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Graham Fitkin MacGuffin (1999)

For violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano

14 minutes

An idea which fascinates me is how something which appears to be of the utmost importance can eventually turn out to be trivial. Something which initially seems to be the whole reason for another activity can be subsumed by that subsequent activity and almost forgotten. That initial something is a MacGuffin.


I first came across the term while reading Truffaut’s interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock used MacGuffins throughout his work. Secret documents, elements of narratives, or pretexts for plots seem vital at certain times, but in the larger context become virtually a bi-product of the film’s own momentum and therefore largely irrelevant. This piece uses the idea of a MacGuffin.


It is sectional. Each section is self-contained yet alters the course of all subsequent sections. Initially I wanted to eschew what I saw as unnecessary frippery and focus each section on its own vital characteristics. These characteristics might then bleed over from one section to another only to be lost in the evolving music and that which appeared vital at one stage becomes just another element of the whole.


Of course the MacGuffin occurs at different levels over the piece and perhaps the biggest is that what seems important to me in the music is quite possibly very different to what is important to you.


© Graham Fitkin


MacGuffun was commissioned by the Schubert Ensemble with financial assistance from South West Arts, the David Cohen Charitable Trust, the Schubert Ensemble Trust and Elizabeth Tufnell. It was first performed by the Schubert Ensemble at the Hall for Cornwall, Truro on 7th November 1999.

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