Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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Once upon a time there was this little songster in unfading June, the gab and throat well laid back, somehow a survivor bent on finishing the trellised page. Tonight´s is no story of mating with a white pony while the orchestral tin-whistle discreetly turns away. It grows. I type. It empties. Watch that passacaglia bass, would you ?

Sound Wittenberg Theses :

Let us, hush, hush up our global rubbish musical, that lovely Pax Americana Musicale whose ( verily minimally ) musical few blaring bars pelvic – now for sixty years – ( – More ? Is it SO long ? ) defyingly occupy not only any high musical ground which may no longer exist but , whoah ! , all, I write , ALL the deafening acoustic space in between ALL, all of my five ( ? ) listening ( ? ) continents.
Observe: “Visual” Media Music = expensive technology , media- stupid claptrap – I do mean this: musical poverty. So now, the actual few bleated , blared or soaringly searing vocal semantics of mythic bull-shit …
As I tonight, deep in this cozy musical eyrie hear it, the global problem cuts much deeper. Das Volk loves the image. It does so . More than tone.
Ethnographers , lovely people, some of my own, may date this as they will ( – they will … ) – into the early decades of our 20 th. c.
It doth follow , yeah, that:
We have unlearned listening, we have forgotten the normal art of understanding , say, fifty five seconds of musical argument in just about any musical context, in just about any ( – Here I accept any and all ” styles” , East and West… ) of our daily listening. Ear meets composed – cooked up – sounds electric. All I´m arguing for is that we´re musically phaughed.

How bored ! how boring !
These cactus faces have bored
Our Autumn to death

I thus “translate” treacherously treacherous Gabriel Rosenstock´s “treacherous” Haiku, itself a ” treacherous” translation of Issa´s 1814 master-poem … So, yes, I´d say it´s the tone, my twist, a few vowels, your stance, minimal art not on my auntie. ( – Of course our Japanese original follows. Humph! – ) .
In my current composing ( a, my Cello Concerto, yes, in this yellow-long year, Mr. Issa ). Thus, I must compose the big architecture, my flying butresses, trellis-work, ( -well, how then should we try to build it up ? To what and to which and where? Expectations denied or fulfilled, – but instrumentally how ? Wind-down the whole complex/ simple musical constructions and orchestral fragments and scaffoldings and orchestral tuttis and etc. ) and then the bejewelled micro-architecture, a sigh repeated twice , the throw-away cadence, a cello´s ecstatic chain of intervals, – AND ALL OF THIS in “my” very own ( prior to pencilling in even the first bar-line ), personally adopted ” tonal language” i.e. all of this sublime spiel with my masses and my soli and the Many and the Few, using ONLY my very own Initial Frank Corcoran Scale, its always obvious operations and derivations and lumps and instrumental smithereens. Observe: My heroically pitted Cello must sing. Must “overcome”. Establish musical order or peace with a great orchestra. Must in the new Cello Concerto´s projected Three Movements ( – but time has hallowed this : Fast / Slow Song / Fast . Why, I wonder ? – Is it Dvorak versus Lutoslawsky, or what ? ) somehow challenge, slap down or up a musical ( i.e. intervallic, seems to me ) problem, wrestle with Jacob´s God-Angel, solve.

cachtais –
tráthnóna fómhair
leamh, gan snua

Sunday 19th. February 2012 LYRIC / IRISH RADIO broadcast: :

Frank Corcoran CLARINET QUINTET ( Vanbrugh Quartet and Fintan Sutton, clarinets . 2009 RTE commission ) and:
A DARK SONG ( 2011 . Fintan Sutton, Bass clarinet solo )
( “read this space; watch my lips; be ready for the dizzy MRT.” )


Certainly I will compose a Cello Concerto. How ? Certainly great Dvorak towers. Logical, Lutoslawsky´s Concerto is Music Drama of the highest order. When then ? This blessed night ?!
How then ? ( – Well, eg. for a start, mine is not the tonal option of Dvorak´s lovely and virtuoso washed sheen, his parallel sixths at high orchestral velocity , his aching sequences, cadential constructs and Slavic sighs and beautiful B Minor – yoked functional harmony.
Obvious. No?
I´ll also wish to prepare my very personal version of my personally ” drama” ( “Agony” is a fine word still ), my very own: Solo Versus Orchestra, Great Titan Against Great Many Them, ahem, yes, my ploy´s quite different from the Polish Master´s masterly tension graph. How?
Corcoran must ( once again ) invent his wheel, must sketch his musical syntax for his 2012 – 2013 Cello Concerto. Major principles of musical psychology holding on in the macro-wave , let´s say, so in the micro-wave how´ll he construct his initial “A then B then C” , that beautiful bane of all great composers´ humble musical alphabets after the Final Atonal Revolution? ( – we mean: its latest date was about 1913 – ish, a possible earliest date around Gesualdo, Wagner, such shades ; – but more on this in a near future, my Humble Hamburg Musing, – I have no doubt at all on this, ahem, score. ) . We mean by this, surely, that the poor man must choose even his basic motivic moves , all cello leps, mighty orchestral thin or thick massing, eg. he has to chose , say, ” C, A, Z, B,” etc. plus the well-known , -sung, – heard and -used motivic operations , blah, on this little start.
Follow ? Nein? Okay:
I´ll keep to a scale, seven sturdy notes ( – they often stood me stead ” sa bhearna bhaoil” ).
Neither minor nor major but, yes, Corcoran. With these seven tones, build me then my three great movements, my mighty soloist-plus-orchestra clash by night struggle, my heard accompaniment of My Dark Cello´s Great Song, Lush Dream Sounding. My tones will suffer, sing, die.
high, my post-Dvorak-and-Lutoslawsky


