"I think they certainly could have a successful contemporary music program here without me, with or without a creative chair," Adams says. "I'm not a conductor, although I do conduct -- but I'm basically a creative person, and this will be a chance to have a creative person as part of the extended Philharmonic family."
The Finnish Salonen, 51, who became music director of the Philharmonic at age 34, remembers what it was like to be the arriving wunderkind in a new place and thinks Adams is the perfect mentor to walk Dudamel through the process.
"It's absolutely essential, of course, to have somebody to walk you through the various layers of historic sediment and the kind of cultural code that is so very different in different places," says Salonen, whose own mentors include Steven Stucky, the Philharmonic's longtime consulting composer for new music, and stage director Peter Sellars.
And a festival of California music? "The idea has been on the horizon for a long time, but I also think it makes perfect sense that it happens now during Gustavo's first year, for him to establish himself in California," Salonen adds. "It's a great idea, and great timing."
Like Borda, Salonen appreciates that Adams' interests come from many spheres outside music. "There is an intense curiosity about him that I find very inspiring," Salonen says.
Grant Gershon, director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, is also a longtime associate of Adams and recently conducted the chorale in a performance of choruses from Adams' controversial opera "The Death of Klinghoffer." Gershon believes that Adams is the perfect composer to curate West Coast, Left Coast because he is so, well, not like a composer.
"He's an extremely good listener, which is an unusual trait for a composer," Gershon says. "He clearly enjoys human interaction. All composers have to be very attuned to the music in their heads; it's hard to open up their ears to what's happening outside. He's genuinely interested in hearing other viewpoints and in real conversation."
These days, Adams is taking a breather from composing, is lecturing and writing and has launched a new conversation with the public through his blog Hell Mouth, which can be found on his website www.earbox.com. A recent post: "Surviving a first rehearsal."
Says Adams of West Coast, Left Coast: "It's definitely a speculative experiment. The first festival I curated here, the Minimalist Jukebox, was more successful than anyone dreamed it was going to be, but there I had the ability to choose music from all over the world in a certain stylistic proclivity. The West Coast is not famous for having produced a great canonical body of classical pieces the way that France or Germany or, for that matter, New York has.
"But there are some interesting works that I do think reflect life out here," he adds.
Will they open a new conversation with Los Angeles? Replies Adams: "Ask me after the festival. . . . Whether California has developed its own uniqueness, its own 'flavor' to constitute a truly identifiable style in music, literature, photography et cetera is still a question. Maybe we'll be just a little bit more conscious of those questions after the West Coast, Left Coast festival has ended."