Iconic bassist Victor Wooten is playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Wooten spoke with GBH All Things Considered host Arun Rath. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: Sometimes, the word virtuoso doesn't go far enough. Victor Wootton's relationship to the bass goes far deeper. It's safe to say he's one of a handful of modern performers who has extended the range of the instrument itself. He can play a wide range of basses in a wide variety of styles, on top of being a groundbreaking performer and composer. He's also a naturalist, an author, and a magician. And now he's doing something else new, performing a concerto for bass and orchestra of his own composition, and premiering the work with the BSO. I am so excited to welcome the incomparable Victor Wooten. Victor, thanks for making the time for us.

Victor Wooten: I'm honored to be here with you, Arun.

Rath: I'm very excited to talk with you - big, big fan. Let's jump right in and talk about this concerto. First, you'll say the French better than I do. Tell us the name and what inspired it.

Wooten: I can barely say the name. It's "La Lección Tres" - the lesson three. Many years ago, I wrote a song called The Lesson based on a book that I released the same day called The Music Lesson. But I wrote a song to go along with the book, and now this is like the third version of that song. It was originally a solo bass song, no other instruments. But now we've got almost every instrument possible with the best musicians playing it. So I'm really excited to be performing the third version, "La Lección Tres."

Rath: For people who don't know The Music Lesson, your book, it was an independent thing that you put out on your own and it kind of took off, right? I mean, I feel like musicians all I'll know about this book.

Wooten: You're right, and I was surprised you knew about that. I did put it out on my own first, but then a guitar player who worked for a big company, Penguin Books, saw it and said, 'wow, you put this out yourself? Our company needs to put it out.' So I agreed, and it came out a year and a half or two years after I put it out, with a bigger company. And now, it's kind of surprising. Not even kind of surprising, Arun. It's totally surprising how many people have gravitated towards this book, as well as colleges and universities and places like that.

Rath: That's awesome. And this is number three, so are there two other bass concertos?

Wooten: No, but there are two other versions of that song, "The Lesson." So I first put it out on a record of mine called Palm Mystery, that had the solo version of that song, the first version of "The Lesson." And then, after the book came out, I released an audio version of the book, so you can enjoy it. But I scored the book with music, like a movie. And on that version of the audio book, at the very end was the second version of "The Lesson," where it had my good friend Bela Fleck playing banjo, Howard Levy on harmonica, it had a keyboard player. And so it was sort of like a jazz band or a more modern band. In my head, that was the second version of "The Lesson," and now this one with the Boston Symphony is the third version.

Rath: I've heard concertos for other electric or amplified instruments, but are there other bass concertos? How do you start?

Wooten: That's a good question. How do you start? That's probably the hardest part. Fortunately, I had what's called MIDIs, which are basically fake instruments that a computer will play. Nothing replaces a real instrument, a real violin or a real oboe or cello. But the MIDI instruments do at least allow you to hear an idea right away. So I started with the song "The Lesson," and I just put that melody in a MIDI instrument, and then I let the music speak to me, and kind of tell me where it wanted to go.

Rath: People might be most familiar with your work with the Flecktones, and then with your own band as well. But classical music is also not new to you. Tell us about where you see this piece fitting in with tradition?

Wooten: Well, there are styles of music the same way there are races of people or different types of food. But we're really talking about the same thing. Music is made up out of the same notes, different instruments, and the instrument is just a way of expressing yourself. When we're talking about music, I express myself the best with an electric bass guitar. The instrument is played by the musician. So if the musician is into jazz or into classical or into polka, you should be able to play it through your instrument the same way you should be able to sing it with your voice. You know, for me, I listened to classical music as a kid. First, it was just the Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny cartoons, which led me to join the orchestra in sixth grade, and I started playing the cello. So I never really got away from classical. But it was in recent years where I really got to get a real inside look and get my feet in the door, actually playing with real symphonies, not just high school or college symphonies. This is the real thing. So I'm honored to be here, but I still feel like a little bit like an outsider. So I get nervous, which is fun.

Rath: It's interesting. Classical music in America doesn't necessarily reflect the diversity of America, but looking at this bill, we have our own world class Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by Thomas Wilkins. He's an African-American conductor, performing music by you, by Duke Ellington, and by one of my favorite English composers, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, who in spite of that very English name was an Englishman of African descent. And the virtuoso solo is you. I mean, as a person of color saying that, I'm super excited. But I'm just wondering, as an African-American in particular, what are your feelings about all that?

Wooten: I feel good about it. There's always mixed feelings. To me, the fact that we have to talk - and don't get me wrong, I am so happy to talk about the fact that I'm an African-American, the conductor, the maestro Wilkins, my friend, is an African-American - but it is sad to me that 400 years later, we still have to talk about it, we're not just American. Because diversity has been in America from the onset of before we were a country. But in the same way we say, we haven't celebrated our diversity, our country hasn't totally celebrated our diversity the way it should. So I'm happy to play a part, to play even a small part, that hopefully will turn into a bigger victory for our country.

Because an orchestra is made up of different instruments, and we know that the orchestra is better because the instruments are different, right? If you showed up and it was 100 flute players on the stage and nothing else, you might be disappointed. It could sound good, and probably would, but we know that it's better because of the orchestra's diversity. I believe that our country is the same when we celebrate the fact that we are different, which makes us the same. So I'm happy to be a part of it, and hopefully we'll get to the place where it'll just be what it is, not something that we have to talk about as something different.

Rath: Well, we're so happy to have you here, and to have you premiere this music here. Victor Wooten, it's been great speaking with you. I have to say as a fan going back to to the 80s, let me also say thank you for all of the great art.

Wooten: Wow. Sounds like you know a lot about music. What instrument do you play?

Rath: Oh, I'm an old trumpet player.

Wooten: There we go. I knew it was in there. I can hear it in your voice. Arun, thank you so much for just having me on your show.

Rath: That's Victor Wooten, composer, bass player, general Renaissance Man. He'll be playing his concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra this weekend.