Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Saturday 22. January 2011 on the kindly radio :

NDR KULTUR . On “Prisma Musik ” 20.00 : Frank Corcoran and
Brahms´3. Symphony. Also Frank Corcoran´s ” QUASI UNA VISIONE” ( 2005 Dublin Festival commission ) with Ensemble Modern / Sian Edwards .


Dear Próinsias,

Got that I am , that in reading this down, I should be scrolling up these You To Me To I To Us Two letters. Not down but up. Yes, too long German´s inbuilt con-man ” M ´illumino / D´immenso ”

stuff. Extraordinary.

Dear Phrank,

we are both too long here in High Germanee . ” The Great NO THING an-nihil-ates . Us both, thrashing and turning and disappearing on our weirdly wide , momentarily placid John Montague ocean.
Got that? ”


Dear Próinsias,

Please. Ideally bottom scrolled up to top . – I / you love / are / am / need / answer / ask / complement / cross-question/ tease / drown / word and sing / compose / decompose / dance on /

dance under / brake / break / refashion / bake / re-knead / re-read / you / Me .

What was that you were on about a few e-letters ago : ” Nothing ( No thing , Nothung ! ) . It dis-nots . It de-knots us. ”

What was that all about, eh ?


Dear Phrank,

I´ve lost it . Read this letters rondo top to bottom ? Bottom up ? Unscroll ? Rondo form, near enough.


Dear Próinsias,

this one only short.

Who are you ? Peel off what layers ? Thrash around on which ocean ? No thing at all ? Our oceans all distroyed thermonuclearly ? ( Destroy an ocean. Dislocate a shoulder , a self )


Dear Phrank,

That was a nice touch, your ” I or Me” , and all waiting for the cosmic click to click his ” him ” away. Into virtual space ? Into the molecules´ gardene of delighte ? Delightes? Yes, that ” immense

and still ” ( I like that too ) water as our scary mirror of nothingness , of formlessness and wet purposelessness and deep unprofundity and no why in sight at all down at the totally dark ocean-bed.

Yes, shudderingly cold. Still.

Your still dry Old Other Self,


Dear Próinsias,

Well, yes, I had promised a less sluggish ” I To Me To You ” electronic ping-ponging in this abiding cold January.

It´s not only that ” Me ” or ” I ” will be waiting for the quick click that´ll make my Holy Name vanish – for ever

– or at least until the next click clicks ( – ” For whom the clock ticks “, ” To every tock its tick, ” etc. ) .

It is the smooth ( ? ) surface of that immense and still water ( “Upon which we all turn / Turn and thrash / And disappear ” . John Montague . ) which will open and swallow me

down. Down into oceanic nothing.

Shudderingly cold today, Próinsias ? Don´t think of me , Phrank

Dear Phrank,

Apparently Job never felt the cold at all , neither the submarine temperatures of his frightful ( though mobile ) oceanic tomb, nor before nor indeed since. Oh, sorry, he had no ” since”. – Is it

this which might be moving you to be e-penning me, eh ? The good old-fashioned “Caoin tú féin, a Phraink Bhoicht !” ? – Is it that you´ll become nothing? – you will become no thing ? Not a thing? –

A former person, now dis-jointed, dislocated and , well, disintegrated ? Not a shadow.

Remember thou art not dust, no earthly thing, – once you were earthy; yes, ho -ho, now you´ve apparently no now, you possess no future; your once and only, lonely past seems to have got lost in

your Stygian “journey”, if that is what necessarily self-contradicting language has to risk calling it? So that´s it, then ? Kerner Wuetzfeld was / is not / nor will “he” be, for ever and ever and ever, –

he´ll be a mere nothing, merely ” nothing ?

What , then, Phrank, is

this ” nothing”, this ” mere”, from whose bourne no traveller returns his e-pen?



9 PRATOLEVA PEARLS for Piano Solo Frank Corcoran ( 2008 )

“How to widen the musical horizons of sound ” on those black and white ivories of the polished piano ? – That´s the problem. Brahms and the great 19th. c. Romantics did their thing. Debussy and Schoenberg´s Opus
19 and Ligeti´s Studies did theirs in the 20th. c., the lyric and the percussive and the sound-cloud and -cluster and the pianoforte´s interior and those waiting 88 keys black, white.
Mine are nine miniatures . Here Webern succeeded . Berg´s opus 1 bursts asunder musical brevity. Symphonic outbursts promising more. Use the immense range. The palette of colours.
I composed these nine short pianistic pearls under the Italian sun and in my Italian sunny garden. Hence the title. Each is only a few bars long. Brevity is wit. Is danger.

In Pearl Nr. 1. I compose two explosive lines fortissimo moving from the extreme hight and depth of the keyboard to arrive at its centre.

Pearl Nr. 2. is only three bars long. Complete composed whimsy.