Certainly I had to study Berg , Beethoven and Max Bruch and them all; how to make my new Concerto sing and soar, how thin out the accompanying orchestra ( eg. I use no tuba, little enough brass, sparing percussion ) to let the violin get lift-off at the opening of my Movement 1.
The Slow Movement then wrote itself, the solo line singing its three ( sad ? – Are they sad ? ) verses before the Cadenza and final wisps of string.
In the fast semiquavers of the last 3. Movement, I composed the lightness of being. So it´s: Fast / Slow / Fast approximately, this well-tried formula of this exciting violin concerto genre. The writing is deliberately pared down. eg. it´s metred, gridded music all through , no complex polyrhythms or controlled aleatory, here clear melodic line and accompaniment .
My work is taut, lean, lyrical, leppin´, a true concerto that looks back and looks forward.It learns from Mozart in the last movement´s fast passage-work. There´s something, – of course there is, of Mendelssohn, Brahms and all the rest in the opening movement´s orchestral tutti pitted against the weak-strong strength of the solo line.
The Slow Movement is certainly a ” Lied Ohne Worte”, pure amhrán. It has to be.
So what´s my whole ( shortish , packed, compact ) orchestral work ? – Un poco “music about music” ? Maybe. As in several recent works ( eg. my 2011 CLARINET QUINTET or the 2008 ” 9 ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM” for Large Choir and Solo Violin ) my building-blocks are a simple 7 – note row : G A flat C sharp D E flat F sharp and A. That´s it. With these seven tones I construct a mighty sounding edifice, in these three movements a concerto ( in full flight) of fiddling fun and violinistic seriousness and art´s sorrow and fast, furious, last orchestral thoughts. “Quasi Un Concerto “? – No, the real thing, but a concerto of our time, my seven tones re-living ( at least a century of violin concerti without being in the least neo-tonal or neo-this and that. I´ll call it also: ” The One And The Many” ; “Four Strings Against The Rest”; or we should subtitle its three supple, subtle movements perhaps: ” Announce The Event” , ” Sighing Song” and “Lightness Is All”.


Irish Chamber Choir “ELEGIES” Evening Concerts:

February 25 Carlingford. Feb. 26 St. Anne´s Church Dublin

Benjamin Britten: Five Flower Songs

Herbert Howells: Take him, earth, for cherishing

(our performance dedicated to the memory of Vaclav Havel)

Gerald Finzi: Three Short Elegies

Brian Boydell: Two Madrigals

Enda Bates: Pauper’s Lament / A Stealing Sadness

Frank Corcoran: Caoine


Silent is my lake
Deep in its quiet bowels
Slumber unquiet clouds

A jig-saw puzzle:
Its gray expanse of water
High above clouds flecked

No form is their form
Cubic metres of water,
Clouds, lake, frozen day

Nose blue, Polar air cuts, thanks very much. ( Numb fingers reach for Early Irish Lyrics , fine deep-freezing form . I “musicked” some for choir in February 1972… )


I had lost much time ( – had I? ). This is less a Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Ass, more a lingering at and near a few sound epiphanies. Sound man. THREE ORCHESTRAL PIECES of them early seventies were just that – my high horns, trumpets cutting the thin air of what were three ” Pictures From My Exhibition” . Did you ever compose a rhythmic canon for two bass drums? – I did. And a solo oboe worked narrative wonders.
Schooling had been an emotional catastrophe ; how amputate a youngster´s young emotions? ( Only bits of literature, a very little, could save ( a little ) my having been cauterized against wonder, against high ecstasy, against the miracle that is a composer´s composing. I fought back. Certainly. My later symphonic struggles all yell. Of course I stole; from the composers I knew, my little quotes and biteens and collages, in that PIANO TRIO ( – for me a rhythmic break-through ) and in my WIND QUINTET, the SYMPHONIES. They bleed. My instrumental ounds.