Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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Early in 2013 ( we will sidle up, carefully, yes, obliquely to This Bad Myth ) I promise students of e- comedy at this corner of the Irish Composers´ Wood :

1. On Having Been Forty – Charming – Years Long An Irish Composer.

2. On Cowardice in Composers and in Cowardly Composers´ Musical Thinking.

Yes, forty long years. Whence my hope for 2013 ?


The usual slink .- Up to the 21. of December, stealth before solstice. No good poormouthing either about our bad seasonal myths , commerce and churches in cahoots. ( Nor will doing a Savonarola do – we done enough burning of people, trinkets, ideas, boats and aspirations and sighs ) . Huddle around the flame; keep home fires burning; ask not The Why; be silent as a radiated reindeer somewhere in North Finland . Advent is nigh, a beast slurring. 2013 tones will come in their own time. Put out the light, would you, when going out. Tomorrow is a new December dawn . Be not caught nor caught out, white head drowsing, your bushel unkicked away.


More durable than the bronze sheen of Giambologna in his Bargello, than Bandinelli´s marbles or bad sand-stone occasionally offered to Michaelangelo. More enduring than hammered stone, though ” only ” sound-waves imagined and formed and wrought into a new musical work . Ecstasy , really exciting; it excites others then too . That´s what I was after, down to Florence and back up on a tail-spin over the snow-capped winter Alps, the small propeller-plane itself a memory of my early Aer Lingus flights of my sixties. Mystery, memory, ecstastic, my three good December words. 2013 will highlight them. In new work, chiselled and hammered and bashed and sounding. In the Bargello of my composer´s mind.
Then it´s let the tormented gongs loose.


You´re a Holy Caution ! ( Don´t let the fire out ! )
Blowing carefully on the flickering flame between sound-vision and the next; be
prepared; it´ll come in the longest December night , the next compositional idea.
For now it´s husband wintry reserves, keep wrapped up the composing self, even after the recent chamber compositions ( one work for Harp and Cello , another for the Cardiff Cubistic lads with Guitar, Viola and Flute. Zagreb Biennale with my early break-through Piano Trio ´ll be nice, the wheel´s full circle. They also compose ( music , yes ) who only sit and wait. Don´t repeat myself. Ever. Feel the heat in the grey castle cold. I tried Speed Writhing, lep over censoring blocks , frontal, at full-speed. It´ll come.
Sound Advent.


” Sweeney´s Vision ” ( 1997 WDR, it won the 1999 Bourges Festival Premier Prix ) and, certain, my Second Symphony of 1994 ( there war others ) :

= ” Terror Of God ” , it captures it a whit , yet clumsily ;

= ” Being Struck By Lighning ! )


( Premiere in New York City 12. March 2013 . North South Chamber Orchestra, conductor: Max Lifchitz )

Why my title of this one-movement work for 5 wind and 5 strings ? Who is ” myself” ? And how ” variations” ?
Because of my building-blocks. I got 6 tones out of which everything, but everything, in this work is built; ; – out of the 6 tone-names contained in my name. ” Francis Corcoran” offered me the little tone-row F R Cis ( which is , of course, German for ” C Sharp” ) Es ( ditto for “E Flat ” ) C and A . These ( and their complementary tones and the usual operations on these – you can HEAR them with your ears as they do the musical thinking … ) are the building-blocks of the new work . Out of them and their intervals grows everything. Thus: a modest enough Tipperary Six Tone Theory, variations on my very name, my very ounds, my very self. So it´s variations of melody and harmony and rhythm and colour. Of course this kind of trickery with tones has a long and distinguished history in Western art-music. Mr. Bach was fascinated by ” his ” 4 tones , ” B A C H” and then Schumann tried his hand at ” Es C H ” ; Shostakovich wasn´t above popping his musical motive into certain scores ; you even had Italian Renaissance polyphonic masters composing for their Ferrara supper with the theme ”
However I decided to base my entire work on my very own theme. You could say it´s six note music.
Often the overlapping lines played by the five wood-winds have their floating, dreamy quality ( each instrument has its own independent tempo )
whereas the five strings play metrically measured music which acts like a grid through which the wind-music flows. I am not above making a nod to a certain Bayreuth composer whose “Tristan” music is celebrated ( perhaps over-celebrated ? ) in this year of 2013. This kind of musical allusion , often parody, is also well-known in our Western tradition. There is in my tone-picture a central, whipped up – climax of great tension . Then comes the ” Endmusik” where , over low held string chords, horn, then bassoon, then clarinet, oboe and finally flute in highest register bow out. So do I. Music is metaphor. Wind-music and string-music. Yes, variations on ” Myself”. Good idea.