Frank Corcoran

irish composer



Watch the musical chips flying. I hone, I plane, drill, tap and tape together end-music, bring in that small middle bit, an opening idea to trigger the whole miraculous Octet off , my Swiss Octet, e-etched ” QUASI UNA SARABANDE ” , heading for its 2008 premiere.

A string-quintet was always hard enough to handle at the best of times ( – It dare NEVER get too heavy ) . Add your horn, often heavy enough bassoon and clarinet till the eight instruments I am composing add up. To eleven minutes of This Frank Enfolding Escorial Story, the sarabande´s ” Tap ,Tip / Ta / – ap, AND / ” , shaped and slapped on my potter-composer´s wheel .Yes, it´s musical narrative; so this comes before that, then just before the other imperial limp of King Philip II in the music.
” Quasi Una Sarabande” must not flog a kingly rhythm to death; it should not depart so far and so cleverly that its thread is lost on and for the C.I.A. My parameters are including – of course – instrumental colour : that bassoon is at the bottom, yes: it does sing its high, nasal top, yes, and so these are glowing hues of horn and clarinet plus/ minus the five strings I did insist on . The rhythmic muster is neither parody nor pose, but rather a kind of grid through which form is flowing. Melodic wisps are cut by the etched lines for two violins or a string-quartet or by all five strings´ stroke-hammer-plink-pluck-plunk . Take that queenly enough viola; you do hear how the music thickens and thins as it sings the Escoriality of things.
The original sarabande of Spanish music was faster than what we have since Bach . “Quasi ” defends me and the eight musicians. of this midget-orchestra of colours and mixtures , bringing the breaking-news, tones, of course , defining content and its contented form.

No cheating here with placards to announce what´s blowing in next. Not a castagnette in sight suggesting ” Death In The Afternoon Foretold ” ; not a trumpet to ease the Octet´s gear-changes with any: ” Fools ! He died for you ! And you ! “.
I only have the eight voices, quasi un chamber-choir ; five strings-plus-three wind. South of Spain bull-shit and -entrails are out .
The little chapters of my Octet group, re-group, start, false start, drill their octatonic stunts for cunning rhythmic cunts with their ” Tap, Tip / Ta- / -ap, AND / ” . Surely, that grid could Guantanamize us rightly . Use care. ) Whistle while I join up fine lines that chortle, chant, dance, honk, slither and slide, ” Quasi” being the pump for all the fluid bits . Any eejit could solder a sarabande, eight bars. Mine, however, writhes.
How to introduce little drops of suffering with the final violin solo ? – A dialogue between the clarinet and cello ; all parts relate to each other and to the whole work, that is what the band is singing. Three cheers for goal-directed song; it goes like this: ” Forget the sarabande. Forget your QUASI coyness” . This emerging Octet I´m chipping , this sculpted musical form is a clenched fist against any disappearing tricks. It´s my small shout in the dark, the horn´s roar against time up. If the nature of being is time, bring on the Sara-bande.



You do not know whence or whither? Nor I. Nor why.

We have still got, if limited, time to: ” Live, love, / Tell the bastards they´re wrong ! / And the best time is to tell them / When you´re young ! ” Sob not my song, Hiawatha; sigh, yes, sigh for a slight hope of a sliver of light behind the sea´s glass silvering , our ear-hairlets all agog, straining for any good news in the Sea-Snakes´ Hole . Just a sliver. Ask not more.
Play or doubt or sift through various objective correlatives. I seem to come back again to ” I ” and to its lissom inverted commas, a bit like cuddle sea-snakelets …. You are what you doubt, the say, all willed fantasies, all your self-censored intimations of a kind of immortality; ” I ” brings in the subject / object divide, a walled-in ” Its Me!” ” I exist because you are thinking of me.” Think or be thought of, that it, fish eats fish ? Some drizzly wet day I will not be. Of a dry night you will begin not ever to exist again, even if glass silvers over; light the sliver, a photon at a time .
Light is the burden of nothing. Light lightens everything. Who´s paying the ocean´s light bill and whence swims courage, dignity , hypothemotic longings and oceanic questions why we be ? Then, whither floats our exuded cloud of self-manufacturing, of meaning, of values secreted from submarine us in the deep reef below ? What could become a good surrender , a recommendable swoon ? swoon towards which cosmic swindle or what particular gnarl of sea-serpents ? Steady ! Every twenty minutes, up we go for air, then go below again .
Happy a non-reflecting sea-snake´s partner, the contented pair gnarled in their sea-swoon , let off the hook, – no I-and-Me-and-You distinction; quick now, we have but a sea-spray second, a quick wash afterwards.
Play you may, but sift through our wet objective correlatives below reef and lissom inverted commas mere, sea-wisps above rock-holes, no fishy ear-hairlets agog , no sea-reptilian sensuous glide or slide or chase this sliver of light now or fishy shadows or the deep sea-storm yelling below at full fathoms five. Yet do I fancy some hesitancy under that shadow ? No sea-snake Davy Jones, he solved nothing, died hard, seems to I – sorry, me, don´t you think ? He, did not have to know whence or whither his five fathoms.
Sea-snakes would never in their ultramarine-translucent sea-poison dream up the following watery codology, writ below .
” She did NOT die in coitus ! ! ! She had told you THAT? Post mortem is post coitum ? Much did she unravel before her electrolytic end. Yes, well, much better than death by water, anyway ! And her human intercourse grew less, making her grey matter like blood-flecked gruel, very like buttermilk and urine.”
“How did she, now for a slightly different parenthesis, spin her own linen-shroud? Well may the living mock the Slieve Blooms as the eternal hills shriek defiantly : ” She did NOT die in coitus!” ”
“The dead will keep going on. Thus did she demean our demesne´s mausoleum? She burned her coal without heating herself or the poor children . And was it then, we make out, that she began to approximate to a human scream? ( – A comely bride is easily dressed. ) ”
” Herself and the father , did they make any scuffling noises perhaps ? A musical noise , perhaps ? or was it more like butter, like urine , like buttermilk being strained through the scrim of a mouseskin shroud . Of course memory morphs, as if ” bog-cotton buttercups” might be transformed into upper-case ” Bog of Allen Blossom” ; electrolytically considerde, ” Búireamh suite fíor ina féachaint ” is the same as ” Her eyes were filmed over. Yoiks ! Sea-snakes ! From dusk to dust, to her dust, to her dirt, what was she in her end electrolytically thinking ? ”
Now You ask Me : what sea-reptile would, down in the deepest Sea-Snakes´ Reef want to imagine such A God´s Wallop as my above loopy text , looped between two snaky inverted commas ? Whose poison ? It doesn´t make sense .


