Mats Bergström

Uppsala, Sweden

In Sea


Behind the Music

Over the years, I’ve taken part in many recordings of music for film, but I’ve never served as the composer for a project as unique as The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. The recording process mirrored that of making a movie soundtrack. For the first movement, I wanted to create something lively that would reflect the energy of winds and waves at sea. I tried to use an intricate, albeit simple, rhythmic pattern that mimics the irregular and also precise way waves hit the shore. With the second track, “Sargasso Sea,” I wanted to illustrate an image of the world beneath the ocean surface. Ian’s extensive audio library was incredibly helpful here as I tried to evoke the sensation of being underwater in my music — where movements are slowed, similar to reducing the speed of an analogue recording.

Living close to The Baltic Sea, a prime example of an ecosystem that has been ravaged by pollution and overfishing, I have always been aware of the environmental problems plaguing the oceans, and the role human interest plays in that. What I did not know, and what Ian’s book revealed to me, was the appalling situation encountered by many individuals while working in international waters. It was shocking to realize such inhumanity occurs with impunity, but something I’m glad to now know through Ian’s extensive reporting.

Mats Bergström
About Mats Bergström

Mats Bergström is a highly successful soloist, chamber player, accompanist and arranger, and in most of these roles he has struck out rather imaginative paths. In the chamber realm he has played in duos, trios, and larger ensembles, and in such unusual combinations as vocalist, double bass, and guitar. He has done much accompaniment. As an arranger he has, through Mats Bergström Performance Editions, fashioned numerous renditions for guitar and other instruments of numerous works. 

Mats Bergström was born in Gävle, Sweden, in 1961. Raised in Stockholm, he studied music at the Royal College of Music, graduating in 1982. He debuted at London's Wigmore Hall in 1983 and, while he experienced reasonable success afterward, he decided on further study. From 1990-1992, Bergström completed post-graduate studies at Juilliard. 

His 1995 Areco Music CD, “With a Little Help,” was a crossover effort that was in the spirit of chamber collaboration. By the turn of the new century, Bergström was a major international presence, with many successful recordings and a busy concert schedule. His concert appearances with mezzo Malena Ernman resulted in their first CD, “My Love,” issued in 2004 on the BIS label.

In 2006, Bergström was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He remained busy making numerous arrangements of instrumental and vocal pieces from the classical repertory. Bergström recorded a disc of his arrangements of Schubert sonatas for the Proprius label in 2010 that featured Nils-Erik Sparf and other artists.

The Journalism behind the Music

All music in this project is based on The Outlaw Ocean, a New York Times Best-Selling book by Ian Urbina that chronicles lawlessness at sea around the world. This reporting touches on a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal and overfishing, arms trafficking at sea, human slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, murder of stowaways, thievery of ships and other topics.

Learn More