Nr. 3. is marked ” Serioso ” . It has its reasons. Always the same material, always the same seven-note row .

Nr. 4. has ” Lusingando “, a few dancing triplets in the right hand. The left cuts it off. That´s all.

Nr. 5. is very fast, fortissimo two-voiced music. This time the left hand´s cut off occurs way up in the piano range. Changes the colours.

Nr. 6. apes a vast wind-orchestra, pianissimo it blows. Maestoso.

Nr. 7. The contrary movement in contrary wedge-movement recalls the first “Pearl”. Here the crazy , white-hot trills sear through.

Nr. 8. This has the range and colours of a Webern Opus 6 orchestra, complete with fortissimo orchestral tutti and all. This is not Viennese but Tipperary Expressionism.

Nr. 9. is the longest “Pearl” , though still in miniature form . It sums up all gestures, motives and coloristic statements of what´s gone before.


Born 1944 in Tipperary, Ireland. Studied in Dublin, Rome and Berlin ( Composition with Boris Blacher ). 1980 West Berlin International Artists´ Programme. Since 1983 Professor at Hamburg. 1989 to 1990 Fulbright Professor in the U.S.A. and guest-professor at CalArts, Harvard, Princeton, Indiana, New York, etc.

Many distinctions, performances and commissions. Prizes include : 1996 Akustische Kunst Prize for ” JOYCEPEAK MUSIK”. The W.D.R. commissioned ” Sweeney´s Vision” won the 1999 Bourges Festival Premier Prix. Another W.D.R. commission, ” QUASI UNA MISSA”, won the 2002 Swedish E.M.S. Prize. Works broadcast in Europe, North America, Canada, Asia and Australia.

Member of the Irish Academy of the Arts, Aosdana. World Music Days, International Rostrum of Composers, Prix d Ítalie orchestral
entry, international jury member for ” Città di Trieste” , ” Premio Valentino Bucchi”, “Welt Musiktage” etc.

Newest works include:

“VIOLIN CONCERTO” ( Irish Radio 2012 ), “SONGS OF TERROR AND LOVE” ( New York North South Consonance 2011 ) , “CLARINET QUINTET ” ( RTÉ commission 2010 ), ” FOUR ORCHESTRAL PRAYERS ” ( National Symphony Orchestra 2010 ), the Swiss Ensemble ” Antipodes” commission ” QUASI UNA SARABANDA” 2009, 2008 North German Radio Choir ” NINE ASPECTS”, Irish Chamber Orchestra´s ” QUASI UNA FUGA” Shannon International Festival 2007 commission, Hungarian Radio Bartók Jubilee “QUASI UN BASSO” , 2006 American premier of ” MAD SWEENEY ” , Zagreb Philharmonic ” QUASI UN CANTO” 2005 , 2004 Hamburg Ensemble ” QUASI UN PIZZICATO” , James Joyce Dublin Festival ” ICE ETCHINGS” and Samuel Beckett Jubilee ” THE LIGHT GLEAMS “. 1987 EBU Concert ” SYMPHONIES OF SYMPHONIES OF WIND” broadcast in 27 countries, etc. etc.

Geplante Konzerte des Tonkünstlerverbandes München e.V.
gefördert durch die Versicherungskammer Bayern, das Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München
und das Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst

17.01.2011 19.30 Versicherungskammer Bayern, Maximilianstraße 53, 80538 München

Mary Dullea – Klavier
Studio für Neue Musik
Klavierabend Mary Dullea, Irland
Werke von Max Beckschäfer, Volker Nickel, John McLachlan, Deirdre McKay, Ed Bennett, Frank Corcoran, Andrew Hamilton, Raymond Deane
Eintritt frei


North/South Consonance 2010-2011 Concert Schedule
Nine Concerts in the visually appealing and acoustically
superior setting of Christ and St. Stephen’s Church
Location: 120 West 69th Street (between Broadway & Columbus), New York City

Monday, March 14, 2011 at 8 PM
St. Patrick’s Day Gala
Songs of Terror and Love
Moto Perpetuo
Fairy Tale
Max Lifchitz, conductor
The North/South Consonance Ensemble


We´ll take the next question next: write it out in a verse. Best.

Is, then, a series of deep breaks, total cuts, sensual amputations: 1. necessary 2. desirable in this composer´s
childhood? So that I can fire up violence in the brass and percussion and longing in the legato string writing? A sounding genetic fallacy in massed orchestral forces letting go ?
´Tis far I am now. ´Twas also far from the six year old ( yet very near ) :
The Modreeny Ambush, A Swim In The Ballyfinboy River, Intermediate Hurlers of Boiríos Uí Chein ( – surely spurious Gaeilge ?) , General Ginkel Passed Through Our Glebe On The Night Of The Big Wind, Canon Martin Sheen ( he who launched ” Molua” ) of Holy Wood / Holly Wood, Uskane Clash Of De Ash, Mick Delahunty´s Orchestra ! ! ! ( – this Christmas column of ice lies not ). O Misterium tremendum, basses a little more, please. I
am/was he who did not drown. In our Ballyfinboy. Split the little psyche down through cold ganglia. The amputationer´s sharp knife in Tipperary , early fifties, as the Shannon froze.

