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Audsley, George Ashdownlocked

  • Barbara Owen

(b Elgin, Scotland, Sept 6, 1838; d Bloomfield, NJ, 21 June, 1925). American organ designer, architect, author and art expert of Scottish birth. After working as an architect in England, he immigrated to New York City in 1892, where he worked for a short time with his brother William in the architectural firm of W. & G. Audsley. His interests were widespread, and he wrote several books on architecture, oriental art, and religious symbolism. One of his major interests, however, was the organ. He consulted on various church organ projects, had an organ in his home built to his own design, and was instrumental in the design of the five-manual organ built in 1904 by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for Festival Hall at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, upon which the noted French organist Alexandre Guilmant performed 40 recitals. This organ was later purchased by John Wanamaker, and became the foundation of the large organ in Wanamaker’s Philadelphia department store. Audsley was the author of four influential works on organ design: The Art of Organ-building (2 vols., 1905), The Organ of the Twentieth Century (1919), Organ-stops and their Artistic Registration (1921), and The Temple of Tone (1925). These are lavishly illustrated with prints of organ-cases and Audsley’s own meticulous drawings of pipes and mechanisms. He was also an early advocate for the standardization of organ consoles, subsequently adopted by the American Guild of Organists. Audsley’s approach to organ design and tonal structure was conservative, providing a much-needed balance to some of the excesses of the early twentieth century. Although he generally favored an eclectic approach to tonal design, he also espoused some of the prevalent orchestral concepts which emphasized string tone and imitative stops, and he believed that all the divisions of an organ should be enclosed in expression boxes.

Bibliography

  • “George Ashdown Audsley” [obituary], The Diapason, (July 1925), 1
  • F.R. Webber: “The St. Louis Exposition Organ,” The Tracker, 3/3 (April 1959), 5
  • E.W. Flint: “The Works of George Ashdown Audsley,” Art of the Organ, 2/2 (June 1972)
  • O. Ochse: The History of the Organ in the United States (Bloomington, IN, 1975)
  • D.H. Fox: George Ashdown Audsley (1995)