Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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There is certainly a lot of nonsense around ,

including our usual suspects

( Henry Grattan Flood, for example, is hardly usable. P. Henebry also. )
From Breand’an Breathnach I was lucky to inherit healthy scepticism ;

but also to approach Irish music much as an archaeologist would – his

FOLK MUSIC AND DANCES OF IRELAND has good stuff ( eg. on how recent the dances are- or on the genealogy of certain

Slow Airs )

A must , too, is Donal O’Sullivan FOLKSONGS OF THE IRISH

More recent collectors are also sounder – Tom Munnelly, Fintan Vallely, Swedish Professor of Folklore , Bo Almquist.
The odd introductions from the BBC collectors of the thirties to fifties , Seamus Ennis etc. ,
can be pearls.

Yes, a MUST is Breand’an ‘O Madag’ain’s pioneering work on the Old Irish Caoine

and its genealogy- going back to the Fenian “laoi”.

I myself published two important essays in The Journal of Music , was it 2000 and 2002 …

And a gob-smacking must is that beautiful reference in ” Agallamh na Seanorach ” ( “Tales Of The Ancients Of Ireland

where Oisin, quizzed by our St. Patrick, told of Finn McCumhal’s beloved little harper, Ceann Corach who

could play

” the music of all that is…. ”

MARCH 2016 ; I WROTE :

Well, to my mind, the mind intends , craves it, hates and fears the mentally vacuous

– even when preparing to fly South to warmer hours and plants and animals and sights and smells and sauces

Five wintering months maximum, wasn’t so bad after all.

Not too much concentration ; the IRISH DUETS ( Cello and Piano ) and the

PIANO TRIO (with Viola ).

Yet shaping my past music now , what’s the future for 2016?

eg. up-and-coming new orchestral CD . Exciting !

Yes , the mind is stirring, it surveys its remaining time ; I can still imagine great musical shapes and forms.

Flex the shaping muscle. The tones will come.

And good taste also. The ethical. I’ll avoid compromise . Holy shit.

The World and Composed Music – this inherited, miserable scene – I do not take on any responsibility for it thus…

Since Debussy’s death. Gigantic market-forces

at their dirty work of dirtying ears and listening.

Work away in the inner recesses. Keep the head down. Imagine.

Shape the strong stuff.


Horses shat; behold !
It mires our monastery.
Earthly sanctity…

“Apples of the earth ”
Dropping from English horses
They are looting us.

Apples to apples !
We monks are holy ashes,
Wholly holy. YES!

( féach creachadh is truailliú
na nGall garbh!
Mainistir Ros Oirialaigh!

see the looting and desecration
of English barbarians!
Ross Abbey )


RHAPSODIC BOWING for 8 Celli Frank Corcoran

There is here not only rhapsodic bowing but also rhapsodic plonking and plinking, pizzicati and ( col legno ) striking with wood and all the myriad colour possibilities of one cello or of
eight. – Quasi a chest of viols for today.

I wrote this short essay in string choirs and cello colours for the Cello Section of the N.S.O. it is one mighty movement. Of eight minutes. The chthonic opening wooden thumps soon give way to arco lines and melodies,high rapture, rhapsodies ascending and descending. Moving lines bisect each othe , they quiver and announce, until all
gives way to the great sarabande rhythm of Bach’s

C – Major Solo Cello Suite .

After the second Bach shadow the rhapsodic bowing becomes 8-voiced rapture.
Before the high

arpeggioed harmonics take over completely in the end section, comes the repeated bass with two cello as the work streams to its tender end.

Ancient Greek : ” RHAPSOIDEIN” = ” To stitch together songs.”


I sneak back to Irishness.

For the very last time.

– I´d often cursed our lack of a socially bolstered faith in the cultural instutions which composed music (
i.e. my own music ) might seem to need.
We a peasant people? Our lack of giant shoulders onto which I´d glide and clamber as a young whetter of sound-skill and-shenannigans? ) ?

It is a great lack, because we Irish ( still ) have no ” culturally internalized” need for or any perception of “composed music “, of ” ceol cumtha – ealaíonta”.

And yet There was one exception, a literary giant. Musicologists , nota bene: James Joyce was the greatest Irish composer. He penned the wash of sound. Joyce HEARD music and polyphonic flow and heroic courage and the composer´s cheer,
that cheer which I got as my 1997 WDR commission, ” BALTHAZAR´S DREAM”
was awarded the Bourges Festival 1999 Premier Prix.
It helped, of course, these wilting Irish shoulders. Joyce had felt the flow of phonemes and synonyms and syllabic form.

Danger lurked. I didn´t know enough European art-history. How invent the ( musical ) wheel? The sonata as a bicycle? Innocence can breed disaster, lonely, lovely.
Again Hubble´s universe, in a garden-hut near Stuttgart I composed SONATA FOR STRING ORCHESTRA ; I ” wrote ” its stringiness. – I had to. I learned to invent sound forms. I had to.
My American
MUSIC FOR THE BOOK OF KELLS calls for vast percussion.
It is an Early Irish Iron Age window. I had to do it. Nobody showed me how.
I cut pre-digital BALTHAZAR´S DREAM with bleeding fingers at the Berlin Technical University in heady 1980. I had to.
Then, years later, I composed my QUASI UN LAMENTO for a very odd orchestra of three saxophones, wind, percussion, piano and strings.
Was this my scream at the violent death of Rory ( in Hamburg 1987 ) ?

And yet.Beware seeing musical composition as biography´s breakfast, the unmediated andthe raw.
Cook, ye composers !
Yet Horace´s polished art is right: I construct MY sheen, my musical art,
holier than bronze, transmuted amputations and child-cauterizations and orphaned child-emotions;
ghosts and ghosts’ dreams and -terrors.

Too simple? Certainly. And yet….




Yes, I always loved my ” Liber Usualis ” , its lumpy weight , full of black

Apparently I will die, – not only Seamus Heaney and David Frost

have had that privilege.

So who´ll then see this aurora turn to dawn ? Will it turn to dawn?

Where will my universe of felt feelings and drunk drinks and
suffered tones and negative feelings and pettinesses and ecstasy and
ecstasies and big take-offs and small ( – the Phrank Cork Universe, we´ll
call it ),
my mortal sensorium , all my reeling films and thrusts towards love, towards truth,
be gone to?

We´re back to “Cogito ergo cogitans sum”, a grand tautology, the black boot-straps heaving to pull me up
But now stilled for ever after my passing,
my full stop.

How on
earth will all this earth get on at all ?

To be continued.
Watch your cork.

Caoin tú féin ; but only just enough .

Beware processions, Seamus.
Get back, ye millions !

Start the Big YELL at the beginning of my big electronic piece, ” TRADURRE / TRADIRE ” !

Deep brass and tearing timps of my Second Symphony ( -recently re-heard in Blankenese, Hamburg ).

Work well worked.

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Frank Corcoran hears and ” hears ” two GREAT Mozart Symphonies –

1. Nr. 29 2. Nr. 41 ” JUPITER ” .

What binds ? Unbinds them ? How “listen ” ? Those four notes ” ? WHAT – Mozart’s musical ” Unconscious ” ?

Then, later in that NDR-Klassik “meta-analytic” programme, Frank’s own new VIOLIN CONCERTO .

Finest radio.