Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Well, it is. How natural a thing to hop on the waggon of a great composer one has however fleetingly known. Take ” Remembering Ligeti ” as this pan – European phenomenon rather than a genuine memorial to a giant of contemporary ( now , alas, no longer ! ) music. I remember the tea-filter he gave me as I came to Hamburg in 1983 , as he said Hamburg water was very poor tea-water. He was right. I remember the recording-copy he made himself for me of the then still freshly performed opera , ” Le Grand Macabre” , how he was still dissatisfied with certain places in the writing. Even after several revisions and cuts. Opened my ears ( – though I didn´t agree ).

I remember in ” The Sound Of Exile ” ( published in RTE´s THE QUIET CORNER , 2004 New Ireland Press, ed. Eoin Brady ).

I also remember – and am remembered, re-painted, interviewed – in Lutz Lesle´s ” Seelenlandschaft einer Insel ” ( Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 4 of July 2002 ).

I remember as well ” Frank Corcoran – Substanz für die Zukunft” with Hans Dieter Grünefeld
( Music Manual, Vienna, of Spring 2002 ) .

I try to remember myself , then, in ” It´s A Cold Wind Blows On An Irish Composer ” ( Kunst/Musik 4, Cologne, Spring 2005 )

Dokumenta 2008 in Kassel remembers to slap filmed bits of my thoughts on aesthetics and the
tea-filter on its 2008 filmed interview. I´ll dig out that web.

Magyar Rádió, Budapest, remembers to present my ” Ireland And Hungary” in English and Hungarian at its May 2006 Hommage à Bartók with the premiere of my then new ” Quasi Un Basso”.

I remember my J.M.I. essays , the seminal ” Do Dolmens Lament? ” ( Nov. 2001 ) , ” My Music Is A Four-Letter Word” ( March 2001 ) and especially ” Sligo New Music Festival 2000″ ( November 2000 ). – Has any Irish musicologist, music-theorist, music-pope, music-philosopher ever addressed my thesis ? – Remember ? The ” Irish Mikrokosmoi” were ” Scenes From My Receding Past”, remember ? They remember. Tones remember , too; also tonal masses , tonal wash, tone-colour, tonal lines and spaces and textures and cells and the geniality of a Ligeti idea or a Lutoslawsky rhythmic skein.


Dec. 29 N.D.R. 3 KULTUR . “Prisma – Musik ” . Frank Corcoran gives a two-hour Höranalyse
of Mozart´s G-Minor Symphony Nr. 40 .
The hearable unity between the themes and movements , the bearable behind the unbearable.

Will I talk about this at Princeton , December 14 coming up by stealth ? There IS a logical growth out of pre-born phonemes . Suffering, passive and active, does flow towards the Sacred Word, horror, fascinating and terrible, it is indeed the long shadow of human ex-istence and my words become Irish pipe-music. Treachery is ubiquitous in language, in memory, in blogging perception , whether the words and tones are self-referential or only half so. My Cello Solo-Suite I wrote in 1970. Did I ? It was influenced by Bach, Kodaly, Henze, that over-blown Reger. No art without the past. Níl séarach gan sanctóir. Suppose they hesitantly ask if even those who crucify can expect salvation ? How will Mozart compose not a programme but a correlative in sounds? Who´s the idiot now ? The future is obviously on the minds of a group like Ensemble Modern. Yet the future is unknowable. It´s when I look back that I see the Taj Mahal. ( Sorry about that ) . Every good art-work is a vision heard. In this short blog my theme is farewell. Sound is life. Sound takes leave of this world, of the women and nature of 7 th. c. Ireland. Machine- and human sound sing their last song. Ad multos annos is fine for some. Language does envy tone. Oh if the leaves of the old year were gold itself. As a young lad, my ears were clean.


Why should I care? Let them be heard ? By whom ? Vanish unheard ? Why exactly would this be a pity ? – They are born, they are long born ( I admit it, a difficult birth in each case, each time the breaking of electro-acoustic waters long before. Still ), they´ve long left this house of liberty and lounge in hope of just what now ?
I tend to group the three tallest ( i.e. my longest ; yes, musical duration, never a mere joke, is and stays a prime mystery of time – what´s five minutes of music ? Sixteen minutes ? Watch how your watch is mocked by formed sound ) of my electronic children together .

