Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Yes, I did enjoy greatly writing those five little texts for RTÉ´s “The Quiet Corner” plus
– trí Gaeilge- a mini-portrait of Corcoran´s Saint Patrick for Lá Le Pá¡draig 2009, all broadcast in this week of March 16 -10.
Why? Because the pen compels the typist to shape and schnitt and cut and form and weigh her words . To compose. See? I don’t have to be synaesthetic, merely symmetrical or anti- or sympathetic to this idea. Words instead of tones. Gentle wordiness in place of tonality.


My “9 Aspects Of An Irish Poem” for Large Choir and Solo Violin went splendidly. See:

Die Welt Online of 24. 02.09 : ” Hamburgische Tongemälde von meisterlicher Hand” ( Lutz Lesle ) . Also NDR Online “das neue werk” and “NDR Chor / Phillip Ahmann , Chefdirigent.”


From the ink-well of the sky trees enjoy now and again a pint in interdendric peace.They slurp, imbibe, quaff that blue-stuff . Great blossomers fill their gobs with heavenly dark juices which angels ( with nothing better to do ) have been quietly brewing for some time now. Trees sate their selves. They grow heavy with clotted goblets . A pint of sky´s your only man, oaks, winking at each other over beaded brims of ink-wells. Californian grand boles let down that liquid, a litre of sky-ooze. Your European dendron´s not far behind as the elms fill parched, treey orifices with watery white-blue on certain days we´ve all had, as a contrast to chlorofilled greens and their woody atmosphere, forests smelling of harmless mushrooms or harmless animals´ spoor in their gloaming.
Out of heavenly vessels that once were on village-children´s pre-Famine desk-tops trees do drink. A lot. Their boles and blossom and fancy foot-work need the dancer´s drought, its satiation. Enough is not enough of the high atmospheric. They enjoy oral and labial quenching, sloughing and guzzling down Heaven’s ink-wells´liquid. Yup !
Trees´beaks love. Trees are deep-down more skim-milk blue than greenish sap. From tap-room to toe-lips rhey crave and slaver. Tiny trees ape their giants´ bibulosity, From high pots trees accept injected true-blue. I thirst.
An elder was heard; a high birch inclined in order to dabble in the real ould mountainy sky-dew. An enormous sky-watcher, perhaps a dinosaur-tree,would go insane for even the lighter stuff, easier to pour, mixed in with skim-milk . Injest, trees. Digest these oaks´ beastings. Make pleasurable drink-smacking up there near your heavenly buckets of this potage. Sip please! No gulping, we´re trees, all arboreality , sylvan or heavy drinkers. Hear the ground-swelling of this oceanic swilling. Look skywards, trees anonymous. From these troughs and those stratospheric wells of ink a mantle of blue for their botanic brewery. Trees tongue their ink as a swaddling child its clouds´ooze. Out of this rarified high air the foggy dew is trees´due. Trees do, yes. Wooden beaks pleasured. Unsawn branches soar towards the bursting amniotic. They empty ink-wells , their very inner veins now very fullish with pan-treey superfluity, almost sick with this heavenly milk. Noble trees, a grá for blob and droplet, the blue dropped note.


I composed them . Yes:

“Quasi Una Missa” ( 1999 W.D.R. Commission. electro-acoustic . 2002 Swedish EMS Prize )

“Quasi Un Pizzicato” ( Wireworks Ensemble commission 2004. Soprano , Speaker and Ensemble)

“Quasi Un Basso ” ( 2005 . Solo Bass. Allan von Shenkel . Also featured in Hungarian Radio Bartók´s
2006 Bartok Celebrations, Budapest )

” Quasi Variations on A MHAIRIN DE BARRA ” ( Irish Radio commission 2005. Constantin Zanidache,
Solo Viola, recorded it for CD “Composers´Art Label ” LC 00581 )

“Quasi Un Canto” for Large Orchestra ( 2005 World Music Days, Zagreb Philharmonic )

“Quasi Un Lamento” for Chamber Orchestra and accordeon ( N.S.O.I. Dublin 2005 )

“Quasi Una Visione ” for Ensemble Modern ( RTÉ´s “Living Music Festival” , Dublin, 2005 )

“Quasi Un Concerto ” for “CANTUS” Ensemble Zagreb ( Commissioned 2003 from Irish Arts Council . Island of Vis and Zagreb . )

“Quasi Una Fuga” for 18 Strings ( commissioned by Irish Chamber Orchestra, 2007 MBNA Festival )

” Quasi Un Preludio” for Solo Violin ( 2008 )

” Quasi Un Duo ” for Piano and Double-bass ( Duo Moderno 2008 premiere in Bucharest )



