Michel Huglo (1921-2012)

The Society is sorry to report the death of its long-standing Vice-President Michel Huglo on 13 May 2012.

The account of music by Isidore of Seville in his Etymologies is well known, yet few scholars have felt it essential to examine the manuscripts which contain that account. Michel Huglo was such a scholar. This investigation led to the discovery of a whole family of Spanish Isidore manuscripts with a longer version of the text, augmented with diagrams. Huglo published them when he was already in his seventies (Scriptorium vol. 48, 1994). His unrivalled knowledge of medieval manuscripts, above all chant sources and treatises on music theory, was always generously shared. A broad span of scholarship was decisively enhanced by his experience of the daily liturgical celebration in monastic life. His profound learning was habitually expressed with delight: countless reviews of new publications on medieval chant and theory were a sign of his readiness to encourage others to know about current research. Michel was a marvellous person who had a long, colourful and fruitful life.

Born in Lille as the oldest of eleven, he entered the Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes after the fall of France in 1940, and was present when the German musicologist Karl Gustav Fellerer convinced German officials who had occupied the abbey not to transport a century’s work from the atelier of the Paléographie musicale to Germany. Between 1941 and 1947 he studied theology and philosophy, and was appointed to the Paléographie musicale atelier in 1949, where he worked on the critical edition of the Roman Gradual with Dom Eugène Cardine, Dom Jacques Froger, Dom Jacques Hourlier, and Dom Pierre Combe until 1960. Huglo’s principal responsibility was the study of the sources (Le Graduel Romain II: Les Sources, 1957). He left Solesmes in 1960, and received his doctorate from Paris IV in 1969 and his Doctorat d’État from Paris X in 1981. From 1962 he worked at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, where he prepared his pioneering study of tonaries (Les Tonaires, 1971) and continued to travel extensively in Europe in order to examine manuscripts. In 1976 he established a Section de musicologie at the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes in Paris. In 1987, the CNRS awarded him the silver medal for research. Between 1973 and 1986, he taught palaeography of medieval music at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (IVème section), where his courses attracted an international following: many of his students became friends for life. He later taught at the Université libre of Brussels (1974-1987) and the University of Vienna (1990). In 1988 he moved to the USA where he held numerous short-term posts, as a consultant at the Walters Art Museum; as Mellon Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (School of Historical Studies), Princeton (1990-91); Visiting Professor at New York University (Spring 1993); and from 2000, Adjunct Research Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Huglo was honoured internationally, but above all in France and in his adopted country, the USA: he was elected Emeritus Directeur de recherche at the CNRS in Paris, Doctor honoris causa of the University of Chicago (1991), Corresponding Member of the AMS (1997), Honorary Member of the International Musicological Society (2007), and Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America (2008). He was a Vice-President of both the Henry Bradshaw Society and the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society.

Huglo published several hundred articles, reviews, and dictionary entries, and was as ready to write in theological, historical and paleographical journals as in anything strictly musicological. His published work covers a prodigious range of topics in the history, theory and analysis of medieval music: he had studied all the major texts. It is characteristic that when he re-published a selection of his papers (80 articles in four volumes: Ashgate, 2004-5), each was augmented with new evidence. For many years he worked on the RISM inventories of processionals, and these were perhaps his proudest achievements (RISM B XIV 1-2, 1999 and 2004). Of these David Hiley wrote that they ‘constitute what for lesser mortals would have been a lifetime’s work’. But the material which gave him the greatest intellectual pleasure—the theory of music—is represented in yet another inventorial enterprise, the descriptions of sources of medieval music theory published collaboratively with Christian Meyer and Nancy Phillips (RISM B III 3-4, 1987 and 1992). Bibliographies of his published work are in Recherches nouvelles sur les tropes liturgiques, Wulf Arlt and Gunilla Björkvall, eds. (Stockholm 1993), 449-62, the reprint volumes mentioned above (to 2004), and summary bibliographies appear in Grove Online and MGG.

Huglo continued to participate in scholarly activity until his sudden death (following a concert in honour of his ninetieth birthday)—writing papers, speaking at conferences (and always having pertinent questions for other (un)fortunate speakers), and engaging in continual correspondence with other scholars and students: a recent letter referred to ‘des promesses imprudentes d’articles, sur l’Enchiridion Huchubaldi, modèle (et non remaniement) de la Musica enchiriadis, et reprise de la nationalité de Jeronimus de Moravia: “Frère morave” ou “Scottish Black Friar” ?’ (It is entirely characteristic that this announcement was followed by ‘question the is That, écrivait Shakespeare’.) He was as much at home discussing the mathematics of the Timaeus as the content of the earliest surviving chant books or the polyphony of the Magnus Liber Organi, and it is typical that he attempted to estimate quite how many medieval liturgical books or books of music theory there might have been. He enjoyed the complexity of every detail, and he could evaluate what lessons it held.

Michel Huglo was predeceased by his first wife, Marthe Marie Morel and by his long-time companion, Nancy Phillips. He is survived by six of his brothers and sisters and by his second wife, Barbara Helen Haggh-Huglo.

David Ganz and Susan Rankin