Frank Corcoran

irish composer


On February 22 2009 the North German Radio Choir under its new Chief Conductor, Philip Ahmann, will give the German premiere of Frank Corcoran´s

QUASI 9 ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM ( Gabriel Rosenstock ) for Solo Violin and Large Choir.

Nine times I set this little 3 -liner poem in Irish ( 1982 Migmars ed. ) which is as perfect as a 17th. c. Japanese Haiku. ( Basho “composed” his ” Winterreise” in almost Early-Irish nature-lyrics ).
“As tobar duaigh spéire / Líonann crain / A nguth. ”
My earliest Tipperary musical remembrance is of the ballad-singer, Paddy Reddan, bellowing his songs at the weekly fair-day, now long gone, in Borrisokane. Even as a child I mused over that age-old problem, what came first ? The music or the words ? Rosenstock´s poised poem both means and does not quite mean: ” From the ink-will of the sky / Trees / Fill their beaks!” Nine times I set it, I compose nine choral settings of my poet-friend´s elegant brevity; these are nine attempts to paint the vowel-colours of his gossamer syllabic construction, the solo and choral ” A” and ” As” and “Tob-” and ” -Ar”, etc. My solo violin´s prelude and interludes bow, pluck , become the choir´s colour-tones.


How , Lawny, will I handle the “I” of this once summerly Musing ? I am afraid the play´s the thing, the confessional stool, the stool straining . To play, to weep, yes, but a tad too personal, too weepy?
Suppose that I, sorry, just suppose that ” I ” attack that World Haiku Formula Nr. B25 which states that God plus the World are utterable, are controllable, within five, then seven, then again five syllables .
Consider this Haiku, my example one:
” The silver viper / Craves my ferritinous blood / Poison to poison.”

– Whoah ! Attic, lads, it´s a very beaut !
Still, I worry about that ” I ” , as in the above: ” I am afraid the play´s the thing. ”
We will play it anyway , even if that ” I ” doesn´t want the burden of a capital letter plus twinkling inverted commas. What do ” I ” say to all this? Apparently Pythagoras and lots of other Greeks were shoving quite other tones around long before ” five-plus-seven-then-five-again”. Consider next my next Haiku:

” Not enough Sake / This baby-monkey will die / See its dead mushroom! ”

Here the ” I ” with its twin inverted commas is simply claiming that a taoscán of Sake never did any mortal creature any mortal harm, neither mortal baby-monkey – obviously still alive – nor this now dead mushroom. The aforesaid taoscán of Sake might even have enriched the accordeon-music of I, then of ” I ” and then of MY ” I ” ( -But watch all tricky sentences such as : I will in my “I” ! ) .
The three-liner corsets Corcoran doubtful Reflexivity Theorem: I = ” I ” . Where there is peace there will also have to be the seven-syllabled line in the middle; the final five is then the capstone of our syllable-edifice.
Or maybe “you” see it different ? Well, I” certainly don´t.( We´ve moved on now to Corcoran´s Doubtful Arithmetic: if I plus me = us , then ” I ” plus ” I ” = “Us”. Soon you and I and “I” and “you” will have made clumsy trouble for all our inverted commas, all once innocent pronouns . Do “you” see that ? )

Is the following an improvement? -Does it face the music of reflexivity out of which we weave? eg.

” That monkey´s sake / Would yet waken a dead snake / Near this poisoned child. ”

Or would this one ?

” Give no child sake! / It´s poison´s more potent than / A viper´s tongued hiss. ”


” Sake for the child/ Bitten by that viper´s tooth / No more he´ll hear us!”

Also consider this last one:

“If I could be “I” , / The Sake firmly re-corked, / “I´d” face “my” music”.

November 27. 2008

PIANO TRIO . It was thirty years ago, my break-through year. I wrote that opening page for piano solo with bleeding fingers; it had to re-invent rhythm, to fight against 0ur Western tyranny of the period. I succeeded. Then comes the cello with its own tempo , gestures and persona. The violin is a different actor again. I had invented – for me – macrocounterpoint, no longer note against note, but layer or musical flow against layer or flow. ( I don´t necessarily ” like” the sound of the classical piano trio, the two strings having to compromise with the tempered tuning of their a powerful piano – only with this hard-won freedom of MY layered approach could I , I felt, accept the sonorities of this deeply compromised mini-orchestra ). Out of the boiling miasma erupted bits of that Brahms theme. Yet, before it takes over too powerfully, it´s gone again- quasi una visione . This early work of mine I love for its poised layers and polytemporal richness of sonorities and gestures and lines.

