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John Patitucci and Jonas Hellborg performing at one of the nightly concerts.
Swedish bass virtuoso Jonas Hellborg is one of the instrument’s great thinkers. His inspired career has seen him anchoring the Mahavishnu Orchestra, partnering with the late, great guitar wiz Shawn Lane, and collaborating with Indian classical musicians in a variety of compelling settings. Beyond playing and performance, Hellborg is a self-taught amplifier designer and audio engineer. Hellborg largely designs Warwick’s line of amps and cabinets in his lab at Warwick HQ.
Hellborg’s clinic followed a different track than most of the other teachers. He was adamant that the setting was a seminar and discussion, not a performance. Thus he didn’t play. Instead, he initiated a fascinating back-and-forth about the fundamental nature of music. It’s hard to summarize, but the following are some of his most salient points:
“What is bass? A guitar? A double bass? A role? Who do you want to be? What do you want to sound like?”
“Why do you play music? For me, it’s a necessity. If I don’t, I get physically sick.”
“Music is about interacting with human beings. We need input for an ordered output. The brain is a Petri dish.”
“Music is an aural endeavor. It all begins with sound. It’s not physical. Our ears are our tools. Think about how you create a sound. You can just play a G. But where on the string? What part of the finger? How do you angle it?”
“There is a gravitational relationship between all pitches. Math, sound, and logic. Music is about life. It’s what we experience. Music about music is pointless. You can’t do it without craft. You have to acquire the art of it. You don’t have to work on individuality; we are all mirrors. All the light in the universe is already there.”
I wish space allowed a comprehensive report on each and every clinic. Leland Sklar regaled his class with tales from deep in the session trenches, even breaking out a Warwick semi-hollow body for a jam on the Bill Cobham fusion classic, “Stratus.” Meshuggah bassist Dick Lövgren explained some of the polyrhythmic concepts that lie beneath his band’s über-complex metal. And on and on. Frankly, the camp had such extreme bass talent, it’s going to take months to process and unravel the insights provided.
And So It Ends …
All good things must come to an end, and in the case of Warwick’s Bass Camp, it ended in fire and thundering bass lines.
Camp concluded with a beautiful dinner in Warwick’s pristine auditorium, featuring performances by many of the week’s teachers. After dessert, we all retreated to the balcony to see a stunning fireworks show (with a funky bass soundtrack, of course). As 100 bassists gazed up at the sky in unison, it became clear: This was a special event, and the bass world is better for it. It’s a good thing, then, that Warwick is already committed to next year. Until then, check out Warwick’s YouTube page for tons of video from the event (youtube.com/user/warwickofficial), and start pinching those pennies. Next year promises to be even bigger and better. Be there, or be square.