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"Warszawa" is a mostly instrumental song by David Bowie, co-written with Brian Eno and originally released in 1977 on the album Low. The band Joy Division was initially called Warsaw as a reference to this song.
|Song by David Bowie|
|from the album Low|
|Released||14 January 1977|
|Genre||Ambient, dark ambient, electronic|
|Songwriter(s)||David Bowie and Brian Eno|
|Producer(s)||David Bowie and Tony Visconti|
Composition and recordingEdit
The arrangement is meant to evoke the desolation of Warsaw at the time of Bowie's visit in 1973. The mysterious lyrics and the piece of melody in the middle part of the song are based upon a recording of "Helokanie" by Polish folk choir Śląsk, although the lyrics are phonetical, not words in Polish. Bowie had purchased a recording of Śląsk performing the piece during a stopover in Warsaw.
The piece was developed using many of Eno's spontaneous and deeply experimental techniques, with Bowie choosing the creation of a texture over creating a piece that fit in context with his other songs. Resorting to Eno's techniques of "planned accidents," first a click track of 430 clicks was created by hand. From these clicks, a few were selected at random and catalogued. Eno and Bowie would each wait for their randomly selected clicks to sound, which would cue them to play randomly pre-determined chords. When the clicks were removed, the song's basic skeleton of chord changes remained, and the gaps were filled by their writing, with Eno on instrumentals and Bowie on vocals.
The result is a suggestive[clarification needed] piece in four sections. The first section is sparse and mainly in octaves. Then at 1:17 the harmony fills out and the key changes to F# and the second section - the longest in the piece - starts. At 3:47 there is another striking key change, the texture thins out again and Bowie's vocal part starts. At 5:24 seconds the final section starts and this section basically comprises a repeat of a chunk of the second section.
All vocals were composed and performed entirely by Bowie, despite the presence of 110 voices. Eno remarked that despite his tendency to work slowly as his own synthesizer technician, Bowie managed to complete his portion of the track rather quickly, recording all his voices in 20 minutes.
It was used as a live opener on Bowie's Isolar II and Heathen tours. Rather than quickly delving deeply into loud rock music, the song was used to intentionally provoke the audience into a calm, holding them initially in deep suspense. Bowie's choice to maintain a low profile during 1978 was expressed through his entrance to the stage during this song, not singing, but simply sinking into the band and playing the Chamberlin until his cue to sing the lyrics.
- A spring 1978 performance of the piece, which opened concerts on the Isolar II Tour, can be heard on Bowie's second live album, Stage, while a summer 1978 performance from the same tour is included on Welcome to the Blackout (2018).
- It was performed live in 2002 at the Roseland Ballroom during a performance of the entirety of Low, with the exception of "Weeping Wall".
- De Benedictis/Maroulis — A Tribute to the Music and Works by Brian Eno (1997)
- Emulsion — .2 Contamination: A Tribute to David Bowie (2006)
- Philip Glass — Low Symphony (1993)
- Nine Inch Nails — live recording, with David Bowie (1995)
- Simon Haram — Alone… (1999)
- Ah Cama-Sotz — Declaration Of Innocence (2008)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - Live at Bemowo (2012-07-27)
- s t a r g a z e - performed live at the BBC Proms, 29 July 2016
- Donny Mccaslin - "Beyond Now" (2016)
- Geir Sundstøl - "Brødløs" (2018)
- "Warszawa - Pushing Ahead of the Dame". bowiesongs.wordpress.com. - a very detailed write-up on the Warszawa song
- Oleksiak, Wojciech. "How David Bowie Created Warszawa". - An article by Wojciech Oleksiak that describes the compositional history of the song.
- Oleksiak, Wojciech. "Bowie". Podcast episode of "Stories From The Eastern West" series by culture.pl about history of the song.