QUASI UNA MISSA , after ” Balthazar´s Dream ( Berlin 1980 ) and the Bourgs Festival Premier Prix-winning ” Sweeney´s Vision” ( West German Radio commission of 1997 ) , was my third electro-acoustic composition ( Commissioned by West German Radio 1999. It won the 2002 Swedish E.M.S. Prize ) . Like all my ” quasi- ” works of the late nineties and since, it is a composition of this composer who is musically no longer innocent; I know – sadly – too much world-music, too much music of our Western polyphonic tradition.
I wanted to use – for my four movements – ( – but they´re only ” Quasi” KYRIE, GLORIA – CREDO , SANCTUS, AGNUS DEI ! ) as my building-blocks two thousand years of Irish God-utterances from our Irish island , bits of texts from the Celtic god, Aimhirgín, up through Eriugena and Mac Giolla Bríde and Berkeley to Beckett and Joyce and God-only-knows what else, an Irish stew of Irish theology, a musical archaeology of 2000 yeras of religious tradition. My ” KYRIE” ( – abbreviated commas, please ! ) is my homage to Palestrina and to our Western chanted counterpoint, as my sacred syllables fugue towards magic ” Amen!” St. Patrick beats with bony wrist St. Patrick´s Bell. Quasi- GLORIA has the Wake´s Thunder-word and Glendalough bird-song ( – yes, authentic recordings ! Here , fetishism is all ! ) and a total theophantic eruption, Bronze Age Irish horns from the National Museum, halo and awe.
My Quasi- SANCTUS cooks a heady mix of 20th. c. God-statements plus 7th. c. St. Columbanus´s Latin ” Heia! ” – Chorus , his monks rowing backwards up the mighty Rhine from Cologne ( beside whose great Gothic cathedral I mixed my music ) .
Quasi- AGNUS DEI sums up : Irish sorrow, joy, the nunc stans, lullaby and dance and Aran Island keening old women , port- a-bh̩il , in short my Irish Circus ( РCiao ! John Cage ! No ! ! ! ) Quasi.

QUASI UNA PERLA is just that, my newly honed pearl 2008 for double-bass and piano, for that unique Basso Moderno
combination, Allan von Schenkel and his Kerstin in Washington. Three minutes . Fully packed fun and tragedy and yell and scream and prayer and vision, the whole lot; it flashes by in only three minutes. Allan and Kerstin have just played for the Pope at the United Nations plus a thousand other concerts in the Eastern States of the U.S. They have awakened many composers from South and North America to this, their rare combination ( – again, it is a mini-orchestra ! ) of piano and bass – with Allan´s unique tuning , all strings a fourth higher , capturing a totally new world of sonic possibilities.

November 15. 2008

N.D.R. Kultur broadcasts my Radiophonic Analysis of Beethoven´s Seventh Symphony.

” ” my Irische Mikrokosmoi for String Orchestra.

” ” my Second Symphony for Large Orchestra.


