Born in Bosjökloster, he was an organist, concert pianist and music teacher until 1915, when he began studying at the Stockholm Conservatory under Ernst Ellberg. His teachers also included Richard Andersson and Wilhelm Stenhammar. After the First World War, he toured Europe and became a prominent conductor.
In 1932 he was appointed musical director of the Swedish Royal Opera. He is best known for his 14 string quartets (1920–1972) and eight symphonies (1917–1974, including his symphony no. 2 Grave, symphony no. 4 Johannes Uppenbarelse, fifth symphony Örtagårdsmästaren and sixth Sinfonia Semplice). He taught composition privately to amongst others Karl-Birger Blomdahl, Ingvar Lidholm, Åke Hermanson and Daniel Börtz.