Frank Corcoran

irish composer


It’s a long way to Tipperary ” goes the old song. And it is a long way from Tipperary in southern Ireland where I was born to still West Berlin where 1980 – 1981 I spent a year as an invited guest of the Berliner Kuenstlerprogramm.
I had had my First Symphony premiered in Vienna in 1980, a work for wind alone. No strings. No percussion. I began my Second Symphony for Large Orchestra.What was the motor-idea for this large work ; music doesn’t exist for me without form. As a young composer I wanted to shape and control my vast colour forces . I had the idea of two contrasting movements , the first ( “Soli” )
concentrating on the individual solo lines of , eg. the trombones, the gongs and deep percussion of the opening, the solo double basses and celli and higher strings.
My music not synchronized metrically – as a contrast to the second movement , ” Tutti ” , which would use the same material but barred as ” normal”, synchronized music. So two twin movements ; the first a vast movement of smeared chorales and instrumental masses, but with no clearly heard lines and the second then as more “normal” as the lines scurry and hurry towards their end. The opening of this first movement of my Second Symphony does in fact achieve a hieratic ” chaos versus order ” quality, a shifting carpet of kinetic art . : Mahler famously said that a symphony must become itself a different world from our everyday world. Here you hear my created world of 1981 in West Berlin.
( Could I re-create this work like that today ? No ! )

MUSIC 1. Frank Corcoran 2. Symphony. Mov. 1. All. ( RTESO Dublin . Conductor: Colman Pearce . Marco Polo 8.225107 )


1983 I moved to Hamburg to teach composition at the Musikhochschule there . ( Can you in fact teach musical composition ? No ! )
Twelve years later the city-state of Hamburg was celebrating 50th. years since the Liberation of Auschwitz. But how do you ” celebrate” such horror ? The party-less Minister of Culture , the literary expert Christine Weiss, asked me to compose something to commemorate
the suffering of its Jewish citizens. I protested : ” No ! I am neither German nor Jewish but Irish !” Still I persisted…. )
I decided to use an orchestra of only percussion instruments. How can a snare-drum paint the barracks awakening ? Can we at all,
after the Shoah, compose music ? How can eg. points of triangle suggest points of human suffering ? And so on.
My TRAUERFELDER, in my native Irish language GOIRT AN BHROIN , in English FIELDS OF SORROW has five chapters of human suffering from the Book of Pain.
In the first of my five, short TRAUERFELDER bells and vibraphone hammer out the hard vision of hardship; timpani ushe in the unspeakable.

MUSIC 2. Frank Corcoran. TRAUERFELDER Mov. 1. ca. 2.50′. CD Composers Art Label FRANK CORCORAN
( ISRC DE – L29 – 04 – 01430 )

Four years after the percussion piece TRAUERFELDER and still in Hamburg I wrote with the giant computers of West German Radio’s
Electronic Studios a large piece using my Irish Tipperary childhood memories and my love of mythic Early Ireland .
I composed. I painted my canvas , my QUASI UNA MISSA , which won the 2002 Swedish E.M.S. prize for electronic music. ( I had never wanted to
distinguish my work with symphonic or chamber or vocal and choral forces as in any deep way different from my computer work. Computer music , if it is not technological fetish , is, or has to be music…. )

QUASI UNA MISSA is my celebration of over 2000 years of God-statements on my island of Ireland, its religiosity and its drive towards the mystical.

Posted under: Humble Hamburg Musings

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