In his October 13, 1973 conversation with Gloria Calomee, composer/clarinetist/educator Alvin Batiste details his musical upbringing, his approach to composition, the influence of African music, as well as his experiences directing the jazz institute at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He also shares his thoughts on Rosicrucianism.
In the clip below, Batiste gives background on two of his compositions: North American Idiosyncrasy, which was performed by the New Orleans Philharmonic; and Planetary Perspectives, which is featured on Batiste’s album Southern University Jazz Ensemble—Live at the 1971 American College Jazz Festival.
Alvin Batiste: I have things for string quartet, woodwind quintet…I have three orchestra pieces. And this one here—North American Idiosyncrasy—is a thing I’ll probably be writing the rest of my life…on various aspects of the North American personality.
Gloria Calomee: When did you start writing that?
AB: When I was doing my Master’s in 1968, I did part one as a class project. And it came off so hip I just retained the idea. And then I got a commission from the National Endowment of the Arts to do part two—and so, I just knocked that out. The symphony is going to do the complete version on next Friday.
GC: That’s the New Orleans Philharmonic, right?
AB: Right. I have another piece called Planetary Perspectives, for grass-roots players and orchestra. My contention is that through the systematizing of our whole approach to music—you know, the standardization of notation, timbre concepts and all that kind of stuff—we’ve really sophisticated ourself away from the real musicians which are at the grass-roots level. They’re the ones who really intuit the ideations that are characteristic of the culture. All they need is a vehicle with which they can express their utterances—and so that’s what that’s about.