A Different Kind Of Folkmusic

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Tritonus Alpan Project

Discographie / CDs



Band's History

Musician's Portraits (PDF)


Swiss Folk Music

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‹An Archaic World of Timeless Sound›

The Swiss ensemble TRITONUS will surprise you with folk music of a completely different kind.
With magical shepherd’s calls, wild dances, songs and old texts, TRITONUS brings the old roots to flower again.

With their fresh but respectful rendering of early Swiss folk music TRITONUS is breaking new ground:
An exciting musical journey, where the familiar can sound unexpectedly fresh and new!


Tritonus 2015

Felicia Kraft
Felicia Kraft: Vocals, Percussion, Rebec

Urs Klauser
Urs Klauser: Bagpipe, Cittern, Fife

Lea Zanola
Lea Zanola: Hammered Dulcimer, Jew's Harp, Percussion

Daniel Som
Daniel Som: Hurdy-Gurdy, Shawm, Flutes

Andreas Cincera
Andreas Cincera: Violone, Double-Bass

andrea brunner
Andrea Brunner: Violin, Viola

Michela Walder
Michaela Walder: Hammered Dulcimer

Daniel Affentranger
Daniel Affentranger: Soprano-Saxophone, Bass-Clarinet, Chalumeau

Biography / Artist Information:

TRITONUS is a Swiss folk music ensemble which was founded around 1985 in the Eastern Part of Switzerland. They count as pioneers and experts in the investigation and performance of ancient folk music and their instruments in Switzerland before 1800.

Their 1991 standard work ‹TRITONUS – Alte Volksmusik in der Schweiz› (‹Early Folk-Music in Switzerland›) won the ORG (Eastern Swiss Radio and Television) Award and is still on sale today.

In 2006 Tritonus was breaking new ground with their album ‹Alpan›, a fresh but respectful rendering of early Swiss folk music. Together with young jazz musicians they created a programme that combines the past and future of Swiss folk music: Having pieced together original instrumentations, they can demonstrate early musical styles, melodies, texts and instruments and mix them with new sounds to show possible future directions. The majority of the tunes and songs are unpublished works that have not been previously recorded. It‘s an exciting musical journey where the familiar can suddenly sound very different!
Tritonus was awarded a support grant by the Culture Foundation of the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden for their ‹Alpan Project›.

In autumn 2010 the band toured China and played in Shanghai (World Expo, Lake Malaren Music Festival), Su Zhou and Zhenjiang.

In 2011 Tritonus was working on their new programme ‹Swiss, Swede, Wine and Wife› which deals with the three pivotal questions of mankind: Where have we come from? Where are we going? And – possibly – most importantly: What we’ll drink along the way?

In 2015 Tritonus released their third album ‹urbanus - Early folkmusic from Swiss cities›. A night watchman takes the listeners through his nightly patrol of the city, watching happy or sad lovers, cross the marketplace towards taverns and to secred, dark corners.
Dances from 16th century lute tabulatures, songs and ballads are brought back to life in sophisticated arrangements, enriched with new texts and melodies in the spirit of old Swiss folk music. Tritonus adds the baroque sounds of double bass, large and small violone, viola d'amore and chalumeau, as well as those of modern instruments such as soprano saxophone and bass clarinet to the rich tones of old folk music instruments such as bagpipes, shawm, hurdy-gurdy and hammered dulcimer.

FolkRoots Logo ‹ ... Tritonus’ Urbanus opus is a 24-track master-piece›

Review in Folk Roots - the essential worldwide folk & roots music guide; No. 386, Aug. 2015 / read full review PDF


The story of Tritonus goes back to before 1980. Urs Klauser and Beat Wolf , both of them instrument makers and musicians, were united in their interest in old folk music of varied provenance, and in their desire to research thoroughly the Swiss folk music of previous centuries. They reconstructed instruments according to historical models, and on these, they brought the melodic material that they had discovered to new life, as it would originally have sounded. At the centre of their interest were instruments such as the Swiss bagpipe, the shawm, the cittern, the fife,the hurdy-gurdy and the Jew's harp. These were the instruments that had been popular and widely spread until they were superseded in the 19th century, primarily by the accordion (the so-called "Schwyzerörgeli"). The price-winning first Tritonus-CD Early Folk-Music in Switzerland (1991) marked a turning point in research into these old traditions.
After fifteen years after this CD appeared - it has since become a 'standard work' - Tritonus ventured with their Alpan Project into new musical territory, with added personnel. Together with young jazz musicians, they created a repertoire that unites tradition and innovation, the origins and future of our folk music. Most of the pieces in this repertoire come from sources that are either unpublished or difficult to access. One of their focal areas is the music of Canton Appenzell, though not the well-documented, well-loved string music of the 19th and 20th centuries. Tritonus present 'Alpsegen' (the dusk-time prayers sung in the mountains), 'Zäuerli' (a type of yodelling from Appenzell), ranz des vaches, ranz des chèvres, 'Löckler' (cow-call tunes) beneath dance tunes, ballads and love songs.
Archaic Swiss folk music mingles here with new sounds – This is a colourful, varied, intensive music!

