Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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1. ( Shades Of Basho )

Around Greenland booms
A white spume of cold breakers,
White noise, cool music.


For the womb the seed
Sighs. – For light the eternal
Dark polar day.

Once these were strong pines.
Came The Great Wind that morning.
Now they are no more.

This bright New Year´s Day
I replay our autumn film,
Its lovely evening….

Old tides rush in where
No hovering white angel
Dares open its mouth


As I was growing up in the fifties, my pre-television Ireland had little links with European art-music. Far-off Dublin had its Raidió ´Eireann Orchestra which was licked into shape by experienced conductors like Milan Horvat and Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt ( I visited his grave near here recently ). The Irish landscape still mapped a mythic past for my filtering ear; and the aural aura of my native island´s seas and strands and lakes and mythic mountains and awesome monastic ruins were very close; nor was the modal, inflected line of the Irish Slow Airs yet lost ( they do, yes, earn these capitals ). I hadn´t much more than my own body – music, the battered Hoehner accordeon, our family upright piano, the local church´s Gregorian Chant. I was only European in theory. ( Later came music-theory ). I´d bicycle down our then still empty Tipperary lanes, memorizing hundreds of traditional tunes with a method quite unknown even to Barto´k:( the toes of my ) right foot melody-tones,(the toes of my ) left foot the three chords I then knew. Then there was God. What kept the stars from lepping apart in a Hubble universe at night? I was no Mozart. It took years.


1961 the goose was ready for the roasting – an t- ´Ard ( ! )
Teistiméireacht. Rote-learning and a centralistic system ( ten short
years later, I would begin serving the Irish Civil Service´s dopy,
dullard Dept. of Education, – a Cigire come to his castration ) had given me
no kind of hoult on literature in 4 ( Greek, Latin, Irish and English )
languages; my Mathematics was shaky ; History agus Geography

About my Maynooth years, 1961 to 64, I deluded myself.
´Twas bliss for the starving young, Aristotelian Logic and Homer
and Lucretius´s “De Rerum Natura” and
John Henry Newman´s “Idea Of A University” and Palestrinian / Bach
Counterpoint, a heady brew. I thought I was pursuing God.
Perhaps I was .

1964 I departed this life for Rome´s Vatical Council,
theological journalists and international periti and three Popes and
all. I was ashamed of “my” Irish Church´s hierarchy, of our
shoddy theological past, ignorant anti-intellectualism, our pretended “Romanità” .

1967 I fled back to Dubh Linn, Dark Shitpool, soul shattered and
youthful optimism in tatters. Yet I held fast onto my tiny creative vision,
– compose a musical thing, some thing, anything, an eight bar
Lied, a quintet for accordeon and strings
; I submitted an inchoate monstrosity to Ráidio ´Eireann. In
its wisdom, it whistled, it whispered : “No. Hould back!
You´re all over the place, no control of dem tones! You´re pen doesn´t know
what it wants to write, nor how.”

Sectarian U.C.D., post – Jack Larchet, wanted ( desperately) to show
Archbishop McQuaid´s Catholic Dublin AND all the Protestants of T.C.D.
that Bach and Beethoven could yet be absorbed by Post-Famine
Catholicism. Our Professor was a Fascist boor, bully
plus baby. As I was taking my B.Mus. Finals, he assured me that if I´d even make an attempt at “his” D.Mus.
( even then old English vintage, fifteen-part counterpoint
and the lot ) , he´d attend personally to my shafting. His shoddy Department
didn´t even pretend to teach composition; it did pretend to,
but didn´t in fact, teach any orchestration. For that
I traipsed every Wednesday over to Westland Row where in
the Royal Irish Academy of Music great Dr. Archie Potter did
teach composition and instrumentation. Together we opened the score of
Schubert´s “Great” C Major Symphony. It was bliss trombones.

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Is this which follows, then, improvised music ? Is it perhaps composed music ?
TITLE : “Among My Souvenirs ” : MY MUSIC: obviously a 3/4 bar, violin plus Viennese piano:
– “Admit to the Book Stacks” Harvard College, March 1992.
– “Certificate Of Attendance” – Fellow at Session 167 of the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies , March 26 1976.
– ” Certificate Of Death” Nr. 1121 / 2002 . ” The Decedent ( ? Yikes! ) was born on 22.5.1947 in Bayreuth…. ”
– “Family Tree: Casey / Corcoran: Hackett . Casey. Kirley. Corcoran. Colgan ( -they would have been Roger´s Mother´s Family)
” Music until now has played little part in Irish Studies in the U.S.”
– Prose-jazz? Poetic or pathetic prose? I composed here my word-tones, yellowing chords and rhythms and musical memories , wispeens of melody. In the best Joycean sense, oh yes ! – Can the banal arise struggling out of the trivial? – Can it? Do I hope to compose new ” entrail -sounds” ? New ” VARIATIONS ON MYSELF!” – Yes, I mean, out of my ounds?
I can. eg.
” TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: Franklin S. Miller, Dept. of Music, U.W.M., May 16. 1990 : Professor Corcoran was a Fulbright Scholar from Hamburg…. We have enjoyed having Frank Corcoran on the faculty…. he has my personal best wishes for future success here and in Europe as well. ” – Trivial?
Quadrivial? Kitsch? Yellowing music, tones blown in the wind?


