Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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The Crane Bag Vol. 6. Nr. 2 1982

Frank Corcoran ” I´m A Composer ! You´re A WHAT ! ? ”

Times have changed since then. Since 1982 in Ireland. Have they ? They have not. No !

21. September 2012 at the Contemporary
Music Centre OPEN NIGHT :


A short electro-acoustic work from them lost nineties, it´s one of the strangest pieces I ever made – bits of flotsam and jetsam, ocean-bed choruses and marine-land, animal-human cries and clicks and zounds as poor Sweeney, the little mad King who went schizophrenic at the Battle of Máigh Rath in 632 A.D., must bid farewell to the world, to his world of Late Iron Age, Celtic Ireland. Bizarre.


I´ve been asked to write a line on Art and Surliness.
I suppose it´s in the sense of ” the personal emotion”, ” the composer´s mood-swings”, her ” self”. He´s depressed ? Has money-, family-, meaning- and value-worries? ( – whether surly or sunny is here surely a moot point; ” surly” is as much colour as attitude ). Behind this lurks a much bigger question – how transmute ( at a minimum ) good art into
gold freed from SELF ? Into sheeny silver , a la, say, Horace ? I do believe that great ( and great er) art has lifted itself further, higher if you will ( you will ) by its own sublime bootstraps than the composer´s autobiographical swill. How so ? Form, Vollendung, perfection of poise, surely that´s it , the crafted and the crafty ( not shifty ! ) art of making at the highest level. Aim high, surly toonsmith.


They buckle, suffer,
High melting Umbran mountains.
Listen! The frog´s plop!

In the hay-barn
Sleeps my Cello Concerto,
Its tones are still still.

Music is hot air,
Dipped in Orvieto White,
My cigar dying.

Basho´s frying frog
Beside this pool where we languish,
Hot. How long, Oh Lord?

In the deep blue pool
Three generations swimming,
She and he and I.

FALLING STARS NIGHT August 10 has been ´n gone.

That´s right. Someone slapped up on YouTube Frank Corcoran´s CONCERTO FOR STRING ORCHESTRA ( David Robertson conducts the New Irish Chamber Orchestra. It is my year of 1982 ).”Corcoran´s beyond brilliant. It´s about the negative space as much as colour”.
Hmmm. Still, this is better than “He uses Rock root-position progressions and florid Qawwali music” which wins this week´s Pseuds´ Corner Prize.

August Hot , Not Wicked

“It was bought on the morn / Of the day that he was born / It was always his treasure and pride / But it stopped short, / Never to go again / When the old man died… ” ( THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK )

This is art. Folk-art. Strong accentuated the first and second beat in each line, sense and stress and rhythm in fine fettle and synch with each other, those first ( seemingly ) naive four two – accents lines and then a third three – footed line, perfectly matched by the three Titan blows of the last Sibelian : ” Old” / “Man” / “Died” !
No “high” art; but very high quality folk-poetry. And I watch its melodic line, too: you could well argue for the ubiquity of that three-note melodic cell in the first half of our song´s verse , the rhythmic assymmetry of “It was always …. pride”. In the second half then we find again that very cell plus a very few ( well, to be exact, three ) expressive leaps in the melos of our ( getting ) remarkable song-composition.
Enough ? Hold on your horses a minute: a different rhythmic parsing is also thinkable : suppose we take the cheap option and we follow the opening three lines` – – / – – / – – / – with the unfortunately thinkable banality : – – / – – – / ( then a silent / ) to
mirror as it were, an equally fatuous but boringly symmetric final ” — / / / ” plus our added silent, you remember, extra ” / ” .

. Well ? May we ? Might we ? Thinkable but worse ? Why ? Because it damn well does destroy the high charm of my first assymetry, those TWOs and then a Sibelian THREE.
Proves what ? Humble folk-art ( Appalachians? Castlecuffe ? ) works on and solders and joins carpentered assymmetry , but subtle, subtly, the big hammer-blows plus the Sibelian.