Dear Dad,

Would you now trot down to me, outta your Heaven and into my splendid Garden, Dad . Praise it and de viper here, you are “a man and not a whinger” , Dad ; laud its lithe, green-and-yellow neck up for divilment , Dad. If that tongue strikes, no more the bittern will cry in my Italian Garden nor will they find lamb or lion in the wild sky. Nor a whinge out of us little five, Dad, no whimper.( I was offered on two altars at one time , I just had to. I had . To. ) .
Cry and we weep alone to a thick barytone smather of God´s rich Italian harmonium : ” Sick est qui tantum ergo “. So c´mon down, Dad, and just accept a little glass of Italian love, a small nip of limoncello to our tangible, yellow success at husbanding and husbandry, Dad , with ripening neighbours; the purple plums may even heal worse, little-known woes.
Dad, ” I hate the sun! ” – will I save this ? Sick were our ” Tantum Ergo”s on the family´s modest harmonium . So, Heavenly Dúidín, it´s our wish, we little five, that you climb down to us in this Magic Garden. We´ll , our turn, be wanting to shin up out of this Italian-balmy air , to glide up from a barytone´s lawn-mower-pride and his sickle and clippers and leather gloves and heavy viper-boots with your jaw-bone in our hand , Dad, as a warning to life and limbo, to five mites´ hopes and fears .
Often was your agathology dressed up, marinated angelology; this garden would like to know how often . In this Lazio evening-glow . Really and truly. Dad, it´s your silence. But my garden. You´re STILL lonely up in that stellar Nunc Stans ? Dad, you gotta be tough to stick that for ever. Up there alone ?
Here I´m alone with our evening-viper. Hello, viper alone, hallo, hallo, alone Dad ; what about The Bonaventuran Light Which Created My Snake ? Not, Dad, that you ” hate the light” ? ( – Bonaventura was a reasonable my-stick, si, sic, and all these boreens of his Jacoponean- Franciscan un-sandled foot-work lead thither et whither and thence nunc. Surely, he was reared under Bagnoregio´s burning, thermonuclear sun.
No sun shone into Tullamore Jail. You told little us nothing. C´mon down now on a sun-ray, Dad, sliding into my viper-garden and forgive ( you have ) your first-born treble singer. Is it Heavenly loneliness gives a little gardener sunny pause. How awful our saintly isle is becaming , Dad, how awe-less its Second Coming, your Hibernia . You sought for Bonaventura, Happy Fra of Happy Light, up above your sunless jail-window, Da, in ( meantime, it was procreate, procreate, procreate, procreate, procreate ) Tulach Mór Jail.
So you don´t miss us five mites.You never did? On occasion – that viper flashed – I miss you, yes. – Dad, suppose YOU are my Heaven fair. Suppose It, You, equals the lonely pain, no Nirvana for Nathair Nimhe in No One´s Heaven, our Dad; it´s Our Total Flop. And yet I´ll put my Seven Last Questions to you, Dad. For a start: 1. Where have all the pixels gone ? Wo sind sie geblieben? ” An bhfaca daoinni´sliabh riamh? ” 2. Who is typing these here questions here on this snowy screen anyhow ? 3. Is Bonaventurean Light even whiter than white ? 4. Who shall ever dare judge the Judge ? 5. Are His daughters beautiful ? 6. Are you allowed to answer these questions, Dad ? – Who´s there stopping you ? 7. Supposing I did get back from you seven answers, Dad, what then ? Would it allow me to compose haptic music ? Would it ? With an inane title like : ” All The People I´ve Slept With Since 1969″, now would it ?