December 28 Is A Cold But Good Night. Why ?

Still, it´s very important to get rid of bleating, the whiningly personal, any whine. Button up all whingy bars. Keep the self out of music of distinction . No mawking. Be tough on autobiographical references, however smartly arcane or carefully hidden away they may seem ; be also strict about nifty private programmes, though I am myself not fully averse to the occasional motiv , eg. ” Doh – Re- Mi”, ” B-A-C-H” and the like. In my future work , even ” F-R-A- n – Cis-Es C-orcor-A- n and such fun may certainly appear. Does this negate what I´ve just written about “self” in well crafted works ? Not at all; here we have intra- and not extra-musical material. Do you see ? Do you hear? ).
If Orpheus had had three saxophones, he would have availed of their WHAT power ? Their melancholy and reedy, rotten fruity plangency? He would! It´s intra-musical, silly!
Music bewails more than the ” DIES IRAE” ( although, of course, that too) . Music mourns the passing of time ( its own very stuff, surely ! ) . Even without a double reed in any particular registrar, the composer´s unsettling caoine.
Well then, can we attempt “joyful” music ? Sure we can ! ( But am I sure we can define…. ? Hmmm ) . What about music of power, music of awe ? Awful music ? Certainly. And music of human weakness and of loneliness, any kind of mawkish self-pity being revealed of a cracklingly cold December night-sky? We can. More on chapter and verse anon.


” MUSINGS” for MAGYAR RADIO / RADIO BARTÓK ( April 20 2006 ) in connection with its May 17th 2006 Bela Bartók Centenary Concert in Budapest. ) :

Is cumadóir ceoil mé. I am a composer. Pre-industrial, rural Ireland of my childhood in the fifties was in certain ways like the small, agricultural Hungary of Bartók´s youth.
Dublin and Budapest were vital cultural metropoles ( Dublin´s short-comings were enormous; agreed. ) Small nations, both were surrounded by culturally omnivorous neighbours eager to gobble up their identities.
Bartók took his stance, he ploughed the lonely furrow, said ” NO! ” to cultural tyranny. Moral. Artistic. Not that he wanted to marry folk- and art-music. You can´t. But as a collector and 20th. c. composer, forging his own individual voice , he refused to let lazy indifference stifle his own musical courage. Courage, that´s it. Bartók collected his hidden jewels of folk-music. Bartók composed mighty musical structures. His stance was heroic and lonely. He didn´t give in.
My Ireland in my 20th. c. has gone its way. My Irish language dies daily a thousand deaths.We had our Renaissance of folk-music, our explosion of traditional Irish ceol which, by its very over-kill, is currently endangering its own survival.
As a composer within Ireland I had to plough my own lonely furrow. In native Tipperary there was a hostile indifference to our oldest layers of Irish music. Post-colonial Dublin was dependent on second-rate London music-pedagogy. ( Yes, bits of Bartók were misused in our music-curricula, his work paraded lovelessly without any understanding of where he was coming from; as I was studying music at two Dublin universities, we shared British parading of bits of Bartók as “our” apologia for ” our” contemporary music, “our” bulwark against the horrors of , say, Viennese atonality. My ” politically free” Ireland didn´t provide any climate of musical understanding, it did not evolve the respect for musical creativity we would have needed in order to allow a ” Bartók na h- ´Eireann” to emerge.
“QUASI UN BASSO” for Solo Doublebass is my dyptich for a mighty-orchestra-in-one-giant-instrument. ( Think of B´s still fresh and shocking bass pizzicati in orchestral works like his Divertimento for String Orchestra or those extraordinary long lines at the end of his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, the daring and brilliance of his orchestral imagination. ) Mine are two fragmented pictures from my vanished Ireland.
Art-music today faces the most viciously anti-art globality ever known.But you cannot barter Bartók in the market. Wares are bartered. Music of ” value” can´t be. It is questionable whether the folk-musics of Hungary or Ireland can survive the market´s kiss. It is questionable whether Hungarian or Irish composers will survive the market-place, swollen as it is with the greatest ocean of sonic rubbish mankind has ever known. Where have we composers a place to be heard ? Where is silence ? Out of which music is born?


have Frank Corcoran´s ” QUASI UNA MISSA” ( EMS Prize .

2022 )

WER 6307-2 ( WERGO / Ars Acustica WDR ) has the WDR commissiond ” SWEENEY´S VISION ” ( 1999 Bourges Festival premier prix. ) has ” Frank Corcoran : QUASI UNA MUSICA ” CD with ” QUASI UNA VISIONE ” Ensemble Modern 2005.