Royal Society for Music History of The Netherlands

How is your research going? With Anthony Zielhorst

In the new section 'how is your research going?' the focus is always on a researcher and research project. For this episode we talked to Anthony Zielhorst about his PhD research into the life and work of Henk Badings. Would you also like to tell us something about your research, large or small? Send an email to


An uncomfortable composer: Henk Badings (1907-1987)


More than four years ago - shortly after my retirement from the Royal Conservatory of The Hague - I started my Badings research. With this research I want to take the first step towards the systematic disclosure of an oeuvre that I believe is impressive not only in quantitative terms, but especially in qualitative terms.


Henk Badings taught himself how to compose. He graduated as a geologist, but spent every spare moment occupied with music. The basis for his compositional self-study is the Cours de la Composition musicale, which the French composer Vincent d'Indy started publishing at the beginning of the 20th century. He also took some instrumentation lessons with Willem Pijper.
Badings broke through in 1930. His symphonies were conducted in the Concertgebouw by Eduard van Beinum and Willem Mengelberg. Orders also came from abroad.

Badings became director of the then National Conservatory in The Hague in 1941. After the war, partly for this reason, he was sentenced to ten years of exclusion by the Honorary Council for Music, a term that was later shortened to November 5, 1947 by the Central Honorary Council for the Arts.
In 1961, Badings was appointed lecturer in acoustics and computer science at the Institute for Musicology. At the same time he also received appointments abroad. In 1972 he came to live in the Netherlands again. A few months after his gloriously celebrated eightieth birthday, he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1987.
On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Bas van Putten characterized the general feeling about him and his past with the headline An uncomfortable composer.


What is the purpose of your research?
The main goal of my research is to make Badings' oeuvre accessible. The Catalog of Works includes more than 600 works for a wide variety of settings. Shortly after the start of my research, it became necessary to define the research area. In consultation with my supervisors Emile Wennekes (Utrecht) and Steven Vande Moortele (Toronto), I decided to use the date of the lifting of the exclusion (November 5, 1947) as the end point of my studies.


What methods do you use?
I selected a number of compositions from the first period to analyze them thoroughly. Studying his works - with the help of my sparring partner Paul Scheepers - felt like tracking and treasure hunting at the same time. On the one hand, the oeuvre appears to be classical in design with structures such as sonata, song, rondo and theme with variations. On the other hand, the repertoire has a completely unique sound, which Badings himself has described as polytonal. My research mainly focuses on that sound: what happens in those notes, what connections are made, how does the music develop? The preliminary conclusion of my research is that octatonics has become the basis of sound for Badings. But there is much more, such as the intriguing quality of Badings' counterpoint, his fascination with symmetry and his careful development of thematic data.


What products will your research yield?
My dissertation will consist of two parts. The analyzes will be included in the second part. The first part is devoted to a description of his styles and to Badings' biography. In the biographical chapters I want to provide insight into Badings' life up to and including 1947, so that his role during the Second World War can be made public as objectively as possible, partly on the basis of official archive documents and personal testimonies. The Badings archive (Netherlands Music Institute) contains a wealth of archival material, of which personal notes form an important element. But what is most essential is the quality of his music, which in my opinion deserves to be performed frequently.