Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Robert Wharton


This project is a study of selected organ pieces (from the 24 published) of French composer Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Although a catalogue of works of Alain lists 93 titles, the works for organ represent the composer's major field of concentration during the last six years of his life. Alain, who died during World War II at the age of 29, made a significant contribution to the twentieth-century organ repertory despite his short lifetime.

The procedure of study was, first, to examine existing secondary sources--a biography by Bernard Gavoty, and an article on the performance of Alain's organ music by the composer's sister, Marie-Claire Alain, a concert organist. Secondly, the writer obtained and studied a doctoral dissertation by Richard Travis Bouchett, and lastly learned to play the pieces in order to analyze in detail selected organ works.

Alain's pieces possess a quality of individuality which distinguishes them from his contemporaries. His works are not liturgically oriented, but possess a secular inspiration. Many of his compositions are improvisatory in nature, and show evidence of the influence of Gregorian chant, e.g., free rhythm, modality, and linear writing. Alain further experimented with timbre, and called for unorthodox combinations of organ stops and mutation stops.

The basic ingredients of Alain's music are quite common, but it is the manner in which he uses these ideas that results in a style that is uniquely his.

Included in

Music Commons