Listen to Music by Caleb Hugo

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Context Mvmt. II

Context truly is an electronic symphony by definition due to the fact that it follows the classic form of the symphony quite closely. The term symphony is often used flippantly, but in this case I intend it to mean what it has always meant: a large work for a large ensemble that shows what the composer was capable of at that point in his life. Since this project fits into this category and was designed to do so, the listener must know a few things about how to listen to a work of such magnitude.

Usually when we listen to music we don’t expect one musical idea to last more than five to ten minutes. In popular culture three to four minutes is all a person’s attention span can take. This work on the other hand takes forty-five minutes to listen to and must be understood as a whole in order to get the most out of the listening experience. Throughout this work, there are two motives that are used excessively, which is why you may notice that even when the music seems chaotic you can still understand it. This tends to happen at the subconscious level, but when studied and analyzed you will find that it makes perfect sense for your mind to keep being drawn into music. Using this motivic material and developing it further makes it possible to unify even hours of music into one coherent idea without losing the interest of the listener. The listener should therefore not only listen to the sounds themselves as they come in and out of perception, but as they get to know the piece better should concentrate on perceiving the entire work on the massive level in which it exists. Only when the medium of time is eliminated completely can this piece or any piece for that matter be enjoyed up to its potential.


This piece began when two of my friends (Zach and Eva) and I were improvising on drums, guitar, and violin. It sounded too cool to not record, so I got some samples from them and used their samples to help create what you’re about to listen to.

Wind and Light

Wind and light are two things which we know are there not because they bring attention to themselves, but because they bring attention to everything else. Wind creates motion and makes the world come to life by causing things to catch light differently so that we can see objects in various ways. Wind and light make the world dance. They enhance whatever they affect. And yet no matter how intense they both are, they never get in each other’s way. They seem to act in complete independence and yet they work together so skillfully. They even pass through one another while acting upon the same object. Wind enhances beauty by causing motion while light makes this motion visible along with the rest of the object. They are a wonderful pair.

These thoughts may seem like arbitrary musings because they are. This is exactly what the piece is about. Some may ask, “Why did you bother?” Because beauty was made to be observed. So I do observe; this is me pointing at it.

I had been playing with the guitar riff at the beginning of this piece for well over a year, and I finally decided to turn it into a composition. To do this, I simply performed the guitar part I had in mind and slowly expanded the work until I came up with Wind and Light. This is very similar to the way I constructed Conviction; I recorded a couple of friends improvising and slowly turned it into a piece of music.

Generally, when composers create music, they start with a melody or a fragment of melody and develop it into more material by introducing the same material in multiple different ways. This is what gives music flow and continuity. Both this piece and Conviction were constructed differently from the traditional method by developing unique and interesting sounds from existing sounds, and then generating more interesting sounds that seemed to compliment the original material. Writing melodies actually came last; the melodic material in both pieces came from listening to what I had and simply writing out the melody which I heard pop out of the textures. I used to assume that everyone heard these melodies, but I recently realized that the melodies aren’t actually in the texture; I’m just very vividly imagining them. So I wrote the melodies in for everyone to enjoy.

I didn’t originally have it in mind to perform a lengthy drum solo in the middle of the piece. I needed a way to get to the climax of the work and couldn’t figure out a good way to do it. I had already used my snare drum, hi-hats, and ride cymbal with a pair of bunch sticks to accompany much of the piece up until that point, but the sound had not been thoroughly explored yet. So I improvised the drum solo and put the rest of the material over the top of it to punctuate the direction of the solo to make it more understandable. This is one of those cases where “it seemed like the thing to do at the time.” I’m very glad it came together like this because it is the portion of the piece where the listener can almost hear wind and light acting upon the drum.

Game Over

This is a fun little Dubstep piece I wrote to use for the game over music to the ear training game. Click here to play the game.

Stifled Mystery

Stifled Mystery was written in collaboration with a good friend of mine who is a band director and music educator. Click here to read an article about the premiere performance he conducted. It is designed to be a challenging and lengthy work for high school wind ensemble. However, it can of course be played convincingly by a collegiate wind ensemble as well. Being approximately eleven minutes long, this work is intellectually challenging and engaging for both a wind ensemble and its audience.

