Henk Badings

photo Badings Henk Badings was born on 17 January 1907 in Bandung (Java). He studied mining technology at the University of Technology in Delft, received his degree cum laude in 1931 and worked at the university until 1937. In the meantime he developed his skills as a composer. He was also active with painting, sculpting and writing poetry. The only music lessons he followed were lessons in orchestration with Willem Pijper. Already in the same year of his graduation, his First Cello Concerto was performed in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, after which performances of other works followed quickly.
In 1937 his violin sonata was played at the International Music Festival in Prague. The next year this sonata and a string quartet were published with Schott in Mainz. Badings gained public interest in a very short time. In 1934 he was appointed as composition teacher at the Rotterdam Conservatory and the High School of Music (muzieklyceum) of Amsterdam, of which he became director in 1938. In 1937 he decided to dedicate himself to music definitively. From 1941-1945 he was director of the Conservatory in The Hague and in 1949 he became a member of honour of the Flanders Academy of Sciences. He was lecturer of composition at the organ academy of Haarlem, lead orchestration courses for conductors in Hilversum, and was from 1961 to 1972 professor at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart. In 1956 he received a commission from the Holland Festival, which was the direct motive for Roelof Vermeulen to found the electronic music studio of Philips in Eindhoven. Badings realised his ballet music Kan and Abel there, and wrote many electronic compositions in that period of time. The studio of Philips was meant to be temporary, still it remained open until the end of 1960, and continued under the name STEM as part of the University of Utrecht. After the departure of Vermeulen Badings became director of STEM for a short period. This ended in June 1964 and STEM continued under the guidance of Gottfried Michael Koenig and Frank de Vries. Badings would never return there. As a guest conductor he went to Australia and the United States. He received commissions to write orchestral works for the centenary celebration of the Wiener Philharmoniker en de 60th anniversary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, an opera and Psalmensymfonie for the Holland Festival, an overture for the Cork Festival in Ireland, etc. In 1972 he settled as composer in the province Noord-Brabant. He died on 26 June 1987 in Maarheeze.
In his book 70 jaar Nederlandse Muziek 1915-1985, musicologist Leo Samama counts Henk Badings to one of the five largest Dutch composers of the twentieth century. Samama speaks in the chapter about Badings of his great appreciation for this versatile composer: "The hundreds of compositions by his hand testify of a versatile artist who switches seemingly effortless from serious concert music to the style of the great American 'wind bands', from electronic music to educational bundles, from large and dramatic choral works to work for amateur orchestras. His musical style, lyrical and moody, heroic and exuberant, dramatic and effective, remains pervasive and leaves its mark on every score. What Badings wrote between 1930 and 1960, is of international allure. But also his later works are loved particularly in the United States and show an unbridled energy and spiritual strength." (Leo Samama, 1986).

Badings very often used unusual musical scales and harmonies. Already in 1924 he consistently employed the octatonic scale (alternating major and minor seconds); also he used the harmonic series scale from the eighth to the fifteenth overtone. Music based on this scale gives the impression that it is in just intonation, Badings himself called this mode 'lydo-mixolydian'.
In Henk Badings' extensive oeuvre of hundreds of works, the 31-tone music has an important place. Without doubt it can be said that he has made the largest and most important contribution to the Dutch 20th-century 31-tone music. Around 1950 Badings became interested in new tone systems, six- and seven tone modes and the acoustic backgrounds. In 1951 he wrote an interesting treatise for the Royal Flemish Academy of Sciences titled Tonaliteitsproblemen in de nieuwe muziek (tonality problems in new music). After 1951 he wrote a number of compositions for the 31-tone organ in Haarlem and in 1952 he created his first electronic compositions. For the occasion of the 250th birthday of Leonhard Euler he was invited by the Swiss Radio to write a series of 31-tone organ works. His works are characterised by classical form, in melodic as well as rhythmic and harmonic aspect. In 1978 he wrote another treatise for the Royal Flemish Academy of Sciences: Over 31-toon-stemming. In het algemeen en in het bijzonder gedemonstreerd aan de hand van een eigen compositie (about 31-note tuning: general principles and a specific demonstration by means of a composition by the author).

Badings wrote Stringquartet 4 in commission of the Huygens-Fokker Foundation. The first movement has the feeling of a slow introduction, in which the musical material develops itself gradually. Especially notable is the use of sum and difference tones; by for example adding two low tones to a chord, higher tones emerge naturally. In this way very complex chords arise: the opening chord has frequency ratios of 1:3:4:7:11:18.
The second part is a fast movement in a free sonata form. Because intonating justly is more difficult in fast playing, Badings sought rescue in the Euler genera, scales consisting of just thirds, fifths and/or sevenths. The third part is like an elegy. The major and minor modes are mixed. In the faster middle part, the main theme returns in the arioso melody of the cello. The last movement is written in 11/4 time, in constantly differing subdivisions.
Fragments of this string quartet on the music page.

For the famous Fokker organ Badings wrote four works, besides a composition for the Archiphone. He wrote his Reeks van kleine klankstukken in selectieve toonsystemen voor 31-toonsorgel (Series of small sound pieces in selected tone systems for 31-tone organ) and Suite van kleine klankstukken (Suite of small sound pieces) in 1954. In the Reeks he makes use of a number of 12-tone scales which are preprogrammed in the organ and can so be played on the traditional manual. It is obvious he could not distance himself well from classical tonality; the microtonality in this work is more ornamental, a colouring of classical tonality.


The Sonata nr. 3 for two violins (1967) and Reeks van kleine klankstukken (1954) are on the CD 50 jaar Stichting Huygens-Fokker.

Listen to more music of Badings on this website.