Robert Lachmann’s letters to Henry George Farmer (from 1923-38) provide insightful glimpses into his life and his progressive research projects. From an historical perspective, they offer critical data concerning the development of comparative musicology as it evolved in Germany during the early decades of the twentieth century. The fact that Lachmann sought contact with Farmer can be explained from their mutual, yet diverse interests in Arab music, particularly as they were then considered to be the foremost European scholars in the field. During the 1932 Cairo International Congress on Arab Music, they were selected as presidents of their respective committees.
Henry George Farmer (1882-1965) was a pioneering musicologist who specialized in Arab music. In 1932, he participated in the First International Congress of Arab Music in Cairo, during which he maintained a journal recording his daily activities, interactions with fellow delegates and dignitaries, and varied perambulations throughout the city. This journal, and the detailed minutes he kept for his chaired Commission on History and Manuscripts, were never published. They reveal aspects and inner-workings of the Congress that have hitherto remained unknown. The illustrations and photos contained therein, as well as additional photos that were never seen, provide visual documentation of the Congress’s participants and musical ensembles.