Typically, I write with an extra-musical agenda in mind. This piece, however, was written with no specific meaning until the latter stages of development. I decided on the title when I realized that it sounds as if the music is attempting to say something very profound. However, the meaning is being blocked from view by something within myself. While this can be enjoyed simply as a series of pleasing sounds put together, there is a deeper meaning that demands to be sought. It is difficult to seek this meaning, but we must because it is life changing. That said, this wind ensemble piece hauntingly reminds me of my own reaction to the Gospel of Jesus in my darker moments. Throughout this work you will hear a theme that will not be fully revealed until the end of the work. Listen to the main theme as it weaves itself into the texture and tries to tell you the mystery for what it is.

The Mystery has the power to preserve life
We’ve forgotten that we die
 We’ll seek the meaning tomorrow…

Score information


In this timpani and piano duet the timpani player is required to play quickly and quietly, change the tuning of the timpani while playing, and listen carefully through the sound of the timpani to hear the piano’s pulse. This piece can be quite difficult to play at the prescribed tempo, but it still sounds great when it is played slower than marked. Doing this can make it easier on both the timpani player and even some audiences. A danger to watch for is that the piano can be easily overpowered by the timpani in dark or very wet halls. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to make sure the piano is always heard clearly. This can be achieved by performing in a bright or less resonate hall, using a brighter piano such as a Yamaha, or by slightly muffling the timpani as a last resort. Artificial amplification might work, but the placement of the sound source for the piano has to be in a location that enables it to mix with the sound of the timpani on the stage.

My friend, Amy, premiered this timpani and piano duet with the man she eventually married at the University of Illinois during her undergrad senior recital. She is an extremely talented performer and a passionate music educator. She asked me to write this piece specifically for her recital, and I accepted with eventual enthusiasm. I took the assignment as an opportunity to test my abilities after writing Transition and The Dark Process as well as to get my foot in the door for graduate school at the university; not to mention doing a favor for an old friend. After it was premiered I spoke with the department chair of percussion, and he said that he would put a good word in for me in the composition department. I have since been rejected for graduate studies at the University of Illinois and have finished a master’s at Michigan State University.

Download score

Click here to see an actual performance of this timpani and piano duet. Not the best recording, but it is a fantastic performance and will give you an idea of what it would be like to actually play it.


Even while being mostly half and whole notes, this composition for wind ensemble can be extremely challenging. The wide spacing of perfect intervals at exposed moments between instruments of different families demands that the wind ensemble have an acute sense of intonation in order to have a pleasing performance. Also, in order for this wind ensemble composition to be effective, it must be noted that the climax of the music is intended to be at mm. 21 and not at the very end. It cannot be stressed enough how massive the sound of the bass drums needs to be at that moment. If a cannon were practical I would have notated for that to be used as well (if you’re able to use one, feel free). By climax, I mean to say what will be perceived as the loudest and most exciting moment for the average listener. After this happens, the rest of the work is to sound so other-worldly that the strangeness causes discomfort and awe. The end can be taken as a climax of emotion and the other a climax of power.

Click here for score information.

This wind ensemble composition is a programmatic work based on the text of Exodus 33:18-21 in which Moses said to God “Now show me your glory.” God proceeded to hide Moses in the cleft of a rock, put his hand over Moses as he passed, and then allowed Moses see His back. The sound in the beginning depicts a distant radiance as the Almighty approached. When the sound becomes as big and radiant as possible, the massive bass drum hit is the hand of God coming down to hide Moses in the rock. This is followed by the full radiance of God seeping through the cracks between God’s hand and the rock as He passes by. At last, the end of the piece depicts God lifting his hand from the rock and letting Moses see His back. It would be an other-worldly and terrifying experience to perceive the holiness of God in this way.