The leading Swiss New Music group , Ensemble Antipodes of Basle, has commissioned a new
Corcoran Octet, ” Quasi Una Sarabande” . Premiere November 30 2008 in Basle.

KUNSTMUSIK Köln ( Spring 2005 Issue ) has Frank Corcoran´s ” It´s A Cold Wind Blows On An Irish Composer”.


August 23 – 26 Ireland Weekend at Schloß Gaismar, Kassel, will feature the music of Frank Corcoran, inc. “Joycepeak Music “, ” Quasi Una Missa”, ” Sweeney´s Vision” .


Dear Jacopone,

stop twitching those toes!

Gentleman, certainly, mighty odd giullare, toady of God. Your shocked fingers fingered her ( way too ) young, ( way too ) limp hair-shirt.

Musical lawyer in Todi of the very finest stone, you saw her fatal dance, then the floor collapsed ? It was your “self ” – or hers – was meant in not-quite-yet Pope Honorius´s slim paper-back ” On Contempt Of The World ” in Todi´s only book-shop ?
Knots and thorns mixed into your she-less Umbran grallya, in your dirt you recalled it , your dancing giggles for Cristo. Fancy foot-work and the wrong side of Bonifatius, gets you into San Fortunato dungeon´s dung, lauding and lalling and crooning and moaning and keening not HER but Her Church Incontinent, My Young Bride´s Robber, A Her – Him Swindle, The Big Key To What If Not Real Walls Of Palestrina, Real Music All Lost, Bony Fazius As Well As Well Crowned , Todi´s Cristo -Debt Stopped Short , Never To Go Again, And All Our Transcendental Spam Sent Awry .
You wished to burst asunder HER onion-self , her childhood piano-lessons in “The You and I Walz” , still much stuck in C major. Why so late fingered that lovely hair-corset , her Franciscan stays and her tears? You´d not nightly ? Pope Honorius dictated in the bedroom ? You despised her hair-shift and -drawers and -shirt and -blouse and -slip and -tanga and all de dainty tings made for delight ? Poetic form was thrn for you as toads dancing in Umbria .
” Jacopone” = “Famous Séamus Dauncing”, ” Hairy Trot In Todi”, ” Her Stays Stayed A More Heavenly Knickers”, ” Bony Fazius The Worst Curse” . What morphed you at all ? That dance-hall floor or her falling hair-shirt began your ” rinnce le ceol” , best done around Todi. But how eg. despise all of “my” world ? ” All ” ? ” My” ? ” World” ? Why should you ? She ? -that rickety dancing-area collapsed on her hair-underclothes ? Her stays, your moment, jabberwocked Jim ?


21. May ( 04 Bealtaine ) . Lyric Fm Radio at 19.00 – 20.00

A rogha ceoil le Frank Corcoran . It includes ” QUASI UNA MISSA”, ” SWEENEY´S VISION” and VARIATIONS ON ” A MHÁIRÍN DE BARRA”.


These are among my bigger canvases for varying sizes of orchestra. They straddle more than thirty years of inner struggle with this composer´s ear and ounds .

The THREE ORCHESTRAL PIECES are for middle-size orchestra ( I do insist on the sub-title: ” Pictures From MY Exhibition” ) . They are my three expanding time-pictures, ca. 2 minutes, 4 minutes and 6 minutes. I was thirty years old . This work won the 1975 Dublin Symphony Orchestra Composer´s Competition.

Five years later I had left Dublin for Berlin . SYMPHONIES OF SYMPHONIES OF WIND was premiered by the O.R.F.Symphony Orchestra in Vienna 1981. Of course it is “about” more than Stravinsky´s masterpiece for 23 wind-instruments ( – at its premiere in 1918 his grave caoine on the death of Debussy was a flop with the audience , a salutary reminder to still young me as I went about stealing his ” Russian Chord” ) ; my symphony is very much “about” great masses of air , sounding wind, time shaped slowly into an enfolding 24 minutes of musical argument.

What separates QUASI UN LAMENTO , then, from the SYMPHONIES ? Well, twenty five years of a lived life, three other symphonies, many sound-sculptures, instrumental and electro-acoustic. I´d written the MAD SWEENEY series ( – better: collection of works triggered off by my 1996 setting of Seamus Heaney´s English version of ” Buile Suibhne / Mad Sweeney” . By 2005 I was coming to the end of my ” Quasi ” series , pieces of many different sizes and shapes, all of them mindful of towering musical works composed in at least these last 200 years . This ten-minutes essay for a small orchestra including three saxophones and accordeon is as much
my protest as my lament.

At around the same time I composed QUASI UN CANTO for the Zagreb Philharmonic . Here the orchestral forces are vast. My short Prelude, central Argomento and short Postludio present a big picture.