Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


March 12, 2024
silver dawn - Zosha Warpeha
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPRSS029
Location: United States
Release Date: May 3, 2024
Media: compact disc or digital download entry entry



The stars aligned at the Poison Pie Publishing House when a cd with the title silver dawn performed by Ms. Zosha Warpeha arrived in the post one February afternoon in Tennessee. Three musical traits that especially appeal to us were present on this disc—first non-idiomatic improvisation, second a musician new to our ears and third an instrument with which we were also unfamiliar. Such a cosmic alignment doesn't happen every day. For the curious reader who asks, "When was the last time it happened at the PPPH?", we suggest a visit to another review, but only after finishing this one.

photo credit: Zosha Warpeha

Permit us to investigate each of these three aspects of the music individually and in reverse order with respect to how they appear listed above. We begin with the instrument. Ms. Warphea is credited with performing on both hardanger d'amore and voice. As best we can recall, we have never previously heard of the hardanger d'amore. To our admittedly pedestrian ear, it sounds something like a mix between a violin to which the overtones of a hurdy gurdy have been added. Thanks to the modern miracle of the internet search engine, we quickly discovered that a hardanger d'amore is more akin to a violin than a hurdy gurdy. In fact, at, we found pictures and the statement, "The hardanger d'amore is a 10-string bowed instrument made by Salve Håkedal." To our knowledge, this is the first time the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House encountered an instrument, which by definition can only be constructed by one luthier. Eventually we discovered that there is a broader class of Nordic fiddles, called the hardingfele, into which the hardanger d'amore falls.

(As a peripheral note, to compound the coincidence, not a month passed before we encountered a second cd on which the hardanger d'amore appeared: Meuf Vol. 2, Maria Dybbroe's compilation of all-female creative music released on March 8, 2024 in celebration of International Women's Day.)

photo credit: Zosha Warpeha

Second, let us insert into this review something about the musician. According to her website, we can establish a few factual points of reference:

Zosha Warpeha is a composer-performer working in a meditative space at the intersection of contemporary improvisation and folk traditions. Using bowed stringed instruments alongside her own voice, her long-form compositions explore transformations of time and tonality. She performs primarily on Hardanger d'amore, a sympathetic-stringed instrument closely related to the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, as well as five-string violin. Her current acoustic and electro-acoustic work is informed by the cyclical forms, rhythmic elasticity, and the physical momentum of Nordic folk music.
We also learned that Ms. Warpeha is a Minnesotan, currently based in Brooklyn. She received a Fulbright grant to study in Norway in 2019, where she worked on the "development of a personal approach to solo performance through Nordic folk music and contemporary improvisation." It is a natural hallmark of non-idiomatic improvisation that it is synergystically compatible with other traditions and idioms. Here the Ms. Warpeha blends an instrument associated with Nordic folk music into the mix.

photo credit: Donte Collins

Last but not least, we allow ourselves to say a few words about our individual impressions of the music. We note that on the cd Ms. Warpeha is credited with both improvisation and composition, so the music falls somewhere within this spectrum. The Relative Pitch Records Solo Series (RPRSS) allow artists to present themselves in a solo context on their own terms. As our introduction to both musician and instrument, we found the music on silver dawn deliberate and without pretense. The music at times possesses a melancholic evocation but absent a ponderous weight. The appreciation of the music arises from the sound of the instrument itself, rather than due to a contrast with some external musical context. We lack any sophisticated training or experience with the instrument to determine if "extended techniques" were used to evoke unusual sounds from the instrument. Our intuition, such as it is, supposes that the languid tempo and the regular interspersing of pauses, arise from Ms. Warpeha's unique relationship to and interpretation of the instrument.

The hardanger d'amore is accompanied on some tracks by voice. We don't hear words, mostly word-like vocalizations, but that of course could simply be attributed to deficiencies in the listener. What we do hear is the attunement between voice and instrument. The richness of the sympathetic resonance of the hardanger d'amore is multiplied by the addition of the voice. We especially enjoyed those tracks with a vocal element and suspect that other like-minded listeners will find similar comforts in silver dawn.


  • Zosha Warpeha (hardanger d'amore, voice) (website)


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