Well, are there some amongst us who cannot now draw these e-threads together into a Benozzo Gozzoli golden cloth – of – email ?
Yes, we had male parthenogenesis ( rare enough, it must be admitted in Queen´s County ) ; then we stitched in father´s father´s similar auto-erotic achievements. Go easy on the next cloth-of-gold stitch. ( The Great Scream, my unworthy and washed two typing fingers feel it here, is being propelled not down but up the chimney-vortex. Keep it clean, young filigrain stitchers; watch and wash your tongues, no patchwork, please. Enter composed film-music by The Young Chief Cassidy ( – I said keep it clean, will you ! ) Himself.
No, Benozzo Gozzoli´s cloth-of-gold will not of itself remake Sainted Ben´s painted gold archbishop´s mistake in a matter of humble causality, – eg. who caused the screamer´s scream ? Who did, as a matter of proven fact, eat my Great Aunt Bridget´s roasted pony ? Had it been roasted for her only ? Golden error happens.
Weave into our golden passacaglia eleven tones: Hypothumotic stitchers, prove it; prove we are all ready. Finis; even great stitching dies. Ladies, come, all, to the potty ! Then, I remember it very well, we stitched in nothing. God is no thing. Capitals is better. Squirt the left tit again!
No. Our little embroidery job isnt´t quite finished. Weave in the one big auntie, a damned good concertina-player; – actually, her will has had it, she was unravelled smartly, unfairly ( she claimed she was very weak ) , out of the Big Design. Last story: ( the good old first person singularis, jugularis ) we´ll stitch in my golden cousin, cloth-of-gold . Stitch in the ” nea” between her microtonal accordeon tones . Stitch in her “HOW NOW! ? !” womb-cancer, as you´re at it.

Short is our needle, our tea-break, your e-painting patience, Bennie Gozzoli. . Certainly, I googled you – it was for my dead, concertina-playing cousin – we will carry in couchant our Painter Benozzo Gozzoli´s Last Will And Testament ( ” O filii et filiae ; now the cancer raceth up my Renaissance painterly-stiff shoulder ” ) .
” I , Benozzo Gozzoli, courted painter of, chiefly, angels´wings, all sizes and specifications are to get an Umbran welcome, I do bequeath to this, still my (?) world all my coloured swirls, my slashes and oil wisps and half-finished Monte Falco angelic wings and rainbows and ye´ll have great fun with. Try to cap that. ”

O filii. Now they race through his now forever stiff painter´s shoulder: yes, he had painted that golden archbishop and my killing, cancerous cousin´s concertina with the three final chords which finished off weak composer, Strauss, Richard, and his Four Last Songs. Listen: it´s C Minor, B Flat, E Flat. There now. Easy now . Lay down dat brush.

QUASI UN LAMENTO ( for my N.S.O.I Concert in Dublin, March 8, 2005 )

If Orpheus had had three saxophones to hand, he also would have availed of their power to mourn. Or an accordeon. Still, it´s important to get rid of the bleating, the whine the old cow died on. Music can lament alright, but it has to get rid of the merely private. While it also affirms, it is bewailing not so much any particular “Dies Irae” as the very passing of the very time of which music is made. Even without the double reeds or any particular register the composer´s plangency begins its unsettling work. In Vasari´s Corridor in the Uffizzi is a fine Roman copy of the Greek original ” Marsyas Being Flayed Alive”. Apollo, a string-player, takes his awful revenge on the poor wind-player. My one-movement work, ” Quasi Un Lamento”, my sound-sculpture, screams , moans; the seven wind-instruments easily overpower anything the four strings can sob; my piano and percussion add a third element of violence. The accordeon at the close can whimper its Requiem “Kyrie”, five tones, Doh-Re-Mi-Fa-Mi, a fundamental archetype of Western music.

And QUASI UN CANTO for Full Orchestra, then. “I don´t like music but I love to sing!” was Leonard Bernstein´s self-protecting spakes on and off television. In “Quasi Un Canto” a prelude ( it doubles at the end as a postlude also ) frames the orchestral song as it unfolds its 5 tones, A,B,C sharp, C,D and E flat in instrumental groups of three ( three trumpets, three flutes, etc. ) and later in groups of four ( celli divisi, etc. )
Hear my song, sardonic, splintered, quasi unisono then. This branches outlegato or blocked or bursting its way through musical space. Harp, piano and a panoply of percussion ( including bodhrá¡n and clashed cymbals to be lowered in a bath-tub of water ) mediate between the ideas which are really one idea. Vertical is horizontal is oblique. This is song, the full throat.




