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Biography Hans Hickmann (1908-1968)

Image: Coptic Lute
Coptic lute. Courtesy of Coptic Museum, Cairo.

Hickmann, a German musicologist, was known primarily as an authority on the musical instruments of ancient Egypt. He devoted much study to the music of the Coptic church, which he felt was a living link between the past and the present (for more details of his research into the Coptic musical tradition, see Oral Tradition, History, and Musical Instruments, above, and Transcriptions in Western Notation, below).[1]

Born 19 May, 1908, in Rosslau bei Dessau, Germany, he received his early education in Halle and continued his studies in musicology at the University of Berlin under the direction of some of the most distinguished scholars of the time, including Erich M. von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs. After his graduation in 1934, he studied at the Staatliche Akademie für Kirchen- und Schulmusik (Berlin-Charlottenberg) and the Berliner Hochschule für Musik. His interest in Eastern music was first aroused by a field trip to the Sīwā Oasis (1932-1933), sponsored by the Berliner Phonogrammarchiv. In 1933, he settled in Cairo, and from here he conducted extensive investigations into the music of Egypt for more than two decades.

From 1949 to 1952, he lectured in many countries of Western Europe. In 1957 he left Egypt because of political conditions and returned to Germany to head the department of Ethnomusicology at the University of Hamburg (see Transcriptions in Western Notation below). In 1958, as the new director of the Musikhistorisches Studio (Archiv-Produktion) of the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft in Hamburg, he produced many recordings of ancient music, all of great scholarship and authenticity. He died 4 September 1968, in Bladford Forum, Dorset, England.

His published works cover more than three decades (1934-1968, plus articles published posthumously). A comprehensive bibliography, comprising some 198 entries, is listed in the Journal of the Society of Ethnomusicology, vol. IX, no. 2 (May 1969), pp. 317-19.

Reprinted from The Coptic Encyclopedia. Edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991, vol. 6, pp. 1741-1742.

From Atiya. Coptic Encyclopedia 8 Volumes, OE. © 1991 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission External link: Contact: Cengage Learning Global Rights and Permissions, 10 Davis Drive, Belmont, California 94002 USA.E-mail: Phone: 800-730-2214 or 650-413-7456. Fax: 800-730-2215 or 650-595-4603.


  1. Marian Robertson is referring to separate articles in The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991, vol. 6, pp. 1730-1736 (The Oral Tradition and History); pp. 1738-1741 (Musical Instruments); and pp. 1742-1744 (Transcriptions in Western Notation). [back to biography]