IÂ´m a sound man. It helps when youÂ´re an Irish composer. Not that weÂ´ve a great history of Irish composers, if we bracket John Field out for a moment and , for once, leave our Baroque OÂ´Carolan in peace. Our few 19th. c. operatic composers seemed to have only one word in their heads : ” emigrate!”
As a young lad struggling to control my eleven or thirteen tones, I used to declare : itÂ´s alright ! IÂ´ll be more original! – Freer without any Irish composing giants in my pedigree ! Better off ! Start from scratch….
Nowadays IÂ´m no longer that sure. A giant of the past in the art youÂ´re trying to master canÂ´t be all bad all of the time : see Irish writers and, say, a Beckett or a Joyce. Great Yeats can tend to daunt a young poet, starting out, yes, but he can also – in some odd way- help ( if only as a moral example of someone who stayed the course heroically and struggled and mastered his art ). He can also help to facilitate a public appreciation, some understanding of the terrible struggle you face early on.
I didnÂ´t have that. I was self-taught: no moral example at the start, as a boy wanting to shape four, then eight bars of music which I might ever dare call my own. All I had was the praise of kindly Sister Francis at a childÂ´s piano-lessons in the Convent in Borrisokane . IÂ´d pedal my rusty bicycle in, memorizing as many tunes as I could from whatever music or song was around me, fair-day ballads, cÃ©ilÃ-band dances and North Tipp Slow Airs and come-all-yes. I devised a novel technique with my feet. The left foot on the pedal was for melody, though IÂ´d only five toes. My right foot, the big, middle and small toes, I used to mark the only 3 chords I knew from my Hohner accordeon ! – So, left foot melody, right foot harmony …. This CorcoranÂ´s Novel Music Memorizing Scheme IÂ´d recommend to any youthful country-musician even today – if there are any such left . My Opus One , composed at thirteen at the piano in St. FinianÂ´s College , was a grand Schubertian song with a fine poetic text by my then poet-collaborator, Charlie Usher : ” IÂ´m leavinÂ´you , darlinÂ´/ IÂ´m goinÂ´away ! But I will be home again / On some other day…. Remember me, please, when the storm-clouds roll on / For I will be home again / When the storm-clouds have gone…. ”
Well, we never did market that fine bit of song-composition. Our finances remained modest. Our boyish imaginations knew nothing of music-marketing. Did it matter ? No. We were proud of our art-work, our bit of composition. Strong and well-wrought. Our sound.