I had been practising that for in or out ( – which ? ) of sixty odd years now. So I studied my profile, seeking to weed out even one weaky candidate in the list of morituri which my face was showing for all of those said and done and well-sung years. I hummed, then I hawed my Urmotiv, that 3-tone cell from which all of life´s lovely algorhythms trip so lightly : Doh, Re, Mi, from

the “Kyrie” of the Mass for the Dead. As I lay so blythely , controlling my breathing, but not yet my last, a pattern seemed to be emerging: shriving memory recalled flawed projects with me, a child in the forties. The anal stage, definitely my force to move the stars. Wiggle the left big toe; I´m still alive.Thanks, doctor, it can´t be too long now. And
you did promise you will say to dying me: ” Bye-bye now!” – Doc. ? You will ? ( And why does it matter so to us, doc., to us the dear departing, I wonder ? But it does…. )
Then I let my old thoughts loose to roam freely around the next storey of the memory-palace which, it seemed was now finishing with the life which I was terminally
considering…. e.g. my plans in them seventies, just before the diving-rudder was jammed forward into a ” down” angle and the Atlantic´s ocean-floor rose hard to greet us both. I dived. Now old wounds can tear the heart no more, apparently, in a cardiology that´s ” uneasy till it rest in Thee.”
( She peeked around the plastic curtain. ” Is your chamber-pot full yet …. ? ” )

Only rhythm remains in the end,the still firing neurons like to report.Take this left big toe, for example, and its world-formula: Let A be any one of your plans.Then let B minus A be the place you finish up in, eg. second place in the under fourteens´ 4-hand reel. That means C is your unknown quantity and it´s equal to B squared x A squared x O which is nought.

Quod erat moriendum. So which of my dying ” I” s was I currently fooling, eh ?

Begob, now just let the big toe dream its non-existent future after its imminent demise, a future world of toelessness, no less, but no longer my future world as seen from the couch I was sprawled on for the very last time. ( I really was, accept it on faith, really dying to die, but, I suppose, I just couldn´t. It does happen…. ) Suffer , ye multiple selves, all my past tenses. Blow, nurse´s bugle! Don´t forget to hoist this hero´s freshly-dead corpse up on its ( I had not prepaid; I forgot; it, too, can happen ! ) ) pyre. Mother had, father went. Meanwhile my toe was registering a great cold. Suppose mother had wanted me to be a Swiss Guard at the Vatican ? The toe, total cold now, had dozed off.
( So this´d be a further deformation of my phylogenetic derailment somewhere back along the furry-hairy parents´ line, is that it, toe ? )
Do it, dier! Like a wind-hoving skier. Now! So I smacked my hand-held piece of druids´holly that the Hospice For The Dying lady recommended for such vespers. Tap on the middle of the branch twice. Then knock once at the left side, druids ? But which banal deity might sidle in ? I did want to hear his god´s approach, her ghostly patter at my crackling fire. Into the intensive care ward padded, it burst Banagher, The Old Piper of Drooling Pentatonic, knobbly knees all blue under his lent kilt. He blew! ” Stop! Dying, I mean! Stop, this instant! Halt your processes! ” My staged thanatology was halted in its tracks; cold the toe, I saw that the fire barely flickered; my white hair stood on end . The hero´s pyre was consuming those ghostly faggots Mr. Yeats had wisely foresung. – Heavens ! Enough is enough! So it was then. So I snorted: ” Enough is enough! I hereby now appoint ME as Myne Lord Self, I designate myself Lord Smart! I am ,
therefore I am ! I will to will ! Remember her birthing , mother, pious he ! Herald, herald this thus! I am who am reclining here and I am about to reclaim my near-gangrenous toe !” In they trotted, mother´s small trooping gods and, of course, his goddesses. Goodly loud brayed the trumpeter, bold as brass , a Swiss Guard, as it happened. Then it happened. A gigantic weakness made my newly deified bladder burst. It put the pyre out.


It is time to dust down my choral score of ” MEDIEVAL IRISH EPIGRAMMES” which the RTE Singers under Hans Waldemar Rosen premiered in the then Dublin in 1975. ( It was played then at the 1978 International Composers´Rostrum in Paris 1978 )
These nine Haiku-like miniatures are a window on Iron Age Ireland of those first five centuries A.D.
Stirring singing.


To be honest, I see it differently.
I spent my 1993 Black Hole Year writing the ” Irische Mikrokosmoi” for solo piano. Fair enough. I had to focus the mind between insanity and , well, insanity. After all that which had run its unquiet course, I had only two hands – the right was inked; the left hand attempted to ape the bass-buttons ( – well, not exactly ) of the Borrisokane 1950- ies Céilí Band I aped.
I wanted to distill first twelve, then fifty Irish slow airs. Rape them.