David Hughes, Harvard’s Fanny Peabody Mason Professor of Music Emeritus, died in Paris on April 20; he was 88.
Born on June 14, 1926, in Norwalk, Conn., Hughes was a lifelong Harvard man. After his A.B. (summa cum laude, 1949), he served with the U.S. Army in Japan before returning to take his A.M. in 1954 and his Ph.D. in 1956, with a dissertation on music in the 14th century. He was appointed to the faculty in that year, and served until his retirement. He was chair of the department from 1961 to 1965; he served also as head tutor, advising generations of undergraduates, and as mentor for a series of distinguished dissertations. He taught also for many years in the Harvard Extension School.
Masterly articles, dealing mainly with issues of transmission and filiation in medieval chant, especially in the area of tropes, established Hughes as an authority in his field. With John R. Bryden, he published “An Index to Gregorian Chant” (Harvard, 1969); his textbook, “A History of European Music,” was published by McGraw-Hill in 1974.
Hughes assumed the editorship of the Journal of the American Musicological Society in 1959. The journal had fallen behind in its publication, and it was vitally important to the society that it was brought back to regular publication. Hughes took it over, collected and edited a wide range of material, and oversaw a double issue for the summer/fall of 1959, marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the society in 1934. This helped to put the publication back on its feet, and was a vitally important step in restoring the organization to good health and future prosperity. He was made an honorary member of the society in 2006.
Hughes was a real polymath. There were few subjects in music on which he could not enrich and enliven a conversation; he was a fluent pianist, able to play almost anything from memory, vocal, instrumental, or orchestral. Students at Harvard remember his lively conversation, his challenging seminars, and his self-effacing sense of humor.
Hughes lived in Belmont for many years, later retiring to coastal Maine; his annual trips to Paris combined research with rejuvenation. He was married to the former Janet Brandon, who died in 2007. He is survived by his daughters, Catherine E.C. Hughes of Charlotte, Vt., and Anne Cox of Kew Gardens, N.Y., and his son-in-law, Ian Cox.