When Alan Hovhaness died in June of 2000, he left behind one of the 20th century’s largest catalogs of works – in spite of the fact that he’d burned many of his early pieces.
While he was studying with the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, Hovhaness discovered Eastern music. This led him to explore Eastern cultures and religions. His own heritage brought him into contact with musicians of the Armenian Church, who carried on the ancient traditions of Armenian music. All these influences found their way into his music.
Of his Symphony #11, Hovhaness wrote, “The symphony is an attempt to express a positive faith in universal cosmic love as the only possible ultimate goal for man and nature. Let all unite in peace on our tiny planet …” He says the finale “begins with a theme in praise of universal love.” Then he quotes a Buddhist sutra: “And the voice of the Lord Buddha was heard like the sound of a great gong hung in the skies, saying that though one met a thousand men on his way, they would all be one’s brothers.”
Here is a picture of the composer at work. The cat is hard to see, so check this link for a better view---
Here is another view. They are probably from the same source, Life magazine December 1955.(taken by Gordon Parks). Here is some captioning from the time:
“Composer Alan Hovhaness, working in score littered studio with black cat nestling amongst the papers on the piano.”
And here cat and man are posing. (Might not be the same cat, definitely the same guy.)
The caption I quote ; it is so wonderful I dare not paraphrase.
Hovhaness adored cats, and believed them to be very intelligent. Here he is pictured with his favourite cat, Rajah Mahatmah Hoyden (1935-1949), originally called Haydn. Long after the cat died the composer's correspondence alludes to ongoing spiritual visitations from it, and he continued to leave milk out for Rajah overnight.