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Warszawa (song)

Song by David Bowie and Brian Eno
from the album Low
Released14 January 1977 (1977-01-14)
RecordedSeptember–November 1976
GenreAmbient, dark ambient, electronic
Songwriter(s)David Bowie and Brian Eno
Producer(s)David Bowie and Tony Visconti

"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.[1]

Composition and recording

The arrangement is meant to evoke the desolation of Warsaw at the time of Bowie's visit in 1973[citation needed]. 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,[2] although the lyrics are phonetical, not words in Polish.[3] Bowie had purchased a recording of Śląsk performing the piece during a stopover in Warsaw.[2]

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[citation needed].

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[citation needed] 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[citation needed].

Live versions

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[citation needed] the audience into a calm, holding them initially in deep suspense. Bowie's choice to maintain a low profile during 1978[citation needed] 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".


Other releases

  • It appeared in the Sound + Vision box set (1989)
  • It was featured in the movie Christiane F. and the accompanying soundtrack.
  • It features on the All Saints instrumental collection.
  • It features in the movie Control and the accompanying soundtrack.
  • It appeared in the Instrumental (disc 2) by Brian Eno

Cover versions

  • De Benedictis/Maroulis — A Tribute to the Music and Works by Brian Eno (1997)
  • Emulsion — .2 Contamination: A Tribute to David Bowie (2006)
  • Philip GlassLow 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)
  • Dylan Howe : Subterranean - New Designs on Bowie's Berlin (2014)
  • s t a r g a z e - performed live at the BBC Proms, 29 July 2016[4]
  • Donny Mccaslin - "Beyond Now" (2016)
  • Geir Sundstøl - "Brødløs" (2018)
  • Sterbus - acoustic version live in Rome, Italy, 5 December 2019


  1. ^ West 1984, pp. 9–10.
  2. ^ a b "Warszawa". Pushing Ahead of the Dame. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  3. ^ Oleksiak, Wojciech. "How David Bowie Created Warszawa". Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  4. ^ "Prom 19: David Bowie Prom". BBC iPlayer Radio. Retrieved 23 August 2016.


  • Greatorex, Johnathan. Just a Mortal With Potential. Teenage Wildlife. November 1996.
  • Miles, Barry. David Bowie Black Book. London: Omnibus Press, 1980.
  • David Power, David Bowie: A Sense of Art Paupers Press, 2003.
  • West, Mike (1984). Joy Division. Todmorden: Babylon. ISBN 0-9071-8821-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links

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