There's a bike, a yoga mat and a grand piano in Kim Cunio's new office at the Australian National University. We're sitting in the sun, stirring honey into our tea from a jar on the windowsill.
The honey came from a bee's nest discovered in Llewellyn Hall, Cunio tells me conspiratorially. "We salvaged about six jars."
Since his recent appointment as head of the university's troubled School of Music, Cunio has been generating a certain buzz of his own on campus. The eminent composer and musician has vowed to heal old wounds - and show Canberra it has a music school it can be proud of again.
So far, so good. Student numbers are back up to 200, thanks in no small part to his predecessor Ken Lampl, he insists, as well as scholarship funding and growing postgraduate interest. And familiar faces are returning to the halls - from former staff to music teachers once hesitant to send their pupils along to the school in the years of chaos that followed brutal 2012 funding cuts.
"This office has become like the confessional," Cunio says.
"Staff lie down on the couch, our cellist comes in and does yoga during meetings. But why shouldn't you run a music school like that?"
Every now and then, Cunio strums on the oud in his lap. He learnt to play it "out of necessity", he says, while setting the famous Dead Sea scrolls to music.
"I can play anything badly. Which is fine until you meet the actual musician."
He forgets I've just watched him warm up his fingers on that piano - and heard his voice rising behind a thick red curtain, on stage in the hall below our feet.
Born with perfect pitch to a musical family, Cunio seemed uniquely destined to be a musician. But it almost didn't happen.
Though his father was an opera singer and his mother came from a lively line of Burmese and Indian jazz musicians, Cunio never had music lessons himself growing up.
"We were really poor, my parents both came to Australia as refugees after WWII," he says.
"We lived in a condemned house, and I was working at 11. I never even had a bed."
But, while his childhood wasn't always easy, it was mostly filled with laughter and music; long evenings of jazz in the living room and Sundays listening to his father sing at the synagogue.
Finally at 18, Cunio found himself in a sharehouse with a piano and began teaching himself what had for so long been locked in his head.
"The neighbours called the cops, I was so bad," he recalls.
But his mother's cousins, both acclaimed musicians, eventually came to hear his progress and instantly recognised his talent.
He was 25 when he at last began studying classical music, having first worked his way through some of Sydney's divier bars playing keyboard gigs in bands.
"I was such a puritan even then, I'd wear earmuffs on stage so I could focus, in the middle of these metal clubs, with guys yelling at me to take them off."
Cunio spent the next decade locked in a practice room at the Newcastle Conservatorium in thrall to his craft. He gave up drinking, and even developed a vitamin D deficiency. "I was just obsessed," he says.
Now about to turn 50, Cunio's devotion hasn't waned. He's since composed film scores and opera, founded a record label, performed at the White House, and set the first recording of a gravitational wave to music ("It had the exact same notes as The Simpsons theme song")
He's quick to laughter and unfailingly polite. The type to email you a relaxing piano arrangement when you're under the weather (as I was soon to learn). In overheated university halls, he seems at once wildly out of place and utterly at home, his long black hair swept back into an office-friendly ponytail.
"But I'm a bit whacky," he tells me.
It's true. He once hooked up a physicist's brain to a machine during a performance to demonstrate, in bright colours, how music can change brainwaves.
"There's always this division between the old and the new or science and art but music has been liberated by technology," he says.
"We can have so much fun together."
In the Antarctic, he joined scientists as they drilled down to read the history of carbon dioxide levels captured in the ice.
"This is the ice that proves global warming and I got a recording of that ice popping," Cunio says. "It's a very emotional sound."
His parents gave him a deep love for the world as well as music and for Cunio the two melodies of social justice and art are always linked.
Music can change things. I think it can potentially heal almost anything if you do it well enough.Kim Cunio
He's recorded the vanishing music of Gyuto monks of Tibet, composed a musical to document forced abortions happening in parts of India and, most recently, recorded the grind and the roar of the machinery that will chew out Adani coal if the company's controversial Queensland mine gets up and running.
"People can actually hear the sounds rather than being talked to," he says. "After the Christchurch [shooting], we had a staff meeting and I sang the Islamic call to prayer.
"Music can change things. I think it can potentially heal almost anything if you do it well enough."
While Cunio knows the toxic legacy of the music school is far from healed, he believes it too is starting to crack.
"I [grew up] with this sense of kindness as a kid, I can't recall my father ever raising his voice to me," he says.
"I want to build a culture of it here."
The day he accepted the top job, Cunio wrote to his boss stressing that, along with their usual academic duties those in music needed time to practice every day.
Concern about staff stress and workload pressure has dogged the school for years, as it weathered cuts from the university, but Cunio says he is focused on "sharing the load and getting the balance right".
He has since started inviting those who have left the school back to visit or volunteer.
"I've just opened the doors again. There's still some people with bad experiences in the past but I'm making my way through everyone I meet to say 'Believe in this school again, it might not be how you remember it but it's best days are not over yet'."
School manager Craig Edwards said Cunio's compassion was infectious.
"He really cares about us."
Despite having once written Cunio a less than glowing review, composer and critic Vincent Plush describes his appointment as a brave one by the university - in the best possible sense.
"There aren't too many that have his breadth of vision and background," Plush says.
"With something like this all too easily creative people can be swamped by the [bureaucracy] but I don't see that happening with Kim.
"This is a wonderful re-visioning of the school."
While the days of the school needing to grow at all costs are over, Cunio says, it must still be "careful with money".
"But I can feel that the uni is letting the school be itself again, I think things are going to get very good for us next year."
And he has big plans - a vision to restore the school as the hub for musicians from Canberra and the region, revive classical practice alongside contemporary and (ideally) bring back the beloved pre-teritary extension program known as the H course.
The course has lost its ACT government funding beyond 2019 but Cunio said he was hopeful something could be "rebirthed", given the huge community stake in its survival.
"It's a bit beyond me to fix it single handedly as it costs a quarter of a million to run but I'm not going to give up."
For Cunio, who once landed the gig of creating a tafe music department from scratch while he was still in his twenties and second year of music study, funding public courses is vital to keeping music within everyone's reach.
"It just takes so much money to make a good musician and for those who have that burning talent they've got to be given a chance, we've got to find them, they should be treated like elite athletes."
Cunio sang at school - until his voice broke rather dramatically at the age of 12 - but for a long time he thought he'd missed his chance.
"But I always dreamed music."