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Kronos Quartet Performs ‘Tusen Tankar’ by Swedish Folk Ensemble Triakel

Last week, I attended my first Kronos Quartet concert with special guest, Rahman Asadollahi, the Azeri accordion wizard. To tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of minimalist music. Asadollahi’s music was the star of this show as far as I’m concerned. But there was a single piece Kronos performed which was absolutely gorgeous: Tusen Tankar (hear it) by the Swedish folk ensemble Triakel.

There is a certain profundity and grandeur to the finest Scandanavian folk music and Tusen Tankar illustrates this quality perfectly. It is a deeply moving song. Despite the sad and even maudlin lyrics, the melody carries tremendous hope and optimism about the human condition. While Triakel’s original version is lovely (this live video performance only adds to that loveliness), Kronos’ version conveyed a deeply poetic intensity and immediacy that kept mounting with each repetition of the hypnotic musical phrases. Kronos took the music to a very deep, spiritual place.

triakelTriakel: Emma Härdelin (vocals), Kjell-Erik Eriksson (fiddle) and Janne Strömstedt (harmonium)

Unfortunately, Kronos appears to have started performing this song fairly recently and I haven’t found a recorded version. But if someone reading this knows of one, by all means please let me know.

Tusen Tankar (“A Thousand Thoughts”)

A thousand thoughts oppress me
for love of one who can’t be mine.
As through the world I ramble,
all I can do is pine.
All I can feel is the pain I bear
and it’s all for you, my dear.
Mankind’s false heart betrayed me
and left me in despair.

If I had never seen you,
Your hands, your face, your clear blue eyes,
If I had never been there
The first time you walked by,
I might have spent my days in joy,
I might be content and free.
The day will never dawn now
When sorrow leaves me be.

The pretty flowers of summer
I see them everywhere I go,
But death is all I long for,
Since your love I’ll never know.
And if my fate’s to die for you,
To you I’ll leave my pain,
For never while I’m living
Will I be free again.
–translation, Alistair Cochrane at Northside

Triakel’s website characterizes the group’s style:

The group’s repertoire covers everything from old music-hall numbers to hymns. Often the songs are rooted in the provinces of Jämtland and Hälsingland where the group’s members grew up. The music is quiet but emotionally charged, and arrangements are built up around Emma’s singing, which is the heart of the group’s sound. It is an expression of its members’ yearning to make simple, acoustic music, in contrast to the louder, amplified sounds they otherwise work with.

Please Note: This mp3 blog showcases my love for traditional music. I hope you come, listen, enjoy, and follow the links to buy the music. Such good deeds reward the artists I feature here and allow me to cover a small portion of the expense involved in maintaining this blog.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Anais June 6, 2006, 6:35 PM


    My name is Anaïs, I live in Montreal Canada. I heard Kronos quartet’s show on Radio Canada a few months ago and also fell under the spell of ‘Tusen Tankar’. I taped the show and listened to it a few times with great delight. I was pregnant during those listenings. My daughter has arrived 2 months ago and seems to have been touched by the music. ‘A thousand thoughts’ is one of the very few tunes that will calm her down when she’s crying. Thank you for the information about the song. I’ve been looking for the quartet’s version but no luck. Triakel’s version is wonderful. Thank you for helping me discover a new group!
    I’m also happy to have found your blog and to know that I’m part of a great community of shared values of love, respect, kindness, peace and curiosity towards the world.

    Have a great day!


    Anaïs Pilon

  • Richard Silverstein June 6, 2006, 9:46 PM

    Anais: You’ve made my day. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments. I hadn’t even thought of using the song to comfort my 18 month old twins. I’ll have to try that!

    Pls. come round & visit again. I look forward to hearing fr. you.

    BTW, Kronos’ management wrote to me that the ensemble has not yet recorded Tusen Tankar. I urged him to get them to do so pronto!

  • Kim July 24, 2006, 3:06 PM

    I saw Kronos in Portsmouth NH last spring, and my heart just about broke when they played Tusen Tankar. I, too, immediately went to look for a Kronos recording of it, but I guess it is yet to come…


  • Richard Silverstein July 24, 2006, 6:22 PM

    Kronos’ management wrote me saying the song has not yet been recorded by them.

  • François Dumouchel August 22, 2006, 12:30 PM


    I was looking up for college friends in google and Anaïs Pilon was one of them. I know it’s totally out of the topic, but if you still have her email adresse, could you ask her to write back to me ? I would really-really-really appreciate. We studdied in Sherbrooke and I had her dad as techer Louis Pilon. I did my university in different place and a post degree at Lund universitet…. jag pratar lite svensk!

    Tack så mycket

  • DL July 16, 2008, 3:50 PM

    They’ve recorded it… if you buy their Terry Riley CD you get a bonus download recording of Tusen Tankar. Well worth it.

    • Roy February 8, 2010, 5:11 PM

      What Terry Riley CD? There are two offefred by Amazon, but I notice no bonus track with Tusen Tankar.

      • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2010, 3:13 PM

        I only see the song on the original Triakel recording. Can’t find it at the Kronos site at all, but I’ve e mailed asking if it will be on any upcoming records. It’s incredibly beautiful.

  • Martin Abel April 5, 2010, 2:49 AM

    Check out this link:
    That seems to be the only place where you can buy it, when you download the latest Terry Riley recording “Cusp of Magic” directly from Nonesuch.

  • Liz Whelan May 13, 2011, 3:21 PM

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