International Folk Music Festival ‹Alpentöne›, Altdorf, Switzerland 2007




The Early Swiss Folk Music differs greatly from the popular present day forms such as the "Ländler" (country waltz) and the yodel song. How, then, did our folk music sound before 1800? Musicological research has brought much to light but, so far, practically no folk music instrumental arrangements have resulted from this research.
Since many years we (U.Klauser and B.Wolf) have been reconstructing old musical instruments and using them to play early folk music in the group TRITONUS.
Fortunately, various folk music pieces have been preserved in the old sources:
From artistic 16th century lute tabulatures we have reconstructed instrumental arrangements as they probably were played by early folk musicians. Also, several Swiss folk music collections were made in the 19th and early 20th centuries with the purpose of preserving older folk traditions. From these collections we obtained several "jewels". The words of old songs and ballads were more frequently handed down because the long texts were often written down whereas the original melodies are usually missing.
The typical Swiss alpine "Kühreihen" (cow calling melodies) are quite old and reached into the realm of magic. A characteristic of this oldest Swiss folk music is the lydian mode with the "tritonus" of the augmented 4th in the natural tone sequence. This "devilish" interval gave our group its name.
How, and with what instruments, earlier music was played is shown by an extensive iconography which, together with the critical analysis of the written sources, led us to the present results. Many of the instruments we used, such as the bagpipe (Sackpfeife), shawm (Schalmei), hurdy-gurdy (Drehleier) and rebec, have died out in Switzerland. Other instruments, such as the hammered dulcimer (Hackbrett), cittern (Cister) and fife (Schwegel), are traditional Swiss folk instruments which have survived up to the present day.

Translation: Dale Overturf




Tritonus CD Alte Volksmusik

Tritonus "Alte Volksmusik" (Early Folk Music In Switzerland) (Review: good)

TRITONUS have done a lot of valuable research in reconstructing defunct instruments and resurrecting a musical tradition that has fallen in abeyance.

FolkRoots Logo No. 119, 1992 ? (FolkRoots Magazine, the essential worldwide folk & roots music guide)

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Tritonus-CD Alpan

Tritonus Alpan (Review: good)

Swiss traditional material, but no yodelling, alphorns or oompah.
Tritonus' previous album was 1991's Early Swiss Folk Music, this one draws on their discoveries since then, played skilfully on Swiss bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, shawm, rebec etc. plus occasional female vocals, and gutsy percussion, jazz guests and impressionistic arrangements.

FolkRoots Logo No. 286, Apri 2007 (FolkRoots Magazine, the essential worldwide folk & roots music guide)

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CDcover urbanus

Tritonus urbanus - Early Folk Music From Swiss Cities

... Tritonus’ Urbanus opus is a 24-track master-piece›. A worthy successor to the magnificent, genre-spanning Fraunhofer Saitenmusik. Tritonus sing and tell their tales – where words are involved, sung in Schwizerdütsch (Swiss German) – and, on Urbanus, in their use of the unifying narrative device of a town’s nightwatchman on his rounds. At their disposal they have a sound palette of Swiss folk, art music and jazz instruments. The traditional Swiss ones have names, some in regional dialect, like hümmelchen (bagpipe), chalumeau and schalmei (shawms), schwegel (a transverse flute) and trümpi (Jew’s harp). Less obscure instrumentation includes drehleier (hurdy-gurdy), violin, viola, viola d’amore, double bass, bassclarinet and saxophone. Felicia Kraft sings. Percussion is especially well deployed, for example, on tick-tock Tanz Der Nachtgestalten (Dance Of The Night Figures/Forms). This octet’s take on folk music is a combination of original tradition-based material, historical manuscript research, art music with baroque flavourings and traditional elements. Much as Munich’s Fraunhofer Saitenmusik similarly swung from similarly deliciously blurry folk and baroque lianas, much of Tritonus’ music is predicated on dance.Theirs, though, is emphatically Swiss. The opening statement, Zur Blawen Entten (At The Blue Duck – a Zurich inn name), for example, is a Zwiefacher, a dance switching between three/four and two/four time.

FolkRoots Logo No. 386, Aug. 2015: Review by Ken Hunt in the essential worldwide folk & roots music guide (read full review PDF)

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Copyright © 2019 by "TRITONUS": Urs Klauser, CH- 9055 Bühler / Fotos: Samuel Forrer, Speicher AR & Dieter Langhart, Frauenfeld / "Devil's Band": Titelillustration "Des Tüfels Segi", Bodenseeraum 1441, Bad. Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, Cod. Don. 113, Bl. 1b.