Bak, Dr. Arnold Adrian

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises notes on Indian music and folklore produced by Arnold Bak, in addition to songs in various Indian languages and translations in English and Dutch.

Administrative / Biographical History

Arnold Adrian Bak was born in Hilversum in the Netherlands on 19 May 1899. He was educated at the Haarlem Gymnasium and entered the University of Leiden in 1918, where he studied languages including Javanese, Malay, Arabic and Sanskrit. His hope was to enter government service in the Netherland Indies. Economic pressures on the government meant that this was not possible and instead, Bak considered becoming a professional singer. In 1923 he went to the University of Utrecht to work on Sanskrit treatises on the theory of music. This research became the basis of his doctorate gained in 1930. He also met Rabindranath Tagore for the first time. In 1925 Bak married Cornelia Timmers and for the next four years they lived in Santiniketan where Bak continued his studies and came into contact with many Indian musicians and scholars, especially through Rabindranath Tagore.

In 1931 he went to India under the auspices of the Kern Institute at Leiden, during which time he began to record material including music from Nepal. He returned to Europe in 1934, and embarked on a lecture tour of the United States. In 1937 he became a Senior Research fellow of Braenose College, Oxford. During the War he remained in India working as Music Adviser to All- India Radio, returning to England in 1946. He became a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies in Sanskrit and Indian Music in 1948 and was appointed Reader in Sanskrit in 1949. In this position he was not only responsible for encouraging research into Indian music but also into other non- European languages.

He was a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the International Folk Music Council, the International Society for Folk Narrative Research and the Council of the Folk-Lore Society and an original member of the Committee for Ethnomusicology of the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 1958 he was involved in a street accident in Leiden, which led to recurring bouts of ill health. He died on 8 October 1963.

(Introduction based on obituary in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol.XXVII, 1964)

Conditions Governing Access


Acquisition Information

Donated in 1985

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Separated Material

Associated Material held elsewhere: Arnold Bak, correspondence and papers (1925-1963), British Library, Oriental & India Office Collections [MSS Eur F 191]

Conditions Governing Use

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance

Geographical Names