Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Turn over, poor, dead Edward Said : – but that our little land could carry the (deeply, mythically )
anti-symphonic colonist / Wild Colonial Boy polarity over well into the astonished present…. Maybe that´s why we´ve not got further
with Irish composed music ?
Suppose you wanted to compose this Corcoran Haiku for Doublebass and Jam-Jar ? – Just suppose:
” The priest dried her hair
Black desire and beautiful
Well ? No good going back to a Slow Air , to imperial Elgar, to Viennese espressivo Webern or our own troppo Schumannesque
´O Riada. You´ve got to invent . Your own composition. Make it new. Hark, the past masters, okay. Now it´s your turn with line ´n colour ´n rate-of-flow ´n bend ´n astonish ´n pacify ´n seek musical closure , your jam-jar suitably stroked, bowed, smashed or spat into ( all, in their own compositional context , thinkable ). Well ?


Irish composers of my generation had a hard slog in the seventies. I remember them well.
” Irish” did not fit seamlessly to ” Composer”. ( ” What ? You´re an Irish WHAT ?!” ) . Nor “cumadóir” to ” na h´Eireann “. Polite incomprehension. Total disbelief.
Is there any greater understanding nowadays that composed music is , well, art ? That a musical work composed by an Irish composer is, well, Irish art ?
No. Behind the seeming progress, there is not understanding of how and why and who bind sounds together in , yes, well, a musical syntax to compose sounding brass or
tinkling cymbal. Serious ( or hilarious ) art-music. Crafted time and embroidered lines, masses, metaphors, sonorous dolmens. No. Where should help in “understanding” Irish composed music come from ? From where ?


23 April 2006 National Gallery Of Ireland

CONCORDE Ensemble: Frank Corcoran´s

“The Light Gleams” as part of BEYOND BECKETT 2006.

“Music is the idea itself,
Unaware of the world of phenomena,
existing ideally outside the universe. ”

( …. Samuel Beckett )


It was, well, 2003. The ( Irish ) Arts Council commissioned ” my brand-new : QUASI UN CONCERTINO” for the Croatian chamber orchestra in Zagreb, “Cantus ” Ensemble . ( My native Tiobrad ´Arainn held its hilarious breath . It had to. Which history had prepared whom for that ( Croatian ) WHAT of me, Tipperary´s illustrious son, 1944 till, I´d reckon, 1956, eh, melodious son ? ) .
Bero Sipus, Chief Conductor of the Zagreb Opera and of the Philharmonic Concerts and, too, of Cantus New Music ( they´d heard of me …. ) , was no daw.
So 2004, was it, on that idyllic island of Shakespeare´s Corcyla, down at the old ( – yes, Venetian ) harbour, he premiered my ” Quasi Un Concertino ” for “his” 12 superb ” Cantus” players. Poised their wood-wind and hot, sweaty, his world-class hornist, piano, percussion plus that five Corcoran string quintet; fifteen and a half hefty minutes of WHAT ? Frank Corcoran´s ” QUASI UN CONCERTINO” for 12 Players is world-music, its narrative brilliance, my lonely furrow, the depth of its sonorous imagination: dense violence / quiet piano plus percussion interlude, aleatoric seeking of “Cantus” ´s solo Cello / Flute / Percussion, that probing, my wind-down of the musical argument . Well, Tipperary ? No ! Croatian ? No !


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