Frank Corcoran

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.

March 2007 NEWS

Bourges Electronic Music Centre has deposited all of Frank Corcoran´s electro-acoustic works in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. These include:
” Balthazar´s Dream” Berlin 1980.
” Joycepeak Musik” Studio Acoustic Music prize 1996
” Sweeney´s Vision ” WDR commission; premier prix , Bourges 1999
” Quasi Una Missa” WDR ” Swedish E.M.S. Prize 2002.
” Sweeney´s Farewell” and
” Tradurre – Tradire” DLRadioBerlin commission 2004.


It was an intolerably humid summer-night at Lake Michigan , 1990 in Milwaukee. My drained year as a Fulbright Guest-Professor in the U.S.A. was ending ; two shadows lay over the family, my wife´s insanity and the violent death of my oldest son, Rory, shortly before. The University of Wisconsin Library purchased a facsimile edition of the Book of Kells in Lucerne. It commissioned me to compose a work for this event. My soul´s flood-gates opened then. This one-movement canvas for a vast array of percussion and , at the end,
Irish pianist ( – I was he- ) paints my Early Medieval Ireland, that strange interfacing of Celtic monastic Christianity and pagan tribal forces, war , peace, prayer, cattle-stealers and saints and druids and kings…. Quiet opening bells and gongs give way to deep drums, later timpani and brake-drums, an great ocean of sound-associations .


All that we saw was his shadow under his shield

5 perc pf MS13′
Commissioned by Book of Kells Committee
of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
Premiere: 27 May 1990. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.
New Music Ensemble, Frank Corcoran (pf), conductor Pavel Burda.
Mad Sweeney. Percussion Modern, Frank Corcoran(pf), conductor Dieter Cichewiecz.

Black Box 1999. BBM1026

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April 13. Sligo festival . Arbos Trio ( Spain ) performs Frank Corcoran´s PIANO TRIO

July 13. I.C.O. Shannon Summer Festival. St. Mary´s Cathedral , Limerick, Ireland.

Irish Chamber Orchestra ( Directed by Anthony Marwood ) : world-premiere of

” QUASI UNA FUGA ” for 18 Strings ( 2006 )

PROGRAMME _ NOTES for ” Quasi Una Fuga ”

QUASI UNA FUGA Frank Corcoran

” Quasi Una Fuga” is in no way neo-baroque ( – this I consider to be a pretty unfortunate stylistic aberration of certain 20 th. c. composers ; eg. Stravinsky´s back-to-Bach works are not his best. Bach did it better…. ) . Yet it does have something, in fact everything, to do with counterpoint; my 18 strings play only lines throughout.
Yes, there is a theme, a counter-theme. In my ” Quasi – Exposition” you hear rising entries , from low cello and bass to high violins, then descending entries ( my melodic shape has become its own inversion! ) This protean, easily recognizable theme comes in every conceivable shape through the ebb and flow of my one movement-work, consisting entirely of bits and fragments and smithereens of the “fugal” theme ; it is mutating and morphing all the time until it has become at last the ( five-tone ) Early Medieval Celtic chant, ” Ibunt Sancti”, one of St. Brendan The Navigator´s favourite melodies. Was this the hymn his twelve monks sang , preparing their dinner on the back of a N. Atlantic whale near Greenland …. ? ) .
This is the final composition in my ” Quasi” series of these last years ; from ” Quasi Un Canto ” for Large Orchestra ( Zagreb 2004 ) to ” Quasi Un Pizzicato” for Singer, Speaker and Ensemble ( Hamburg 2005 ) , these works reflect the fact that no composer living today is musically innocent. I know too much music of the past, too much world-music. Of course ” Quasi Una Fuga” feels the shadow of giant-composers from my recent past. Without being beholden to any man, I must know what great music for string-orchestra was written by eg. Bartók, Ligeti and Lutoslawski. My composition is only ” quasi” a fugue, while being entirely fugal.


July 13. 2007. St. Mary´s Cathedral, Limerick, Ireland :

Premiere of ” QUASI UNA FUGA” ( 2006 ) for String Orchestra by

Irish Chamber Orchestra, directed by Anthony Marwood.