When Sweden’s national radio station Sveriges radio commissioned them to write and produce an original radio musical. Sparks created, “The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman,” a musical fantasy based on the internationally acclaimed film director Ingmar Bergman. Here is the full album with individual track reviews below.
1956 Cannes Film Festival
A quiet piano tinkle introduces the album, then a burst into a galloping beat and thrilling groove as a presenter announces the winner of the 1956 Cannes film festival Best Poetic Humour Award in three languages. And the winner is… Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night! Great anticipation built up here.
I Am Ingmar Bergman
Swish orchestral backing to the Ingmar Bergman character basically introducing himself and the premise for this whole show, namely, the strange events following the reception to his comedy film. He explains how comedy is not his usual forté and recalls an incident when he “felt compelled” to watch a hated escapist American action movie in Stockholm. As he leaves the cinema, he is somehow in Hollywood and is whisked away by a Limo driver.
Limo Driver (Welcome To Hollywood)
Perky piano and gently trotting beat backs the flatly operatic limo driver as he croons to an angry Ingmar Bergman demanding to know where he is being taken. The driver continues with banalities as Bergman gets ever more exasperated. Hilarious sign off from the driver: “I love your films, they have a foreign flair.”
Here He Is Now
Ah, here’s Russell as the studio chief in a string and woodwind little ditty. Basically just easing the imminent entrance of the director and instructing someone (or himself) into trying to make Bergman feel at ease: “Joke that he needs a tan.”
“Mr Bergman, How Are You?”
Russell continues in his role as studio chief, Gerald Geoffrey Weiss in this welcoming address. Also present are a Mr Brown, Mr Clay and Mrs Down. A guitar led repetitive melody, it sticks consistently to the tune, with a little marching aside. In a fabulous call and response, the assistant, Svensson, translates the chief’s lines into Swedish
“He’ll Come ’round”
Weiss reflects, after Bergman leaves the meeting. Nice, simple melody over brooding, if slightly sinister strings and barely touched piano keys. Kind of chilling.
En Route To The Beverly Hills Hotel
Upbeat. At least, for the Limo driver’s part. It’s funny when his spoken part suddenly breaks into a song of sorts with just the one note uprising at the end of his lines. Bergman’s part remains spoken. His ruminations are succinct and to the point: “Hollywood movie music is an abomination.”
Hollywood Welcoming Committee
‘Blatant attempt’ by the committee to get Bergman to stay, as his seduction gets under way. Classy melody following the orchestral plinky plonky music.
“I’ve Got To Contact Sweden”
Bergman tries desperately, but in vain, to contact his home land. As he attempts to get through, the receptionist/telephonist says, “Sweden. Sweden? How are you spelling that? We have a Spain and a Tasmania. No Sweden.” All set against a tense musical backdrop.
The Studio Commissary
Fantastic and a little scary at the ‘hahaha’s. This bouncy little twenties flapper style number runs through a list of film directors who made it in Hollywood despite their misgivings: “Their vision made it here unscathed, none felt a whore, none felt he caved.” The seduction continues with a lavish meal. “Bon Apetit.”
“I Must Not Be Hasty”
Spoken by Bergman over simple piano and strings as he contemplates his response to Hollywood. “My first inclination is to tell them they don’t deserve an artist of my stature, but I must not be hasty.”
“Quiet On The Set”
Jaunty brass accompaniment, as Bergman imagines a scenario whilst shooting a Hollywood film, dreading being misunderstood by all around him. “Let me explain what I’m trying to achieve and see if you can understand.”
“Why Do You Take That Tone With Me?”
Angry Hollywood starlet, aggrieved at Bergman’s attitude, vents her ire in a very snappy operatic style with cutting piano, strings and timpani. She’s having none of his “arthouse resumé” tantrums.
Pleasant Hotel Staff
Shrill phone tone and call as hotel operator rings up Bergman, politely, followed by layered voices representing the concierge making small talk with him.
Hollywood Tour Bus
And now a Hollywood tour bus follows Ingmar as he strolls along, aware of its annoying presence. The tour bus guide, in a sing song fashion, gives a running commentary about Bergman’s reasons for being there, including, “We can only hope that the sun doesn’t burn the trademark Scandinavian gloom out of his outlook,” and urges the passengers to wave at “the great director.”
A thumping ‘Flash! Ah Ah!’ like undercurrent runs through this claustrophobic number as ‘fans’ such as Gerry and Woody hound Bergman for his autograph. The tension increases until the rhythmically perfect “I’ve got to get back to my hotel room” section heralds in an electronic shuffle to further torment the director.
Bergman Ponders Escape
Ingmar’s breathy dialogue in a poetic metre over three note intervals in an atmospheric synthetic shivering woodwind cum glockenspiel type arrangement as he tries to figure a way out of this peculiar situation: “I don’t even know what escape means when the place you are escaping from is more of an idea than a physical location.”
“We’ve Got To Turn Him ’round”
Very film noir type trumpet start leading into lavish piano, acoustic guitar and strings for a ‘proper’ song with verses and melody as the studio chief veers from trying to win over Bergman to being dismissive of his cheek: “He really has some gall to turn us down at all. Is anyone that great?”
Escape (Part 1)
Bergman attempts escape accompanied by plucked strings and brass. The noise and instrumentation builds dramatically as the police get involved: “Grab him you’ll get extra pay, today.” Then, after increasingly panicked “They’re after me!” gasps, Bergman sings his part for the first time before fleeing faster.
Escape (Part 2)
The chase is on as the plot gets more bizarre. “This place is death to me” chants Bergman, as helicopters whirl and dogs, rockets – everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in to the mix. “I am now an actor in a bad big budget Hollywood action film,” he decides. “A little afternoon gore” is contemplated by both the police and the studio chief. Nuts.
“Oh My God”
Sounds of the shore as Bergman reaches the Pacific Ocean. Ingmar in full voice now, backed by marching orchestra, as, in desperation and disbelief he finds himself questioning the existence of God and pleading for an angel to “lead me from this barren land.” Crikey.
Angelic harp plucking, as Ingmar’s prayers are answered and Greta Garbo appears to turn him round (as the studio chief failed to do earlier). The music wells up as she reminds him: “you’d be lost without me” and recalls the film ‘The Story of Gosta Berling’ which “transformed” her career and which she now takes him to see at a “small movie theatre” nearby.
Almost A Hollywood Ending
The visit to the theatre does indeed turn everything around as, after viewing ‘The Story of Gosta Berling’ with Garbo, the two of them alone, he emerges into the street. In Sweden!
Brilliant grand finale with a Cossack feel to it, incorporating massed call and response of lines, and chants of “Bergman!” “The seduction failed” and the happy Swedish people are so ecstatic to have him back: “Without the depth that Bergman brought, our lives were just an afterthought.” What an absolutely astonishing album and concept. High drama, laughs and incredible music. Bravo all involved!
Couple of sparky little theme tunes, used as intros to KCRW’s Bookworm show. Top rhyming of ‘Gutenberg’ with ‘absurd’ in the first one. The second one is almost Lil Beethoven worthy with a great refrain of “Read this/read that”