Van Baaren was born in Enschede. His early studies (1924–29) were in Berlin with Rudolph Breithaupt (piano) and Friedrich Koch (composition) at the Stern conservatory. After returning to the Netherlands in 1929, he studied with Willem Pijper. He adopted Pijper's "germ cell technique" in his compositions from about 1934 onward. While composing some works in an accessible, tonal style, in other pieces he developed toward a serial technique, which emerged fully with the Septet for five winds, violin, and double bass (1952) (Ryker 2001). He was the first important Dutch composer to use twelve-tone technique.
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Kien., Hein. 1976. ‘The Composer Kees van Baaren: Towards a Revaluation of Sound Material’, Key Notes 4:4–18
Ryker, Harrison. 2001. "Baaren, Kees van". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
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Wouters, Jos, and André Jurres (eds.) 1962. "Conversations with Dutch Composers: Kees van Baaren and Hans Henkemans". In Fifteen years Donemus, 1947–1962: Conversations with Dutch Composers / Gespräche mit niederländischen Komponisten, edited by Jos Wouters and André Jurres, translated by Ian F. Finlay (English) and Elisabeth Meter-Plaut (German), 50–59. Amsterdam: Stichting Donemus.