Frank Corcoran

irish composer



I was just about to fling it away on the rubbish-heap of history, my CEOL – A Journal Of Irish Music, of April 1983, published in Dublin by the
Department of Education.
Then on the back-cover something caught my eye among the advertised publications of ” AN GUM”, that Department’s publishing house:

” DAN AIMHIRGIN – Seandan Gaelach le leaganacha Nua Ghaeilge, Ghearmainis agus Bearla .
Ceol le Frank Corcoran .
Praghas 80 Pingneacha . ”

” AIMHIRGIN’s SONG – Ancient Irish poem with versions in Modern Irish, German and English.
The music by Frank Corcoran.
Price : 80 Pence. ”

( My keyboard here hasn’t got the necessary ” fada”s for typing Irish . The Old Gaelic script, close to that of the Book of Kells. )

My hand faltered. Shivered.
So my old Dept. of Education had had the gall to publish my choral Opus 1 ? Which the Goethe Institut had commissioned in the early seventies…
– With such friends, who needed enemies, I thought. So much for ” publishing”; and for publishing in Irish in Ireland. “An GUM” was hardly the
most exciting or imaginative propagator of my tender score in my depressed Ireland of my seventies in my Dublin.

And yet.
I was, I think, the first composer to set this pre-Christian, polytheistic text, the self-definition of the Celtic god of poetry , Aimhirgin.
With my vast, in-a-beehive mutterings of the score’s sixteen sopranoes and sixteen altos at the beginning singing very softly ” Am gaoth i muir ” ( ” I am the wind on the
sea” ) before my high tenors enter as blazing trumpets , I had, well, achieved my high, choral ecstasy.
Hurrah for choral ecstasy. Bliss to be a young composer, blazing.

I’ll keep that old back-cover from April 1983 .

Fight that black sea of oblivion. Fight thick ignoramuses. Fight institutional depression, mediocrity.

Yes, hurrah for choral ecstasy.

from the prestigious A I C NEW MUSIK JOURNAL just now !

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

As an Irish composer living in Hamburg and Italy, FRANK CORCORAN considers if niche cultures, whether indigenous folk

music or avant-garde art music, can maintain their identity in the face of more powerful colonialist and capitalist


Is cumadóir ceoil mé. I am an Irish composer. The pre-industrial, rural Ireland of my childhood in the fifties was, in a way, not unlike the small, agricultural Hungary of Bartók’s youth and maturity. Dublin and Budapest were, for all their artistic short-comings, vitally important cultural metropoles. (For Hungarian and Irish music-lovers they still are.) Small nations both, their surrounding neighbours often seemed culturally omnivorous, omnipotent, posing a real threat that the identity and self-respect of both little emerging states would be gobbled up by an all greedy neighbour.

Bartók ploughed the lonely furrow. Bartók said “NO!” to cultural tyranny. Bartók took his stance. Moral. Artistic. Not that he wanted to marry folk and art music; you can’t. But as a folk-collector and as a 20th-century composer, forging and finding his individual composer’s voice, he refused to let lazy indifference stifle musical diversity or musical courage. Courage – that’s it. He discovered the unknown,hidden jewels of folk-art. He composed his own mighty musical structures. Behind both of these, yes, heroic stances, was Bartók’s refusal to give in.

My own little Ireland in my 20th century has gone a, in many ways, similar path. With very mixed results. My Irish language dies daily a thousand deaths. Ireland, too, had a Renaissance, an explosion of Irish traditional music which, however, by its very over-kill and over-exposure in the media, is endangered.

As a composer in Ireland, an Irish composer, I had to plough my lonely furrow. In my native Tipperary I had to overcome a still mightily hostile indifference to the oldest layers of Irish singing and instrumental art. In my own youthful struggle to compose and construct tonal structures at once private and public, the enemy number one was Dublin’s very clearly post-colonial dependence on a second-rate, hand-me-down, London-based music-pedagogy.

Even bits of Bartók were misused in our musical curricula, his work contextlessly, lovelessly paraded without any real understanding of where Bartók was coming from, but shamelessly paraded as ‘‘our’’ apologia for contemporary music, as ‘‘our’’ bulwark against, say, the horrors of the Second Viennese School. And my little Ireland, politically a ‘‘free’’ Republic, had not, in its early days of liberation psychologically and politically, succeeded in providing a climate of musical understanding and the respect for musical creativity necessary to have, in its critical years, an Irish Bartók, Bartók na hÉireann.

My Quasi Un Bassofor solo bass is my diptych for, as Bartók uses it, a mighty orchestra in a solo instrument. (I am thinking of those – now sadly ubiquitous but then so fresh, so shocking Bartók pizzicatos from his basses in the orchestral works like his Divertimentofor string orchestra, the extraordinarily long legato lines near the end of his Music For String Orchestra, Percussion and Celesta, the daring and brilliance of his orchestral imagination.) Mine are two fragmented pictures from my vanished Ireland.

