Jacob Mühlrad. Photo: Beatrice Lundborg
Jacob Mühlrad. Photo: Beatrice Lundborg

Jacob Mühlrad

Rituals and ceremonies permeate the tone language of Jacob Mühlrad, who thanks to his persistence, obvious talent, and the burning love for music, in an astonishingly short time, has established himself as one of his generation’s most exciting composer.

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Rituals and ceremonies permeate the tone language of Jacob Mühlrad. Often unheard, as in the chamber work, Silent Prayer, for solo bassoon and string trio, which was premiered at Berwaldhallen in Stockholm. Or, as the notion of life’s ultimate metamorphosis, portrayed in the orchestral work, On the Verge of Eternity. But usually sung, as in the many successful works that Jacob Mühlrad has been commissioned to compose for Swedish elite choirs, forefronted by the Swedish Radio Choir.

Jacob Mühlrad studied composition at the Royal ollege of Music in Stockholm after preparatory studies at Gotland School of Music Composition and piano studies at the Royal College of Music in London. Given his severe dyslexia – a genuine disability in handling notation that Jacob Mühlrad managed to overcome – his many years of study meant a great risk. This exclusion in terms of the craftsmanship has broadened the perspectives of the composer’s role and mission. While the established world of art music is lining up for his compositions, Jacob has also turned to venues and partners other than the typical ones.

   Included in his cross-boundary collaborations is that with Grammy Award-winning rap artist, Silvana Imam. Jacob Mühlrad composes the symphonic material that Imam introduces during her tour with classical orchestras. Rap and hip hop music fascinate Jacob with its rhythmic development, in which he finds connections to Bach.

Ideologically and culturally, Jacob is a true ecumenist, although his main source of inspiration remains the Jewish prayer. The religious infatuation of childhood has been consolidated into a rock-solid belief in the existential essence and value of music, regardless of creed.

   Jacob Mühlrad professes no faith in the so-called absolute music. If he studies micro intervals, it’s rather to achieve a popular, perhaps religiously coloured expression. The intrinsic value of oral tradition fascinates him. Jacob strives to implement ritual and ceremonial processes in a musical context. The result is music with great meditative suggestion, yet free from repetition.
   “Like something abstract that has been concretised over time. Like pixels at close range, emerging in images when you take a step back.” Jacob’s compositions include music that has been performed at the National Portrait Gallery in London. 

   In the orchestral work, On the Verge of Eternity, Jacob Mühlrad seeks to imagine the outermost edge where life turns into eternity. He experiments with friction between two tones and the musical material is drawn from the Jewish Torah Lecture’s so-called trope symbols: small melodic cells that indicate key words and symbols. A ritual grammar that gives the music form.

The often harsh demand for form and structure of modernist and postmodern music is foreign to him. He is, however, completely at home with the twenty-first century’s confession to sound and timbral imagination as music’s leading parameter.

   Jacob Mühlrad’s steeply rising path, beyond the trodden road of art music, began with playful piano improvisations in his teens. Thanks to his persistence, obvious talent, and the burning love for music that has taken over boyhood’s devout religiosity, he has, in an astonishingly short time, established himself as one of his generation’s most exciting composer.
His, now frequently sung, Anim zemirot from 2013, marked an important breakthrough. The Swedish Radio Choir premiered his great choral work, Nigun, and has commissioned further works, as has St. Jacob’s Chamber Choir. “2018 will be my choral year. 2019 will be an orchestral year.” Included in the plans for that year is a violin concerto for soloist Christian Svarfvar.  

 Camilla Lundberg (2016)