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Eagle Minds

Selected Correspondence of Istvan Anhalt and George Rochberg (1961-2005)

Alan M. Gillmor, editor

Hardcover 474 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-018-7

Release Date: December 2007

Online discount: 25%

$85.00  $63.75


eBook availability

Eagle Minds—a selection from the correspondence between the Canadian composer and scholar Istvan Anhalt and his American counterpart George Rochberg—is a splendid chronicle and a penetrating analysis of the swerving socio-cultural movements of a volatile half-century as observed by two highly gifted individuals.

Beginning in 1961 and spanning forty-four years, their conversation embraces not only music but other forms of contemporary art, as well as politics, philosophy, religion, and mysticism. The letters chronicle the deepening of their friendship over the years, and the openness, honesty, and genuine warmth between them provide the reader with an intimate look at their personalities. A fascinating intellectual tension emerges between the two men as they record their individual responses to musical modernism, to changing political and social realities, and to their Jewish heritage and sense of place, one as a son of Ukrainian immigrants to the United States, the other as a refugee from war-torn Hungary.

Allowing us a privileged glimpse into the private lives and thoughts of these fascinating men, Eagle Minds is a valuable tool for scholars interested in North American composers in the late twentieth century and essential reading for anyone interested in the cultural and social history of that era.

Editor Alan M. Gillmor taught at McGill University and Carleton University. He retired in 2003 as professor emeritus. His scholarly publications have appeared in professional journals both in North America and Europe, and his monograph on the French composer Erik Satie (1988, 1990) was shortlisted in 1990 for the Ottawa-Carleton Book Award for non-fiction.


“The collection offers a fascinating insight into both composers’ personal lives as well as the lives of their works—often from the seeds of inspiration through to their concert primieres and critical reception—unfolded in a conversation spanning Rochberg’s and Anhalt’s massive career arcs. Scholars with particular interest in either composer will find value in Eagle Minds for the uncommon wealth of biographical data contained in these letters, thanks to Rochberg’s and Anhalt’s diligence in keeping the other apprised of personal events in their lives, but equally to Gillmor’s prodigous annotations, which help contextualize and explain the glosses, idiosyncrasies, and dense minutiae indigenous to the two composers’ personal dialogue. But this volume will also hold interest for a more general audience as well, because of Gillmor’s editorial acumen in locating a compelling narrative in their correspondence as it coheres organically around themes of intellectual exploration, personal identity, and the predicament of serious music in the last half of the twentieth century.... Gillmor has accomplished the imposing task of carving out of this voluminous archive a book that works as both a record of individual historial snapshots and as a surprisingly unified account of Anhalt and Rochberg’s relationship as it evolved personally and intellectually.”

— Jeremy Strachan, Intersections: Canadian Journal of Music

“The warmth of the friendship between Anhalt and Rochberg is nothing less than awe-inspiring, and that alone makes the book worth reading.... Theirs is a world where intelligent discourse, artistic integrity, and the search for beauty and truth are essential pursuits, where friendship and family are the cornerstones of lives, and where taking the time to formulate and share your deepest thoughts is a worthwhile way to spend your time.”

— Keith Hamel, composer and professor of music, University of British Columbia

“Editor Alan Gillmor provides...a tapestry of intellectual worldviews intertwined with spiritual investigations, personal suffering, and aesthtic introspection.... While Gillmor provides exhaustive and conscientious footnotes and cross-references, he allows the two men to speak for themselves through their engaging...prose.... The letters...are glaringly honest not only in the aesthetic and cultural opinions offered by both composers, but in each composer’s self-awareness.... Both men take delight in the experience of each other’s music and prose.... Unfortunately, due to Rochberg’s sharp decline in health in the spring of 2005, his voice stops all to abruptly, and the book ends with a letter from Anhalt which counsels: ‘roam freely in memory-space and be at peace, and take your medication as prescribed’ (411) It is a credit to the collection of letters that the reader feels a keen sense of sadness, as well as disappointment, that the exchange between these two ‘eagle minds’ has ended.... In addition to providing a bouquet of quotable material, Eagle Minds is a springboard for much-needed research into the music and writings of two composers who together supply a panoramic view of the cultural, political, and musical scene in North America through the turn of the twenty-first century.”

— Rebecca Marchand, Providence College, The Bulletin of the Society of American Music

“[Gillmor’s editorial choices] prove insightful.... There is no deliberate offering of biography, as the letters provide it inherently and references to the composers’ own writings entice the reader to these sources as well. Gillmor’s decision to ‘over-document’ is well-handled, with succinct explanations for many of the more obscure or esoteric references found in the text.... As for the letters themselves, they are delightful and moving, intense and brilliant.... There is an openness and vulnerability that exudes throughout, and no unkind or hurtful word—it is a testimony to the dying art of letter writing.... This strong and gratifying book—really the collaboration of three eagle minds—is a satisfying blend of personality and scholarship.”

— Jon Gonder, State University of New York at Geneseo, Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review

“We now have a new source for Rochberg’s thoughts in Eagle Minds: Selected Correspondence of Istvan Anhalt and George Rochberg, 1961-2005, published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, under the editorship of Alan M. Gillmor. Rochberg maintained his correspondence for a long period with his Canadian composer-friend Anhalt, who did not embrace the sames views—but that is what makes the conversation interesting. I have nothing but praise for this endeavor; it is the kind of exchange of which civilization is made.”

— Robert R. Reilly,