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Jaap Kunst          Print Version/Afdruk Versie

Jaap Kunst (1891-1960) was born in musical surroundings. Both his parents studied music (piano) under well- known teachers at foreign conservatories.
His father was very active as teacher and performer in the town of Groningen. The family house was always full of music and at a young age J.K. showed strong preference for the violin. At the tender age of eighteen months he got his first quarter-violin and the lessons started.
 The violin remained his trusted companion throughout his life. Everybody who knew him will remember how playing in string-quartets was a very important part of his existence.
The violin proved to be not less important as a tool for his musicological fieldwork. He could play as a real folkmusic-fiddler and so communicate with his public.
Even in his professional life- in an official job- he used the violin on special occasions as is illustrated by the following happening.
In 1917 after he earned his "doctorate in Law" he had accepted a lawyers job at the office of the Amsterdam Bank in Utrecht.
After three month it became very clear that this work did not at all fulfilled his ambitions and on his last afternoon at the Bank- at the request of the directors- J.K. gave a folk dance and- song performance on the Bank with his fiddle -bubbling with enthusiasm- witch left an onforgettable impression.
Next step in his burgeoning career seemed risky and adventurous but move in line with his talents and ambitious:
an improvised concert tour through the (then) Netherlands East Indies, with a pianist and a soprano.(Jan Wagemaker and Kitty de Vogel)
In retrospect it is clear that this improvised concert tour through Java brought him where he had to be : Java and the gamelan music wich, after hearing the best performances, fascinated him to  such a degree, that he decided to do everything he could, to absorb and understand it in all details. In 1920 his concertpartners  returned to the Netherlands but J.K. remained on Java. Thanks to his lawyers background he acquited a job as  governments-official and in his free hours he continued to study with great determination the music of Java.
Their honeymoon trip to Bali became even a musicological field expedition, resulting after four years of the first of a long list of books on ethnomusicolgy: "Music in Bali."

J.K. was in his early Javanese years not the only active musicologist. In the brilliant  a talented colleague. Sadly enough, misunderstanding and jealousy prevented collaboration.

His inspiring contacts with Proffessor von Hornbostel, the founder of modern- ethnomusicology, developed in a close friendship.
 Further developments: when, in 1927 during home leaf, in Holland he met professor Johan Huizinga it became clear that the famous historian recognized the importance of Kunst´s research work. The "Minister for the colonies" supported Huizinga´s vision, decribed in a masterly essay in "De Gids".
A committee founded by Huizinga and Mrs Delprat-Veth collected a large fund from private backers as a donation to the Netherlands-Indies Government for the benefit of Kunst´s studies.
As a result, in 1930 J.K. was officialy appointed "Governement Musicologist" and could
completely devote himself, at least for a couple of years, to this kind of research!
His instrument collection and archives moved to an annex of the Batavia Museum.

Regretfully, in 1930, the worldwide economic depression was followed by a cut in government expenditure and ended too soon the budget for musicology!
This formal end of the project however did not end the explorations. The direktor of the Dept. of Education (J.K.´s  government office) prof. Dr. B.J.O. Schrieke understood fully the importance of the project and appointed  J.K. as his "right hand" for a long and extensive trip through the Indonesian Achipelago.

This was the opportunity for continuing recording and collecting music and instruments. Back in Batavia, in a different Department position, the manager to combine his civil sevant job with musicological work elaborating on the collected material of his long trip with his big boss.

1934 :
During home leave in Holland special circomstances resulted in the decision not to return to Java,
A period followed with European lecture tours then, in 1936 he was appointed Curator of the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam. In that position he stayed for the rest of his life. It gave him the opportunity to build up the large and incomparable collection, unique in the world, of musical instruments, books, diapositives and recordings, not only in relation to Indonesia, but covering the whole world.
In 1953 the University of Amsterdam created the chair ethnomusocology to be occupied by Jaap Kunst and in 1958 the " Royal Netherlands Academy of Scienses) honored him with its memebership.
In foreign countries he was admired: he became successor to Curt Sachs as honorary President of the American Ethnomusicological  Society, and to Vaughan Williams as President of the International Folkmusic Coucil.
The "Antropologische Geselschaft" in Vienna oppoimted him as a honorary member.
Jaap Kunst died at that point in time that ethnomusicology became an official part of an academic Curriculum.
The academic community in the Netherlands has, through the lifelong dedication of Jaap Kansa, excellent facilities to promote this new faculty.



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