Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Preparing for just exactly what ?  Misty carols and mystical cooking , a strong red bottle, little children, late capitalism’s late collapse, the epiphany in the ordinary ( we hope ) and something to save the banal or the trivial or both. Full belly or vacuous mind, mountains of food for thought. The angels did sing. Pentatonically, Celtic-Chinese, I presume. In my new AN IRISH CAROL we expand from one voice to soaring four, from the simple to the full-throated roar and back again. Simple. But I thought of it first.

Art in the small. Nor was the “Irish” world of Aingeal MacCraith , 1640-ish, any less ” baroque”  than Bernini’s Rome , Borromini’s unfortunate sword, his Christmas dinner. “Dun”  =  “Palazzo” , certainly, so also ” the dusky heart”, therfore  “yearnings”, therefore  ” intimations of immortality”, all that and more at this wintersolstice.



4. April 2015                                       NDR KULTUR       “Prisma  Musik  ”

Frank Corcoran’s big radiophonic analysis / juxtaposition /  of Mozart’s Symphony Nr. 29 and Mozart’s ” Jupiter ”  . SeaNua also with mighy Mozart.

What do these two great orchestral works share ? Not share ? –  But also their themes ?  What about that 4-note cell ?  His ” C D F E  ”  motiv through all four movements of the ” Jupiter ”  ? But also in the earlier, delightful Nr. 29, eh ?


Hmmm. Yes, this scopological age. All want to watch. Look. See. Heigh ho! Film is the thing then, the peek, the DVD, the glotz and peep, Tom…. Seeing  through the mirages in poor Plato’s Cave is beleiving . Why is this? Appearance; mirage. Not really epiphany.

Hmmm. We apparently have lost the appetite for and any ability to listen. To follow a musical argument of even minimal complexity beyond a few seconds, therefore onlyaural tit-bits or scraps.

Hmmm. The scopological versus the listening in to sound , the ( jumpy ) eye versus the ( concentrated ) ear. Is that it ? Or: ” Eye hath not seen nor ear heard…  ” . Pity.


Working now on Dvorak’s CELLO CONCERTO – a mighty work ; it ( –  plus Lutoslawsky’s ) lurks  behind my own  Concerto  ( Premiere March 13 2015 with the N S O / Kenneth Montgomery / Soloist:  Martin Johnson  ) . Its ” big ” ATTITUDE ( of the orchestra and the solo instrument )  ; its aura (  Yes,Czech – though I have no thought of working neo-Slavic or neo-Celtic tricks into mine….  )  and its power. Courage . The big slam. Lutoslawsky’s work also towers, a giant act of instrumental courage , the composer’s  belief that tones matter, that his music as sounding architecture must soar and shout against cosmic indifference;  against societal, medial  indifference.

“You’re On Earth – There’s NO Cure For That ! “

To the  EDITOR / Irish Times  .         11.11.2014

             Dear Editor,

I weep for the Irish Times and the Royal  Irish Academy’s  post-colonialist  ” panel of experts ”  and their  pale Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks. 

 ”  M’or  Mo N’aire ”  indeed for  their
post-colonialist ignorance of  contemporary Irish art-music . Over twenty years ago now the Irish Times portraited me as an Irish composer  abroad  who had no chance of being understood at home  (  – it meant being understood by our Irish  intellectuals, leaders, arts administrators and  panels of ” experts” )  as an Irish artist working in sound , tone, silence; seeing an Irish  symphony, sonata,  chorus, opera, concerto,  as on an exact par with  an Irish  book, painting, sculpture, play, poem, building. Certainly I weep.

For your “experts” with their 100 Irish Artworks  nothing  has changed . An  Irish ” cumad’oir ceoil”   has no place in their 100 post-colonial artworks. – Yet how could she ?  In 1981  my  “SYMPHONIES OF SYMPHONIES OF WIND” was premiered in Mozart’s Vienna with the O.R.F.S..O under  Lothar Zagrosek.  Silence at home.  (  Why ? Well, the  Irish

“post- colonial”  canon of what are and are not  Irish arts doesn’t  perceive Irish composed music as  a part of  Irish intellectual tradition.   )   My   ” JOYCEPEAK  MUSIK  ”   won the German Studio  Akustische Prize in 1996.   –  Yawn at home..  Yes.  Post-colonial.  My electro-acoustic  “SWEENEY’S  VISION ”  won the 1999 Bourges Festival  Premier Prix.   West German Radio commissioned  my  ” QUASI UNA MISSA”   which then  won the 2002  Swedish EMS Prize.
A  post-colonial narration of  Ireland and Irish musical composition indeed  ?     Last year my choral “EIGHT HAIKUS”  won the International Federation for Choral Music First Prize Outright .  ( Here I am not blowing my trumpet but my musical  nails )
Your revered panel’s  post-colonial  blinkers are blind to  composed music on the Irish island .  Abroad  there is  a healthy
recognition of  four generations of  Irish composers .   I  weep now  for your  woeful bias, the disgrace of your lazy,  unexamined definition of Irish arts.

Yours etc.

Frank Corcoran , Irish Composer, Member of Aosdana.

On Talking About My Music or Writing The Programme-Note .

Talk about ” Quasi – Talking ” about my own work  ; and writhing about my own works. Difficult.

Why ?  –   Because you sense :

1. I am not getting it. The full self-analysis ; nor even the musical composition, its true genesis and how its substance is born and takes off in full flight, well-wrought,  well-rounded off .

2. Self-deceit is never distant , self-diddlement. Tales heard from another . A story “bentrovato” if not quite how it really was, perhaps ?

3. When is writing writhing ?  Riding blissfully over truth  – what truth ?



It is no joke and yet for me it wasa rare pleasure to have spent this grayish-Bergedorf day ( we are still pre-Winter Solstice, remember,  ) correcting the orchestral parts for my new  CELLO CONCERTO  (   premiere March 13.  2015 in  in Dublin . )  . Tricky the bass clarinet’s quirls , all the double bassoon darkly farting , my  transposing instruments.  It’s not yet two years since – in our sun-filled  back-room, I composed it in furious, patient, unrepeatable ecstasy.

The symphonic opening does, well, open a high argument , a solo cello pitted against an  orchestral Moloch.  Take the ” motto-theme ”  on its three high trumpets: Dvorak and Lutoslawsky behind, before me, I will sing the mad, sad years behind This Big Song;  the  Slow Movement’s shifting lines and colours and familial shadows and background-foreground shapes are less my aping of splendid 19th. c. forebears, more my composing singing lines for a  soloist and his shadowers.  The third movement is the most violent music I ever had to compose. Massed brass , one- or two-voiced attacks on a cellist’s  beautiful nightmare ( and with his self-punishing marathons up to lonely, dizzy heights on the A string . A pounding rhythmic formula , this manic five / four / three / three assymetrical corset at my crazed , breathless tempo.

The final  movement rescues orchestral shambles , this ever-present Corcoran’s Seven-Tone Scale (  G – A flat – C sharp – D – E flat – F sharp – A )  , our trumpets  or horn motto- theme, Dvorak’s hymn, all the rest.

My  Cello Concerto as autobiography? – hardly . As tonal architecture plus thematic play plus shadow plus sunlight plus reinforced concrete plus ” quasi una visione ” ?  Quite. Quasi. Certainly.