The title comes from a 1969 essay by Giorgio de Santillana that revisits the Norse myth of Hamlet, starting with the “Gesta Danorum” of Saxo Grammaticus (1150-1216 ca.).
Saxo Grammaticus’s Hamlet is an intense character, deeply present in our consciousness, whose ambiguities and hesitations, troubled introspection and intellectual penetration, predict and confirm the present existential condition.
Hamlet has to be a hero and yet must subtract himself from the evidence of his heroism; he has to remain above the conflict of motives through the exercise of his consciousness. According to Santillana, this first unhappy intellectual hides his complex past life as a legendary being equipped with traits set by ancient myths. The Hamlet of Norse legends exhibits the same characteristics of melancholy and extremely sharp intelligence as the Shakespearian character. A son dedicated to avenging his father’s death, he is an enigmatic truth-teller, an elusive messenger of fate who must vanish after his mission is accomplished.
In Norse mythology, Hamlet possesses a fabulous mill that, in the old days, would bring forth much peace and prosperity. Later on, during decadence, it took to grinding salt. Fallen to the bottom of the sea, it now grinds rocks and sand, creating a large vortex identified with the “Maelstrom, the current that grinds”.
In the drammaturgia, the Hamlet-Bass tells and observes, narrates and sings this material following a cataclysmic path, slowly turning into Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and then the present Hamlet. Starting from an ecstatic, hieratic, meditative state of calm and progressively dragging himself to a dramatic epilogue, he speaks with the soprano—his sister, friend, lover who, like his vocal shadow, can listen but not follow him. The viola and the cello follow and support Hamlet’s meditations, his anger, his revenge, his solitude, and his melancholy at the same time as enacting a sound representation of underwater grinding. The grinding continually absorbs concrete sound material coming also from the voices, and turns it into regenerating dust: an acoustic continuum, modulated by contractions and waits.