Believe it or not, the “anchor gig” of this European Odyssey tour was in Nunspeet, a town of 25,000 located in the Dutch national forest.
This gig for the 2019 Orality and Literacy conference in Austin got me in front of an international audience that included a Dutch classicist who recommended me for the OIKOS seminar, an annual conference of graduate students held in Nunspeet. Once I had that gig, I started to build the others for my (eventually canceled due to covid) fall 2020 European tour.
Just like with the Athens performance, the organizers were kind enough to reschedule last year’s show and the conditions allowed the conference to go forward in person.
I was feeling my three hours of sleep as I dragged my luggage and guitar through the Amsterdam airport to the train.
The Dutch train system is amazing and I was soon at my hotel about an hour away from Amsterdam. The conference didn’t start until the next day (Friday) so I had an evening to take a jog, explore the beautiful wooded area, and get some dinner.
Friday morning the conference attendees arrived and the program began: three lectures by professors, dinner, then my performance.
The lectures were all excellent. One was on comparisons between Sumerian and Homeric epic, another on aspects of style in historical accounts of war and battle. The students were smart and the discussions were great. I could tell my show was going to be a good way to end the day.
After the formal nature of the Athens show, the Netherlands performance was modest and intimate: the 30 or so attendees gathered in a semi-circle around me in the conference room. I love performing that way: personal, direct, un-mediated by a microphone or an elevated stage and really much closer to a bardic performance in essence.
A fantastic discussion and we were on to the end of day reception which was an absolute blast, full of more conversation around my performance and much more.
On Saturday morning, I hustled through the brisk fall air to a covid testing site about a mile away to take a rapid test for my flight to Rome on Sunday.
By the time I got back to the hotel, I had a negative test result in my email and the rest of the conference (two more great speakers and then lunch) flew by.
After hitching a ride with one of the professors part of the way to Amsterdam, I hopped on another efficient train and found my hotel right next to Amstel Park, through which I took a wonderful late afternoon run.
Placed between Greece and Italy, the Netherlands couldn’t help but seem inferior in the culinary department (really, what country wouldn’t compared to those two) but I found an excellent dinner in my hotel of cheeses, meats, and pickled things.
As I tried to catch up on sleep for my flight to Italy in the morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the presentation I’d seen on the Epic of Gilgamesh and how that story appears to have been fixed in text AND also continued changing through oral performance, which isn’t a scenario you often hear from Homerists. I like how this mirrors my experience performing: the text has been “fixed” for almost 20 years but I innovate in ways small and big every time I sing.
I was also thinking about the word OIKOS, which means “home” in Greek (and from which we get most words that contain ECO-)… how appropriate a word to serve as the genesis of a journey to perform a song about a journey home.
And in the morning it was time to roam to Rome…