Tear of Ambiguity

This is an extremely challenging classical piano solo that requires the pianist to have complete right and left hand independence in order to perform it with the passion and freedom that it calls for. The rapid independent lines coupled with the sustain pedal being employed throughout entire sections of the piece creates an enormous sound wall that peaks in volume at the climax of the solo and dies away naturally without dampening the strings. This of course has the danger of any wrong notes being very obvious for several seconds during these sections. Taking all of these things into account, this classical piano solo is clearly written for a very accomplished pianist.

Watch a player piano make the recording

As I was writing this piece I could never quite decide which emotion I was attempting to capture. Whatever I had in mind, it was an emotion that would bring a person to tears. My goal has ended up being for me to convince the listener to empathize with another person’s suffering and unspeakable joy simultaneously. Some may view this concept as silly and far from practical, but this is the emotion that I think of when I see something incredible to come in the midst of a difficult situation. The adversity must take place in order for joy to result, but terrific end or not it still hurts in the meantime. The journey is beautiful because of its result.

Special thanks to Cornerstone University for allowing me to use their 6 foot yamaha grand player piano.

Ivory Desert

This advanced flute solo was written in the spring of 2011 for a composition seminar in which Dr. Ricardo Lorenz paired each participating composer with a participating performer in order to write a solo for each performer’s instrument. Throughout the semester, Joelle Willems (the flute player whom I consider a co-composer of this work) and I met periodically to discuss the flute solo I was writing. She would play passages that I’d written and together we’d make detailed modifications to make the solo more idiomatic for the flute while still keeping my creative intent intact. As I expected, these sessions not only changed the way I originally intended certain things to be played, but it changed the sort of flute solo that I wanted to write. As we went along, Joelle showed me certain aspects of the flute of which I was unaware, and I immediately took that knowledge and applied it to the solo. Working directly and as often as possible with a performer is the most effective compositional technique I have ever encountered.

Download score

This advanced flute solo is extremely challenging. It uses the full range of the flute in dynamics and pitch as well as several extended techniques. Between slow lyrical sections, rapid and aggressive passages, sweeping melodic gestures, expressive grace notes, flutter tonguing, and guided improvisation this piece offers the advanced flutist everything they could want in a short unaccompanied solo.

The title refers to an object of beauty that is incapable of being observed because it destroys the life that is attracted to it with the very thing that makes it beautiful. Thus, the piece reflects radiant beauty, loneliness, and lifelessness.

Against Indifference

Caleb’s bassoon concerto is considered to be one of his best pieces. It began as a piece for piano and bassoon, but from the beginning he had plans to orchestrate it. It now works very well in both the piano and orchestral versions, has been reviewed by several bassoonists, and is a favorite among those who listen to Caleb’s work.

Score information

This bassoon concerto was heavily influenced by two primary sources. Very few people know it, but John Williams writes fantastic music outside of the film industry. His bassoon concerto (Five Sacred Trees) is all that Caleb listened to while working on this. The other source is actually from literature. Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French philosopher and mathematician, wrote a passionate argument against apathy for eternal matters; a philosophical discourse entitled “Against Indifference.” Below is the title of each movement and a summary of the argument Pascal was making (the last one is a paraphrase):

Movement I, To the Apathetic

“But as for those who spend their lives without a thought for this final end of life and who, solely because they do not find within themselves the light of conviction, neglect to look elsewhere, and to examine thoroughly whether this opinion is one of those which people accept out of credulous simplicity or one of those which, though obscure in themselves, none the less have a most solid and unshakable foundation: as for them, I view them very differently.”


Movement II, A Lament for Doubt

“I can feel nothing but compassion for those who sincerely lament their doubt, who regard it as the ultimate misfortune, and who, sparing no effort to escape from it, make their search their principal and most serious business.”


Movement III, Search and Fruition

To live a life within the context of eternal existence gives us joy beyond our understanding. Seek this truth, and it will reveal itself to you.


