Hughes, (James Mercer) Langston
(b Joplin, MO, 1 Feb 1902; d New York, 22 May 1967). American writer and poet. He attended Columbia University (1921–2) and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania (BA 1929). His writings include five gospel song-plays, a gospel play – Tambourines to Glory – adapted from his novel (with music by Jobe Huntley), a Christmas cantata, The Ballad of the Brown King (music by Margaret Bonds), and a song-play with gospel music and spirituals, Black Nativity. His dramatic musicals include Street Scene (based on a play by Elmer Rice, with music by Weill) and Simply Heavenly (music by David Martin); among his opera librettos are Troubled Island (music by William Grant Still) and The Barrier (music by Meyerowitz).
Hughes's work has been set by about 60 composers, and there are over 200 song settings of his poetry; these include John Alden Carpenter's Four Negro Songs, Still's The Breath of a Rose, Florence Price's Songs to the Dark Virgin and Bonds's The Negro Speaks of Rivers. Hughes often drew on the African American musical tradition for form and style in his poetry; he experimented with the jazz idiom in Montage of a Dream Deferred and cast other poems in blues form or as spirituals. The breadth of his appeal to musicians outside this tradition is reflected in the range of composers who have set his work – for instance, Samuel Adler, Jean Berger, William Schuman and Elie Siegmeister.
Hughes's books on music include Black Magic: a Pictorial History of the Negro in American Entertainment (with Milton Meltzer, 1967) and, for children, Famous Negro Music Makers (1955) and The First Book of Jazz (1955). The Langston Hughes archive is in the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at Yale University.
M.S. Cole: ‘Afrika singt: Austro-German Echoes of the Harlem Renaissance’, JAMS, xxx (1977), 72–95
D.L. Martin: ‘Langston Hughes's Use of the Blues’, CLA Journal, xxii (1978–9), 151–9
F. Berry: Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem (Westport, CT, 1983)
M.A. Hovland: Musical Settings of American Poetry: a Bibliography (Westport, CT, 1986) [incl. list of settings]
A. Rampersand: The Life of Langston Hughes (New York, 1986–8)
RAE LINDA BROWN
(b Aberystwyth, 14 July 1855; d Bethesda, Gwynedd, 5 March 1893). Welsh composer and pianist. The son of an ironmonger, he was taught to sing and play from an early age. At four he performed in public on a miniature concertina and in 1862 won first prize in the piano solo competition at the National Eisteddfod in Caernarvon. Following the advice of Brinley Richards, he entered the RAM at about 16 and spent a year and a half studying the piano. He then became assistant organist to Roland Rogers at Bangor Cathedral for a brief period before returning to London for three years, where he supported himself by teaching and holding organist posts, and concentrated on developing his abilities in composition. He then returned to Bethesda as organist of the Congregational church. A fine pianist, Hughes was greatly in demand as an accompanist at competitive eisteddfods throughout Wales. His vocal solos and duets, which are among the best of his generation, are distinguished by attractive melodies and unusually well-written accompaniments. His most popular solos, well known to Welsh music lovers today, include The Inchcape Bell, Y Tair Mordaith, Y Dymestl and Arafa Don. His output also included a string quartet, The Shepherds of Bethlehem (cantata) and a number of anthems; he is, however, best remembered for his songs for voice and piano, for which he became known as ‘The Sullivan of Wales’.
T.R. Roberts: Eminent Welshmen, i (Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil, 1908), 190
R.D. Griffith: ‘Hughes, Richard Samuel’, The Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940, ed. J.E. Lloyd and R.T. Jenkins (London, 1959)
E. Roberts: ‘R.S. Hughes (1855–1893), organydd a chyfansoddwr caneuon’ [R.S. Hughes, organist and composer of songs], Welsh Music, iv/4 (1972–5), 65–7
R. Griffiths: ‘R.S. Hughes: Teyrnged Canmlwyddiant’ [A centenary tribute], Welsh Music, ix/6 (1989–92), 27–33
OWAIN EDWARDS/A.F. LEIGHTON THOMAS
Hughes, Robert (Watson)
(b Leven, Scotland, 27 March 1912). Australian composer of Scottish birth. He emigrated to Victoria in 1930 and is largely self-taught. After submitting his early orchestral works to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1935, he was encouraged by Sir Bernard Heinze and Joseph Post to accept a bursary to study composition at the Melbourne University Conservatorium with A.E.H. Nickson (1938–40). After active war service he was appointed music arranger and editor to the ABC, Melbourne (1946–76), and made significant contributions to the development of Australian music through his membership of the Board of the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) during 1958–85; he became chairman in 1977. Hughes was a founding member of the advisory board to the Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers and served on the board of the newly established Australian Music Centre in Sydney from 1975 to 1977.
Hughes is regarded as one of Australia’s most distinguished composers and has won several important prizes, including the Commonwealth Jubilee Symphony Prize (1951) and the Hallé Orchestra Centenary Commission for his Sinfonietta (1957). Noted for his strong technique in orchestration, much of his work is written for the orchestral medium. Early compositions reveal a certain oriental exoticism, demonstrated by a fondness for sinuous melodic lines, narrow intervals, a pervasive modality and the choice of rhythmic and colouristic percussion elements (Serenade for small orchestra, 1952). Although essentially a conservative, Hughes was aware of contemporary trends and responded to them in his music – the Symphony of 1951 is in a jazz idiom, while the lyrical Fantasia for orchestra (1963, rev. 1968) employs serial techniques. His preference for sturdy, forthright allegros and an ability to create extended musical edifices from small cells is exemplified in the outer movements of the Sinfonietta and Synthesis for small orchestra; the tender lyricism prevalent in his slow movements is evident in the Sea Spell for orchestra. In 1978 Hughes was awarded an MBE, and in 1995 received the Centennial Award from the faculty of music, University of Melbourne, for his outstanding contribution to Australian music.
Orch: Farrago Suite, 1949, rev. 1965; Symphony, 1951, rev. 1971; Serenade, small orch, 1952 [orig. version, 7 insts, 1951]; Essay, 1953; Xanadu, ballet suite, 1954; Masquerade, ov., 1956; Sinfonietta, 1957; Fantasia, 1963, rev. 1968; Flourish, 1968; Synthesis, small orch, 1969; Ballade, str orch, 1969; Sea Spell, 1973; Essay 2, 1982
Other: The Forbidden Rite, TV dance drama, 1961; 5 Indian Poems (S. Naidu), chorus, small orch, 1971; The Intriguers (op. 2, M. Dixon), 1975, unperf.; A Song for Exiles (N. Munro), chorus, org, ob, 1991
Chbr music; incid music for radio and TV; over 30 film scores
MSS in AUS-Clu, Msl, Sb, Smc
Principal publishers: Chappell (Sydney and London), Australasian Performing Right Association, Australian Music Centre
K. Hince: ‘Robert Hughes’, The Canon, viii (1954–5), 211–12
J.D. Garretty: Three Australian Composers (diss., U. of Melbourne, 1963), 108–43
A.D. McCredie: Musical Composition in Australia (Canberra, 1969), 10
J. Murdoch: Australia’s Contemporary Composers (Melbourne, 1972), 116–19
P. Tahourdin: ‘Robert Hughes’, Australian Composition in the Twentieth Century, ed. F. Callaway and D. Tunley (Melbourne, 1978), 52–7
J. Murdoch: A Handbook of Australian Music (Melbourne, 1983), 81
M. Orlovich: The Music of Robert Hughes (diss., U. of Sydney, 1994)
ELIZABETH WOOD/ADRIAN A. THOMAS