” SWEENEY´S VISION” , triggered off , some say, by Early Medieval Irish psychiatry in one sense, in another was just the oldest of compositional problems all over again : how ´ll I spin it out ? How derive it all from Bar One ? I was proud when it won the Premier Prix at the Bourges Festival 1999 . Long and lanky, it has great Shannon ( and Rhine ) head-waters , ” Sweeney” ululations and at one point almost a bit of Mozart´s Clarinet Concerto from a whale-wail . I tend to hear nowadays yet other points of connection to its ( also lanky ) sister of 1999, ” QUASI UNA MISSA” , than anyone has yet admitted .

Here in ” QUASI ” is, as any donkey can hear , a more specific wordiness celebratory, it´s audible scaffolding is more up-front . I´ll have to hear it again on my next birthday.

” TRADURRE = TRADIRE ” ( – but is it really ? Always and ever ? ) is the third of the Three Electric Lanks. Over the top, it
is this special sisters´ polyphony , the mutating texts and morphing choral whispers, screams, groans, snorts, farts and the music of those thirty three pipers at my future funeral. The Irish , English and German translations are treacherously traded , I recycle bits , perhaps it is a strange sonic coinage at this stage of this Irish composer´s cosmic anonymity.

Between the very first two children of my computer-loins there was also that strange ( and shortest ) ” SWEENEY `S FAREWELL ( – I´ll give it its full title in this Blog ) TO THE WOMEN OF IRELAND ” . It´s dense roilings are not even five minutes long ; where is the border between deep physical earth-sounds, human birth-pangs, a composed kingdom of massive sounding beasts of the ocean, monsters of the cosmos?

Seventeen ( they were long ) years before in 1997 I bore ” SWEENEY ´S VISION ” there had been an analogue boy-child ; ” BALTHAZAR´S DREAM ” I called these bleeding, cut and cooked sound-chapters of suffering ; it was, after all, my Berlin in my 1980. I was plucky. No digital magic on any compositional horizon back then . My Borgean vision sufficed. The technology was woeful. And guitar-sounds became siren, became rain ; human suffering became hammer – blows at a cross, Borges´s Spanish Cross. This electrical essay I felt compelled to make. Why ? You feel it . I certainly can. Ritual killing might just be fun if you´re on the right side. My Balthazar was not.
Why now should I care if these , my electro-childer , ever make their way ( they do ) through European Festivals ? Corcoran´s Third Law ( – there is to date no First Law in sight, nor no sign of a Second ) of Transcendental Musical Goodness forbids any connection between an art-work´s quality and its mixed reception anywhere, any time, in any imaginable universe . Let these four and a half brave sons or daughters of my electric loins ( – break down , weeping , my good taste and sense ) ” exist” . Add to them, I daresay, ” JOYCEPEAK – MUSIK ” of 1996 ( – again, a prize followed; – Oh how it mattered ! ) , my yellowing prints of a long faded Musical Dublin where neither I nor my peasant, down-country family had ever felt comfortable in, now my kissing the feet of The Master Of All Irish Composers In Trieste .


Dec. 12 2007 New York University / Ireland House


Dec. 13 Princeton University . Music Dept. Portrait Frank Corcoran

Dec. 14 Princeton University . Frank Corcoran ” THE DOLMEN´S LAMENT “


January 13 . 2008

100 Years Ago – The Hugh Lane Gallery Dublin Was Opened ! We mark this with :

Gallery At Noon Concert . 12.00 The Callino Quartet premieres :

Frank Corcoran´s THIRD STRING-QUARTET ( 2006. 14´. )