I’ve learned to never force music into the box I originally intended it to be put into, but this violin and clarinet duet took that concept to a new level for me. My original plan was to write a sacred work for violin and saxophone for my friend and I to play during communion services. Typically, communion has two musical segments; one for each communion element. So, I wanted the work to be two movements with each being less than two minutes long. The first movement came together very naturally and very quickly, but then life happened and I never got around to writing the second movement. When I finally got a chance to work on it again, I realized that there was no good musical reason to add a second movement. I also realized that the only reas on I was using the saxophone was because I sound my best on it. Clarinet blends with violin much more naturally (although I attribute this partly to traditional bias) and the very simple part I had written for it makes more sense with a simpler sound. I rewrote the piece for violin and clarinet thinking I would just have my wife play it instead; She and my friend have performed it several times.

So, I started with a two movement work for violin and saxophone to be used for communion and ended up with a one movement work for violin and clarinet to be used for who knows what.

Download sheet music

What Wondrous Love Is This?

This arrangement of What Wondrous Love Is This? for solo saxophone opens with a clear and unembellished statement of the melody. This is then followed by a short theme which I’ve designed to represent the overwhelming joy that Christians have in response to the wondrous love being depicted in the text. This theme is reiterated after every statement of the melodic material, and the arrangement culminates with the full version of the theme as high in pitch and volume as the saxophone is comfortably capable. The arrangement ends with another simple statement of the melody but with a repetitive and embellished ending that focuses on the text, “And through eternity, I’ll sing on.”

Download sheet music

Text to What Wondrous Love Is This

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,

When I was sinking down, sinking down,

When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,

Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,

Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.

To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;

While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;

While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;

And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;

And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Caleb’s opening melody was directly inspired by the original melody. The delicate line contrasts nicely with the powerful tune and accompanies some of the more abstract pictures of Christ’s power. Specifically, “Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball.” Keep in mind that the entire arrangement is to function as a single unit and let all the music and poetry mix together in your head. The bottom line is that Christ is powerful, holy, and Lord.

Download score

Below is the part of the text which inspired the arrangement:

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

O that, with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all,
Join in the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!

What Child is This?

This arrangement of “What Child is This?” for solo saxophone was created with the text from the hymn very much in mind. This is the title “What Child is This?” was chosen instead of “Greensleeves.” You will notice that the middle section of the arrangement isn’t the cheery sound you generally think of when you hear this tune. However, it is also far from without hope. On the contrary, Christ coming into our world in the way he did brought hope to all of humanity. This came at a costly price, and we are eternally grateful for the gift of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it amazing that God loved us so much that he came into our world in such a humiliating way so that we could live with him and be forever reconciled?

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What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

This arrangement of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was written for my saxophone playing friend, another Caleb, and me to play are our church’s christmas eve service in 2012. But besides simply wanting to write pleasant Christmas music to get into the season, I’d also been wanting to experiment with playing a saxophone through a delay effect. This means that whatever is played gets played back which enables a musician to play a saxophone duet with him/herself. At first I wanted to keep this strict and only write notes that could actually be performed by a single instrumentalist with a computer. However, the duet benefitted greatly from having moments of unisons and harmonies to give the listener a break from the constant chasing effect that results from a duet like this. So while it is still written with this delay idea in mind, this arrangement of “O Come Emmanuel” has ended up being a fairly traditional and yet a very unique twist on this ageless Christmas carol.

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Below are two verses from “O come Emmanuel” on which the music is focused:

“O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Jesus Loves the Aborted Children

This piece is what it is. I (Caleb) don’t like this piece, but my conscience won’t let me take it down.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

I’m continually drawn to the electronic version of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” arranged by Caleb Hugo. I don’t tend to listen to electronic music in general, but I can’t seem to get over this song. What is it that draws me in? Well, for one, this setting of the hymn is a totally new composition. Don’t get me wrong, I like the original hymn tune, but this new setting seems to have been carefully crafted to highlight the text of the hymn. In addition, it employs beautiful, rich harmonies and a counter melody that increase the interest level beyond just the cool melody. These elements all make me like the song. In fact, I think all of these factors would lead me to say it’s a good song that I like a lot. But that’s not what keeps me coming back to it.

