address on The

Searches on one keyword will take you through the index for
any primary topic. The best way to refine the search is to download the results
of the first keyword search and use any word processor to search on secondary
keywords. This provides the ability to scan on the Internet for general themes
and zero in on specific entries at a later time.