It´s been sent, I expect, to soften me up, yet , strangely, to keep me on the alert. Obvious.
( Ours , too, has been shite ! – Ye must have sent us over those millions of cubic litres of water …. and after the heat-wave of April and May. Bit better today. ) I´ll be flying over you towards Shannon on Thursday. Fancy. Next week is the Grand Soar down to Prato – but there it´ll be – of course – too warm; so we can´t win… moan, moan. Soften me up . Alert me to the Stoics´deep saws , deep , fat wisdom they saw, the human mystery behind the whinge. For example this day gone – and it lived , be honest, lightly enough . Even if I can´t honestly say what my new Third String Quartet is all about. ( – How livd the other two ? Also lightly enough ? )
It soars a bird. A long a last a loon. Well. Might just be a tick too slow here, not NEAR enough savagery there, the end has to be soft but alertish . The Callino ladies´ll do it grand. Wet the baby´s head , move ye forward to the new back field . ” Quasi Una Fuga” came sternly after , I suppose, my ” Quasi Un Lamento” ´s saxophones´ soft , thick moans.
Then there was it: that computered ” Quasi Una Missa”. Yep. I succeeded good , I sink, in linking my guts, my kidney and gall and each epithalamic alpha-wave and my alerted sound-instinct , yep, not a whit softened by the material I´d used : two thousand years of God – fits and Godforbidd´n God- spake and God-starts on our happy Irish island, Eriugena´s Goddish Aachen Latin ( – I´ll bet my real self he didn´t learn that with his Greek at Clonmacnoise ! ) and Stephen Dedalus´s ” – God ! What´s that ? – A shout in the street ! ” etc . I love Irish medieval Mac Con Bríde ” Moladh ! Moladh ! ” , which I could then insert in to the mash of ” Quasi Una Missa” , splendid bullets Isfahanish. My very own private moan for our Rory´s early, awful death just had to quote Bishop Berkeley´s great plea : ” I had a little friend…. God, in His mercy, took him from me…. I had loved him . Too much. ” So . Present Stoics are floored, then silenced, then stoned. The four strings take my very point, then they hurl it over the cross-bar, the fat fans gone loony . A general pause , called for, given gladly by, is it, the viola? ( There is no way you´ll get me ever condoning any cello´s jealousy. ) Where´s the lousy point in my string-quartet´s entirely ineluctable musical discourse ?
Yerra, our summer was shite, too? – Si o no ? – If moodishness and sixty two cows are allowed not to know their place, si. Otherwise we´ll gladly stick to what this is all really about . I mean this : is art = the shit-and-piss of my body´s terminal breaking-apart ? Is that it ? The new Third String Quartet ? Or we visit the Dundalk Institute of Technology at two o´clock sharp , next Nov. 21, David Stalling´s brave EAR Festival , where mad enough ” SWEENEY´S VISION ” will roar through ? Is that it ?


10. November Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln : Porträt Frank Corcoran .

Interview with the Irish composer-in-exile, Frank Corcoran, plus “SWEENEY´S VISION” ( WDR commission 1997. Bourges Festival premier Prix 1999 ) and his other WDR commission ( 1999, was it ? ) , ” QUASI UNA MISSA” ( 2002 Swedish E.M.S. Prize ) .


Fusion ( yes, I did miss this )…. ” Cross-over”…. Oh Dear ! CRASH

A lot of this musical stuff is not non-trivial ( – Yes, you got me right : it is trivial ). A lot of what Whang On A Can or Ensemble Smersch or The Kitchen Smoke, what the boyos play . This is what I call ” The New Dirt” – i.e. what you actually hear coming out of the din doesn´t give a damn about the beautiful sheen of the clarinet that´s struggling against the tape – or the live electronics which accompany it with fine, dirty black, primitive sound-dirt , and with little or no care taken to give us an interesting, crafted, complex sound.
It palls within seconds. Is bound to. It does , too . – No complexity of any kind for the seeking and seeing ear to linger lovingly, longingly over….
Still, to every man his dirt, say I . To every can its bang.
I´m a quadrivial merchant myself , inclined to the musical work as crafty and crafted sound- sculpture which remains interesting enough to have my eary imagination come back
again and again to.
Take my Third String Quartet which the Calino Quartet will premiere in Dublin on January 13 2008. In this one – movement ” discourse” I have plenty of knots and knarls and snorts and starts and wild string-rhapsodic passages broken by the hunger to unify or derive or develop every atomic unit out of those opening polyrhythmic fits on one string or four. Many shades of quartet-colour, too. The whole argument-in-tones over the top, sure. But it´s not ” The New Dirt” .


Certainly, I´ll write it out in a verse:

20. 09. 2007. The Bayerische Rundfunk broadcast my ” QUASI UN CONCERTO ” with big

orchestral guns, the filthy lot. Good.

1.10.2007. Our own Lyric Fm broadcast my ” PIANO TRIO ” ( the Spanish Arbos Trio at this
year´s Sligo Festival. How many Aosdana members were, ahem, present ? )
I well remember my struggles at the beaten-up piano, 1978 in Mount Merrion,
to give birth to that opening solo for bleeding, polytemporal piano, and then to
have the cello explode in, then the lifting microcontrapoint of my Bergian violin
opening . The PIANO TRIO did take off. My first dapple-dawn-drawn work. Of

1.10.2006 Lyric Fm broadcast ” 9 ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM BY GABRIEL
ROSENSTOCK ” for the beautiful violin bow of beautiful ( and beautifully
sounding ) Catherine Leonard and beautiful National Chamber Choir with
beautiful Celso Antunes´s beautiful shaping.
Also Constantin Zanidache´s sculpting of my ” VARIATIONS ON A Mháirín De
Barra” for his special viola sheen.

20.9.2007 Bavarian Radio, Bayerischer Rundfunk, broadcast my orchestral ” QUASI UN