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Carin Gunhild Malmlöf-Forssling


Composer, musician, music teacher

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling was a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic art music.

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling, known to her intimates as Caj, was born in Gävle on 6 March 1916. Her parents were Elin Malmlöf, née Olsson and Knut Malmlöf, a city accountant. At the age of only four, Carin Malmlöf-Forssling started “making things up” at the piano, and as a teenager, some of her pieces for choir were performed. To become a composer seemed the natural choice for her. In 1937, Carin Malmlöf-Forssling started to study the organ and choral conducting in Uppsala, and the same year, her Ceremonial prelude for organ was published by an American publishing company. She then studied counterpoint at the music academy in Stockholm: Kungliga Musikhögskolan (1938–1940) and also composition (1941–1943) for H.M. Melchers. The piano pedagogue Gottfrid Boon also made a great impression on her musical creativity and experimentation with sounds. These studies were crowned by her qualifying as a music director in 1942.

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling married Stig Forssling in 1943, and in 1952 they moved to Falun on account of her husband’s appointment as city physician. Life as a doctor’s wife was a full time job in itself, as many who knew her have witnessed. In her own words, the role at that time was “burdened with hard social demands”. However, she still found time for her composing, for working as a piano teacher at the municipal music school in Falun, for sitting on the board of the Chamber music society in Falun and several other assignments. That Carin Malmlöf-Forssling shared her time between composing and other occupations, as well as the fact that she worked outside Stockholm with all its institutions, may have contributed to her breakthrough happening somewhat later in her life than in that of her contemporary colleagues.

In 1957, Carin Malmlöf-Forssling sought out the world-famous teacher, composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger in Paris, where she had taught most of the well-known composers of the 1900s with their own distinctive voices. Her stay in Paris was not long, but it gave Carin Malmlöf-Forssling the lift in self-confidence that she needed to assert herself in Swedish art music circles, as well as a door-opening letter of recommendation.

Around 1966, Carin Malmlöf-Forssling was being considered for membership of the Swedish composers’ association Föreningen svenska tonsättare (FST) and in December 1970, she was formally elected a member. At that point in time, she was the only woman member of FST and the association had not had a single woman member since Sara Wennerberg-Reuter’s death in 1959. Carin Malmlöf-Forssling was always very proud of her pioneer contribution for women who composed, but was very careful not to be assessed on the basis of her gender, and she opposed the seclusion of women’s creativity in a “reservation”.

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling’s music has its own strong aesthetic expressivity at the same time as she was not afraid to develop her style and her means of expression continually during her career. Exploration may be seen as a key word in both her life in general and in how she worked with individual instruments, even individual sounds, in her music. She was a modernist but never lost touch with the power of melody. She used both traditional and experimental, graphic, notation. Her inspiration came often from poetry and she has set texts to music written by among others Harry Martinson and Werner Aspenström. She also set her own texts, not least.

Interestingly enough, Carin Malmlöf-Forssling did not only compose acoustic art music but also electro-acoustic music, and was therefore very broad stylistically. Her electro-acoustic music was composed in close collaboration with the composer Miklós Maros, among others the work En värld i världen based on sounds recorded in the Falun copper mine. Apart from its artistic merits, the work must also be considered as a contribution to musical archaeology since it has preserved sounds from the mine that had been heard for over one thousand years before it was closed. Nowadays, this type of musical documentation in common, but Carin Malmlöf-Forssling’s work in the Falun copper mine was well before its time.

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling was also inspired by eastern philosophy and cultural expressions, which resulted in among others the works Shanti, Shanti in 1990 for orchestra and soprano, Ahimsa in 1992, a work commissioned by the Swedish radio for choir in eight parts, as well as Japanese Haiku. Carin Malmlöf-Forssling’s works were performed at for example the festivals Nordic Music Days in Reykjavik in 1976, Svensk musikvår in 1976, 1982 and 1987 and at the New Sweden festival in Minneapolis, USA, in 1988. At the last-named, her orchestral work Flowings from 1984 featured on the same programme as the iconic Swedish composers Franz Berwald and Wilhelm Stenhammar with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Neeme Järvi. According to himself, he was very fond of Carin Malmlöf-Forssling’s work and also recorded it with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1986 (came out in 1997). Flowings was her breakthrough, and it was often performed. The same was the case with Orizzonte for solo horn in 1981, launched by Ib Lanzky-Otto in whose repertoire it was, and recorded in 1984. In the autumn of 1986 and summer of 1987, Rikskonserter toured Sweden with Carin Malmlöf-Forssling’s music.

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling was the Falun municipal culture prize-winner in 1973, was awarded the extremely prestigious composition medal Medaljen för tonkonstens främjande in 1987, was elected composer of the year at the music festival Musik vid Siljan in 1987 and was awarded the Atterberg prize in 1988. In connection with her 80th birthday in 1996, FST arranged a celebratory concert at Kulturhuset in Stockholm to show her production. Performers included among others Allmänna Sången led by Cecilia Rydinger Alin and Dalarnas Kammarorkester led by Karl-Ove Mannberg.

In 2002, Carin Malmlöf-Forssling instituted a prize in her own name “for the benefit of Swedish art music”. It is currently administered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, that awards a considerable sum of money each year to a composer under the age of fifty.

Carin Malmlöf-Forssling died in 2005. She is buried in Skogskyrkogården (the Forest Cemetery) in Falun.

Magdalena Fronczak
(Translated by Margaret Myers)

Published 2020-12-15

You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Carin Gunhild Malmlöf-Forssling,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Magdalena Fronczak), retrieved 2024-05-30.

Other Names

    Maiden name: Malmlöf
    Nickname: Caj

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Elin Lovisa Malmlöf, född Olsson
  • Father: Knut Erik Malmlöf
  • Sister: Astrid Maria Mathilda Malmlöf
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  • Universitet, Uppsala: Organist- och kördirigeringsexamen, Uppsala universitet
  • Yrkesutbildning, Stockholm: Kontrapunkt och komposition, musikdirektörsexamen 1942, Kungliga Musikhögskolan
  • Yrkesutbildning, Paris, Frankrike: Kompositionsstudier för Nadia Boulanger


  • Profession: Kompositör
  • Profession: Musikpedagog, Kommunala musikskolan 1952–?, gymnasieskola 1972–1981


  • Mentor: Gottfrid Boon
  • Mentor: H.M. Melchers
  • Mentor: Nadia Boulanger
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  • Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare
  • Zonta International
  • Kammarmusikföreningen i Falun
    Styrelseledamot 1963–1981, programsekreterare 1965–1967, vice ordförande 1971–1981
  • Carin Malmlöf-Forsslings Stiftelse till fromma för det svenska konstmusiklivet


  • Birthplace: Gävle
  • Gävle
  • Avesta
more ...



Unpublished source
  • Biografiska uppgifter kompletterade av Anderz Hellgren

  • Samtal med vänner och kollegor

  • Karlsson, Seth, 'Musiksverige hyllar Carin Malmlöf-Forssling', Falu-Kuriren, 1996-03-05

Further References

  • Egnell, Helene, 'Carin Malmlöf-Forssling: "Verket lever först när någon lyssnar"', Musiklivet: vår sång, 1982:3, s. 8-9