Art music today faces the most viciously anti-art global market known to man. We have no place where wares are bartered. But YOU CANNOT BARTER BARTÓK! – Nor indeed any music of lasting value. It is questionable whether the folk musics of either Hungary or Ireland will survive the market’s kiss of death. It is doubly questionable whether Hungarian and Irish composers will survive our global village which today is swollen with the greatest ocean of sonic rubbish known to man. Have we composers a place to be heard? Where’s the silence from which music is born and heard?

The Pratoleva Trio will give a concert of Frank Corcoran’s music as part of the Hugh Lane Gallery’s Sundays@Noon series on June 4th 2017.



Cage, John, Fontana, Bill, Kagel, Mauricio, Otte, Hans, Pannke, Peter, Henry, Pierre, Riessler, Michael, Rühm,

Gerhard, Sani, Nicola, Schafer, R. Murray, Humpert, Hans Ulrich, Corner, Philip, Knowles, Alison, Brecht, George,

Jovanovic, Arsenije, Amirkhanian, Charles, Bandt, Ros, Barlow, Klarenz, Bermange, Barry, Body, Jack, Carter, Paul,

Cee, Werner, Chopin, Henry, Claus, Carlfriedrich, Corcoran, Frank, Curran, Alvin, Fleiter, Raimund, Franke,

Marielouise, Goldstein, Malcolm, Hays, Sorrel, Helms, Hans G., etc.

( Frank Corcoran’s WDR – commission 1997 ” SWEENEY’S VISION ” which won the 1999 Bourges Premier Prix. )


XXX. Dozentenkonzert mit Stücken von P.M. Hamel, M. Stahnke, F. Corcoran,

Aufführung vom 29.11.2004 aus dem Forum der Hochschule für Musik und Theater Das Ensemble WireWorks spielt Stücke

verschiedener Kompositionsdozenten der HfMT die elektronische Elemente enthalten. Die Ensemblephilosophie:

Im Bewußtsein der technischen Herausforderung, die in der Aufführung elektroakustischer Musik liegt, hat sich WireWorks als festes Ensemble von erfahrenen Musikern formiert, die den Kontakt mit den neuen Medien nicht scheuen. Ob Echtzeit-Interaktion mit der neuesten Soft- oder Hardware oder nur der Gebrauch eines elektronischen Keyboards, Technologie ist jedoch nie Selbstzweck, sondern -ganz im Gegenteil integraler Bestandteil eines zeitgenössischen musikalischen Ausdrucks, der Tonbandmusik, Improvisation, Mikrotonalität und Musiktheater mit einschließt.




Remember, surfer, thou are dust, it is the blight.Is that it ?
Draw around.
Since I´ve been sick in this head for so long I don´t see an overamount of inducement now. No. (- She delivered this, film over eyes, no inverted commas )

Then there was the day they caught her long telephoning with nobody at the other end. ( Terror is a little furry animal. )
Trap the scream, grist for your musical art.
As from a vast distant, the eyes. Cold. Someone come up and lift me.
I´d locked up the meat-carver. Let this chalice never pass. Stand by me now, O great self-love. Bridges burned, down the long road….

Her scream roared, ranted, her ululation a-rocking , her catatonic wail a chthonic keen.
Art comes from plumbing. Twenty seven years .
Molten lava, lads, bottle her…. ( I had to employ a food-taster. Had to. )
Well, the eyes´ cold filmed fear had to snap.
The terminal sprawl as her electrolytes just snapped like that. Furry, foetid finis.


Dance in the winter Autumn leaves just now falling Their life’s nearly spent

Dancing, yes, dying, Who shall separate these leaves From their naked trees?

Leaves, after golden days, Their long day’s journey dying. How they’re spiralling.

Shimmering, Dancing. This is their last Autumn day . (They’re like my bank-notes)

If you only knew / That those dancing, golden leaves Now have had their chance…

á, duilleoga ag damhsa
dá mbeadh a fhios agaibh
. . . dá mbeadh



Congratulations on the concerto last week!

The reviews, in case you missed them:

Programme note and biog are below.



A series of audio shorts featuring the composers in their homes, recorded for the radio series Cross Currents.


Frank Corcoran, who divides his time between Hamburg and Italy, gives an insight into his life in Italy.

Music used: Symphony No. 2 – Tutti

Media files

283764675-cmcireland-cross-currents-at-home-with-frank-corcoran.mp3 (audio/mpeg, 0 bytes)



Com­poser: Corcoran, Frank

( Texts: Corcoran, Frank )

In­stru­men­ta­tion: mixed choir (SSAATTBB) a cappella
Edi­tion: choral score
Lan­guage: English

Se­ries: Distinguished Choral Music
Order No.: C 57103

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The Irish composer Frank Corcoran already won several first prizes, such as for his English-language choral composition ‘Eight Haikus’ at the International Foundation for Choral Music in 2013.
This 10-minute work for 4-8-part choir is based on eight secular texts written by Corcoran himself in the style of the famous Japanese haiku poems.
In this shortest lyrical form of world literature which consists of only three lines, the composer ( born in 1944 ) uses a large variety of labials, sibilants and plosives and he addresses socially relevant topics by means of simple descriptions of nature and seasons in a content-wise, musically figurative and mystical language.