So? Need I needle more ? This study has of course ignored the assonantal whacks, great end-rhyme, those carefully chosen initial ” b” s, ” d” s, ” p” s and so on, the one-syllabled mighty whacks and blows of its woes, our anonymous ( ! ? ! ) poor ( ? ) poet´s choice of inner ” o” s or of finely and finally high-lighted ” ie” s.

Art does come from artifice, from artificial, Artemisia, arterial, Artery, archery and arch-engineering, sym- and assymetrical, the fine play of often fine details, rhythmic, melodic etc. etc. Plus the artist´s breakfast- eg. this our tonight´s delightfully poised play with phrases ´n melody of our songster´s childhood memory of a GREAT song:
” The Grandfather Clock” . A minor masterpiece . Finely composed. Mighty.


September 5 2012. Odessa Club Dublin Kaleidoscope Concert :
Andreja Malir premiers my Solo Harp “IN THE DEEP HEART´S CORE.”
Ditto. ditto Isabel Moreton in
Hannover, High Germanee…
October 25 Dublin. Martin Johnson premiers my SNAPSHOT for Solo Cello.

IN THE DEEP HEART´S CORE for Solo Harp ( Premiere: 5.09.2012 Dublin, Andreja Malir, Harp ) Frank Corcoran

For the non-player composer, to write for guitar or bass clarinet or double bass can be a nightmare. Or to compose for the harp.
I avoided composing a solo harp piece for years – it´s not just the problem wth the pedals, how
quickly can Andreja change the chromatic pool of available tones , nor is it the different registers… The harp is an orchestra , a wonderful collection of colour possibilities; but the real problem is moral. Why does so much harp music ( especially 19th. c. Romantic ) sound for me inauthentic , insincere, just too beautiful to be ” true” ? So much ( wonderful ) Sout American harp music as prostituting the over-the-top ripe sound-possibilities of this great chest of gut-strings and fancy finger-work ?

Maybe it´s the clicheès with the glissandi , the sheen and swoosh of harp literature written by harper – composers ? Some of it is certainly trying to work out how long a sounding pedal-tone should sound – just how long should it eg. be allowed to clog up all the other musical thoughts and happenings ? ( One of the great harp sounds for me is that deep chord played secco, dry, in Stravinsky´s miniature Tombeau for Harp, Flute and Clarinet for Duke Max Egon zu Fürstenberg in Donaueschingen ; it´s a dark sound, anti-beautiful, cut off, doesn´t clog, like the wooden clapper they used to have for the Catholic Good Friday liturgy years ago as I was a child in Tipperary )
I had written ” A DARK SONG” for solo Bass Clarinet early last year ( Premiere in November 2011 at the
R.I.A.M. / RTE ) before I turned my hand or my ear to a short solo for harp, IN THE DEEP HEART´S

It´s just one movement ( I suppose the Yeatsian title wants to emphasize both ” dark” and ” core” , ” heart”, too ). As in all my works, everything has to flow from the opening idea, that fortissimo low F Sharp string and the few tones that follow. That deep F Sharp fights against, defines, conflicts with just everything which follows. Low loud struggle eventually rises to more melodic scraps in the middle of this mini- essay on, I suppose, the entire kaleidoscope of harp-colours and – registers. ( ” I hear it , yes, in the deep heart´s core”… )


Do I fellate myself? ( Could I run a whelk stall, could I ? ) How to compose a musical work strong in form and imaginative content and then – they´re not the same thing at all – to guide it towards its natural end, its premiere “realization” in sounds, in time, rhythms, sonic waves… Two problems in one there, often confounded and compounded together. To live my life is not as easy as to cross a ( searingly ) hot field at the end of this African Sun Day. To be continued at the whelk stall.


Early yet, aurora and after are just perfect. Nature gnaws nurture, pitiless, outside. A new Sunday is born. Va benissimo.
Stravinsky it was who insisted the composer is an insect who waits. So I´ll wait. For what ? Till after that Violin Concerto is premiered , eh ? That Cello Concerto? Those choral EIGHT HAIKUS? Or is it RHAPSODIC BOWING for 8 Celli that´s holding up the flow and trickle and wash? Now my sun is up. Sun-day.