Three Cities, Seven Cacti

by Emma Hospelhorn

You know where the best place to hear Helmut Lachenmann’s Guero is?

From the stage.

I know – impractical! But honestly, if you get the opportunity, it’s incredible. And I got to experience it three times this week, as Mabel Kwan performed Guero immediately after Carola Bauckholt’s intensely rewarding Zopf for flute, oboe, and clarinet – in Chicago, Boston, and New York. Our decision to perform the two pieces in sequence, with all performers on stage, was the culmination of a week’s worth of practicing, rehearsing, refining, and thinking about the way these pieces interconnect. I hope it worked for the audience; I know that it worked for me.

What’s it like touring with Dal Niente, you ask? Well, it’s indescribable. Please hold while I try to describe it.

Some Things That Happened on Dal Niente’s Neue Musik Tour


Rehearsal, Chicago, IL

We’ve just finished rehearsing the extended bass flute/ percussion duet in Enno Poppe’s Salz. “Now there’s a sound with a 50 inch waist,” someone says.


Constellation, Chicago, IL

8:30pm: The band is hanging out backstage. It’s showtime, but apparently we can’t go on yet, because there are too many people and there’s a line backed up past the door and they have to put out more seats. SUCCESS! 

8:45pm: At the end of Zopf, the instructions state that the oboist should turn a squeaky crank and the flutist should make noises with an empty cassette case for an indeterminate length of time. In rehearsal, Andy and I have been staring into each other’s eyes while we do this, and the mood has been intense. It’s intense now, but I’m losing control of my facial muscles. I can feel them curling. I don’t want to give in to the smile. The smile has a mind of its own. I’m smiling. I’m smiling at my colleague and he is turning a crank and I am scratching a cassette case and I’m smiling and the audience is staring and you can hear everything because it’s so quiet and I am so focused and I see his eyes widen, his chin rising, the barest hint of a cue, and we freeze. The piece is over. From somewhere behind me, I hear a delicate rustling as Mabel, who has been sitting at the piano this whole time, begins the Lachenmann.


Midway Airport, Chicago, IL

6:15am: apparently our flight is delayed till 8:30.

8:30am: apparently our flight is delayed till 10am.

10:30am: oh, it’s because of the fog. I look out the window. Yep, fog.

11:30am: hey, we’re boarding! And they said it couldn’t be done.

4-ish pm: We arrive at our hotel. It’s a well-known chain, so I think I know what to expect. I am wrong. There is a giant atrium with streetlights and trees inside, leading to a raised area with a giant chessboard on it, which leads up to a pool. It kind of feels like a couple of small ghost children might appear and ask us to come out and play.


Busted trying to hang out in the hot tub past closing time, after a full day of composer workshops and readings at Boston University. NO REGRETS.


Tsai Performance Center, Boston. My aunt and uncle are here. They take a picture of me setting up chairs a half an hour before the concert begins.  I am a professional musician.

I can hear things in Mark Andre’s “...zu staub...” that I never noticed before – even as I am playing. I think I am falling in love with this piece.


NYC. Permutations.

Goddammit Andy don’t make me laugh

Lachenmann: I am spellbound. There is a strange ticking sound that I can’t place – is it part of the piece? What is happening?

Andre: I knew this piece was good. But I think tonight it is transcendent.

adieu m’amour (hommage à Guillaume Dufay) * I am spellbound again. That ticking’s back. What IS it? Oh. Andy’s watch.

Poppe. POPPE!!!!!!



*My sister thinks that the Spahlinger sounded like “a wistful cowboy ghost.” I think that my sister should be a professional music critic.

 **We make it to McGillicuddy’s for the After-Party.  I’m pretty sure it’s not called McGillicuddy’s. Our conductor takes a picture of the Manhattan he ordered. When I look at him, he says “What? It’s a Manhattan in Manhattan.”