Do I believe in “Creatio ex Nihilo” ? Do I what ?
The composer spins, certainly she spins, new yarn, old yarns, out of what? – Yes, out of
her earlier works, or a ” new path” , or ” tones versus anti-tones ” , out of a just-now-perhaps-picked-up paramusical “idea” ( eg. ” Let´s this evening have a little fun! Let´s use a quantum mechanics formula “. ) , or she may compose out of his composer´s grandmother´s sufferings from the year 1894, you folly me? Or build on a new form principle ( – but WHAT!? ) , out of lithe laptops mating limply across measureless oceans, or again out of a ( nearly Kitsch ) trigger – line like : ” fast falls the even-tide…. ”
Creatio ex nihilo ? What´s this “nihil” , I wonder as I blog, compose, essay or saunter across this, my space? To “compose” it new, we surely all will want that nowadays ( Pace Palestrina and all the Bach family; whist, too, John Cage! ), yours truly humbly dumbly included, yes. Neither irony nor pastiche nor imitation nor parody nor re-gurgitation is endurable for long. -Okay. Difficult to define “Kitsch”, I´ll grant me, and yet I don´t believe that anything goes.
“Wir bauen hier so feste / Und sind doch fremde Gäste! ” ” We´re building here so free / Our jolly building-spree!” ” Und wo wir sollen ewig sein / Bauen wir so wenig ein!” ” Bu, well, where we should endure / There we are so bloody unsure!”


ENSEMBLE 4 / 11. Page 40.

Komponisten : Frank Corcoran

And : JOURNAL OF NEW MUSIC RESEARCH Vol 12, Issue 1 – 2, 1983
( Pages 351 – 355 ) “Irland und die neue irische Musik heute”.


Sea-snakes don´t really. Eat muscle tissue. “The dead will keep going on and on.” “She burned her coal without heating herself or the poor children. ” “A comely bride is easily dressed”. “Did they make any scuffling noise? ” Actually it was more like butter being strained through the scrim of a mouseskin shroud.” Memory morphs: “Búireamh suite fíor ina féachaint” ( Roughly, ” her eyes carried a film” ) .


Whence swims up courage, dignity, hypothomotic longings? A constant cloud of self-manufactured and manufacturing value, the mythic meaning that exudes from submarine us in the deep water ? What sure surrender or recommended swoon towards which cosmic swindle , my glass only half full ? Every twenty minutes up we go for air, then dive, let off the hook, neither I nor Me nor You ; quick, we have but a a sea-sprayed second, a quick wash.Do I pick up a finny hesitancy? Under the rocks´shadows something´s fishy. ( Fish eats sea-snake. Davy Jones died hard. His five fathoms. )


1981 ,I was – from West Berlin – back in Dublin, the Vienna call came through . Into “our” kitchen. Yes: Good:
The O.R.F. had planed my 1. SYMPHONY ( ” SYMPHONIES” of 23 Wind Instruments )
“We” drove down then from Berlin to Mozart´s Vienna. ( I had heard of Salieri, his pomps ). Lothar Zagrosek, GREAT conductor,


I didn´t want to come to Germany.

Webern called. Me.

It was lonely, lonely 1967 as I made my pilgrimage to Anton ( von ? ) Webern´s house in Austrian Mittersill – before the Stockhausens and all these Fernyhoughs etc. etc. There he got the curfew bullet, cigar ignited. ( No help. Nowhere. Austrian / German / American Webern musicologists, weak, very, analytically weak ) .
I take now Webern´s ( lonely ? – CERTAINLY lonely ! ) Opus 11, No. 3. What does the cello play , why the the piano accompany ? Cello trils pianissimo E flat – F flat , ” punctuating” , ” commenting ” lWebern´s low piano trichord darkly, – and then – as if Webern blew a muted trombone ? – . Second ” heroic” cello statement, again it´s a pp – swell – pp, then four bars of eternally deep frozen ( – We´d better e-mail Dante QUICK ! ) cadence for both end-of-that-faughed-19th. c. – solo-instruments ” prostituted ” Cello / Piano Duo and WHAT , post Gustav Klimt, we hope …. )
Nobody has – in Ireland / in Berlin / in ( Zaccagniniana ) Roma /
in Boston or New York ” explained” to me Webern´s sigh. Why?