After I was killed in Iraq last year, I dreamed that I heard that drake quacking once again at the castle-moat.
” What a social surd it´s been, quaak, my last quarter of a century earning a duck-family´s crud. How finely unartistic and unmusical my fine crust-earning conservatoire years; all for my drakes, the ducks; ´twas a social desert, ´twas, an inter-draked dump; the house lacked any normal duck-love in its foyer, yeah, quack, we had yellow-eyed envy in the arty-farty toilets . The shadow of 1945 was cast still over our Duck-President´s music-office . What a fitting successor to the Gestapo torture-chambers ( where they had turned the musical screw in that corner ) was our Duckschule´s professors´ aviary lunch-cum-pissoir corner which I had to frequent in them dark quack-eighties. It was a very casino musicale with all poultry birds´ feathers feathering all musical nests, all vanities and inanities and major-minor turds and performing eejits and composing midgets and duck theorists. No defence, drakes, for such an architectural,atonal, acoustic and aesthetic monstrosity. Yes, a hide-out for Moovietone civil servants of sounding necrophilia. Quick! Quack! Quake! Slake!”
He paddled. He dived! I could hardly believe this splatted castle-moat bilge that drake was moaning out in his filthy moat-water. Slaking his beak he dropped silvery droplets, his water-tones. He drearily draked on:
” So I waddles shyly in to just no waiting reception-committee, – Hey! ” collegiality” is not a duck-word. So I stumbles over the President´s threshold as he was sticking on his most drakish smile . ” I´m sorry, Herr Guest Drake, but I can´t help you out at all with your unfortunate case of Herr Crutch´s Phelt!” sez he.
So I was out at sea on the holy moat-water for the best part of the next twenty five years. Prof. Crutch´s Phelt, get this, had wanted my professorial drake´s chair for his then unmusical mistress ; her professorial appointment , mine had obviously blocked hers, would have halved the distance ( it was snickered ) from her class-room to his feather bed-room. See? So in retaliation Crutch´s Phelt syphons off all compositional young hope from my teaching-load for the rest of his crutch´s phelty reign at our High Duck-Shed. And to this day he, too, uses our professors´ eat-corner-cum- pissoir. So it was only then it slowly dawned on this drake, ducks, and hen-eggs : what I treated of in class was of not the slightest interest to that arch-drake nor to the ducklings´s doctorates ; it was only my teaching load at Crutch´s Phelp Musictone-University that was quantifiable. Which was all that mattered. Quick! Quake! Quack, pay any lip-service to reforming that irrelevant dodo of a Hogs Skool? Yes, there was simply no Disney interest in the pitiable hog-wash we´d dish up to dem young, suffering ducklets .
No colleagues greeted – Disneys don´t do greeting, we do not web-shake. Our Good Chief Duck Architect had wetted his paddle-feet; he made sure that this wasn´t ever, ever, ever going to grow into a real Hochschule; eg. he forgot to plan for it, so we had no drakes´corner where you´d ever have a human intercourse. Let not duckish humanity soften a High Hog Skool´s Rule of the knife or be knifed for their high table. Do not tink tunes! No sing! No quacked doodle! Quick! We have not a second! Clock up de dying hours! Flap! Quaak! Thus did I, drake, see my drake-decades crawl till I´d be finally pensioning off the water of this castle-moat from both my webbed feet, I swear to Great Poultry . Meanwhile some colleagues, a few loving drakes died ; but some were replaced by Quack Again!”
His moated drakespeak had ended on, for a musician of sorts, his flat note. Sour or surly. I risked a parting : ” But surely there was something, anything at all, golden in your twenty five years at the Ducks´Shed? You mean to say you learned nothing? From musical youth ? From young lovely ducks?” But he had already dived . The dark-green moat closed over his brown drake-backside, leaving an unpleasantly grey smudge on the castle-waters. So I went beck to being dead after my own Iraq service….

November 23 2008. Sorry, it´s December 11 next at the Festival Mondain in Bucharest, then December 13 in Kluj, premier by Duo Moderno of my ” Quasi Un Duo” for doublebass and piano.


22 February 2009 North German Radio Choir in das neue werk Festival: German premiere of Frank

Corcoran´s ” 9 ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM” for Violin and Large Choir.

23 August 2008 Futura Festival, Crest, France : French premiere of ” QUASI UNA MISSA” ( 1999

W.D.R. commission. 2002 Swedish E.M.S. Prize ) .


Dec. 8 2008 Meridian Festival, Bukarest : Basso Moderno premieres my new “Quasi Una Perla”. Thus:

A last alone the

Long day writhing into night

Moon-shine is my love

René Magritte was

Off on his French hobby-horse:

“I am NOT my pipe!”

Age-old Greek river,

Was unwashed Heraklitus

Ever smelled again?


In 1987 I pared the quill and wrote: ” Two Hardy Referentialists And The Debate On Expression In
Music”. ( International Review Of The Aesthetics And Sociology Of Music IRASM 18, 2, 237 – 245 )

In this bee-loud glade

My nine and fifty plum-trees

They and I blooming