Do you know how sometimes you hear a song and you can tell where it’s going to end? I always think that will happen with this song, but it never ends where I expect it to. Instead, it keeps going a little bit longer, just until I’m not ready for it to end anymore. Then, when I think “oh, it’s not ending yet,” it does, and leaves “Lord let me never, never, never outlive my love for thee” reverberating symbolically in my ears.


Psalm 51

This alto saxophone solo is a musical depiction of Psalm 51; a biblical text describing David’s sorrow over his sin. Using a concert A drone (from any source you want) to create harmonic tension and release throughout the solo, the music follows the same emotional path that the psalm does. It begins in lament and brokenness and slowly moves towards repentance, and restoration.

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Below is the text off of which this alto saxophone solo is based:

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
   and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
   you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion,
   to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
   in burnt offerings offered whole;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.

-Psalm 51 (NIV)


This saxophone concerto features a very difficult solo part, utilizing the alto saxophone’s countless timbres, agility, and altissimo register. The performer must have a particularly acute sense of rhythmic precision and strong upper range; the soloist must be an extremely accomplished musician. There are also special effects that are particular to the woodwind family including multi-phonics, growling, pitch bends, portamenti, and quarter tone trills.

Score information

If the performer has a dark sound the soloist may be overpowered, particularly in the second movement. This can compensated for by using a brighter timbre during these densely scored sections, performing in a brighter hall, telling the wind band to switch to one on a part, or by artificial amplification. Be sure to consult a sound engineer on how to amplify the soloist if you choose this solution.

The title of this saxophone concerto has two meanings. In one sense it is the representation of life in general going through change. In order to settle upon a contented state, one must not fight the changes they go through in life but rather change their attitude towards their new surroundings. It is not our circumstances that make us happy, but our attitude towards our surroundings that governs how we feel. After all, a person can have everything in the world going their way and still be unhappy. I have attempted to capture this concept with this work. My suggestion to see this in the music is to think of the saxophone as a person seeking contentment and the band as the person’s environment (I hope you now see why I have chosen to not thin the orchestration).

On the other hand, this saxophone concerto is a perfect representation of how I have viewed life throughout the year of June 2007 through June 2008. I listen to this work and remember days and times that I assign to certain sections of the piece, some of which are documented in my journal. I will obviously not go into depth about this, but I will leave this by saying that I learned a lot that year.

In a sense you can say that this saxophone concerto is about growing up; the attitudes of a person before they start to mature, the pain that is required to mature, and then finally looking at the world through eyes that are seeking deeper understanding. In any case, the work represents a person painfully transitioning into a new and better outlook on life.

Caleb Hugo’s various styles of musical composition can be split up into hymn arrangements, original instrumental compositions, and electronic songs. His hymn arrangements blend his unique musical style with traditional music to make a palatable blend of beautiful sounds. The instrumental works are everything from concertos to solos; a small voice in the world of contemporary art music with an emphasis on the saxophone. Caleb’s second instrument being the drum set, his electronic works live on the edge between art music and pop music; everything from symphonies to dub step.

Hymn Arrangments

The first six hymn arrangements are instrumental solos and duets. While sheet music is available for all of them, these are also great to just listen to. Proclamation is an arrangement of Amazing Grace for violin and clarinet. What Wondrous Love Is This?What Child is This? (Greensleeves), and All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name are solos for alto saxophone. O Come, O Come Emmanuel is an alto saxophone duet. Jesus Loves the Aborted Children is a saxophone and piano duet based on Jesus Loves the Little Children. The last song is an electronic work using the text to O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.




From unaccompanied solos to a concerto, any saxophone lover will find something they like here. His primary instrument being the saxophone, Caleb Hugo’s writing is tailored very specifically for the instrument. Salient characteristics from the saxophone’s stereotypical sound will be noticed throughout each song without being cliché.

If you are interested in playing one of these compositions, check out the sheet music section. These elegantly written and idiomatic passages will be just as enjoyable to learn and play as they are to listen to.

Caleb performed and recorded all of these tracks. More of his playing can be found in some of the other listening sections (with other instruments).

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