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Getting low with the sounds of bass

CARLSBAD — Dr. Chris Warren crossed a portion of the San Diego State University campus on his way to his next class. Warren, a professor of music composition, was talking on his cell phone when he stopped mid-sentence — apparently someone had told him he was talking a little too loudly — a twist of irony for the man who just finished creating a new exhibit about bass instruments and their low registers for Carlsbad’s Museum of Making Music.

The exhibit, “LOW: The Power & Beauty of Bass,” opens this weekend and explores the world of bass and the sounds that fall under 262 Hertz.

It makes your body vibrate, Warren explained of the sounds that come from the bass. That was part of what attracted Warren to the instrument. As a young child, he remembers being amazed that there was a part of music that you could feel. And from there, he said, he had to figure out how to make that sound.

Some 30 years later, Warren has figured that out.

He’s an accomplished bass player and sound artist with a Ph.D. in computer music from UC San Diego and holds a master’s degree in music, science, and technology from Stanford University.

The beauty and power of the bass comes from that tactile aspect of it, he said. “The fact that you can really feel it as opposed to just hear it. It’s a booty-shaking instrument.

“It’s what makes you get up and dance — more than any other instrument,” he said. “I realized very early on, that this is the instrument that inspires movement in people, more so than drums.”

Warren has broken down the bass into three different avenues for the exhibit: Seeing, feeling and hearing — all in the hopes that people will be able to interact with the bass in a way they might not have done before.

There are several elements in the exhibit where the bass can actually be felt, or a voice be transformed into a bass register, and even see what the bass waves look like.

“If you look at most music, the bass parts will be very direct and minimalist in a way that, say, a first violin or lead guitar are not,” Warren said. “And there’s something about that, that directness that’s always appealed to me.”

While he said the bass could perhaps be seen as an underappreciated instrument, Warren said at the same time it’s also one of the most ubiquitous instruments, having, in one form or another, existed in just about every form of music.

The Museum of Making Music is at 5790 Armada Dr., in Carlsbad. The exhibit opens to the public Nov. 8. Visit museumofmakingmusic.org for tickets.

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