As an enterprising student, and later as a would-be cub researcher, I would always admire the elegant writing desk which the Library of Congress displayed as Sergei Rachmaninov's very own. I had often wondered how it would be to sit at this magnificent shrine; would melancholy Russian melodies suddenly spring forth, would the themes of never-completed symphonies materialise before my ears? My fear of permanent banishment from Paradise always kept me from attempting the realisation of my dreams.
Years later I visited Alan Hovhaness in New York. He lived in a dilapidated room in the less-than-pristine Alvin Hotel. We were to rehearse on an ancient upright-broken-down piano. The "kitchen" was served by a few dime-store relics, and I was invited to place myself on a rickety seat fronted by a cardboard box covered with imitation-wood contact paper.
My eyes searched the room for that polished patrician podium and pulpit; that elegant shrine that sourced all melody and harmony. Suddenly it dawned on me that it sat right before me: and that this beautiful, moving, visionary music was composed-had to be composed-in the most simple, honest, and non-pretentious of circumstances.
A cardboard box: the composing desk.