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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #1 

The term "paradigm shift" was used (maybe invented) by Thomas Kuhn in the '60s in his book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." At the time, the concept as applied to scientific revolutions e.g. Newtonian and Einsteinian revolutions, was a new way to think about history. 

Historians had often thought about history as being "driven" by "great people." In that view, Newton and Einstein were focal points. Whereas Kuhn viewed revolutions as coming from what might be called "the spirit of the times." He pointed out that simultaneous, independent discoveries/inventions were the rule rather than the exception. Newton's invention of the calculus is a good example. Gottfried Leibniz independently invented calculus around the same time that Newton did.  Newton and Leibniz had an ongoing priority dispute throughout their lives.

I see Paul Harris as a Newton or Einstein. I think there was certainly a "paradigm shift" with Harris. There's magic before Harris and magic after Harris. Harris showed us that we had been thinking "inside a box" and he blew the lid off that box. That's what a paradigm shift does. Aristotle = things fall to the earth because the center of the earth is the center of the universe and objects naturally seek the center of the universe. Newton = masses exert a force on each other. The earth and an object mutually pull on each other. He gave us the formula. Einstein = object don't exert forces on each other. Mass curves space and things follow the shortest distance between two point in curved space. 2000 years of thinking like Aristotle, then Newton comes along and blows Aristotelian thinking about physics out the window.

We haven’t had a real revolution in science since Einstein. Relativity still works and there aren’t any real contenders for an alternative. People have tried, but Einstein is still here.

So the question is: Has there been any paradigm shift since Harris? Thanks to Paul, we are now thinking outside of the old box. But, undoubtedly were in a different box and when you’re in a box, it’s practically impossible to see the box. It just seems to be the normal order of things. 

The internet has been revolutionary and has provided a new way to find things and to interact. The internet could be seen as a paradigm shift in how we communicate. It may provide the means for another paradigm shift in magic.

Has there been a paradigm shift since PH? What other “great people” were doing cool things around the time that Harris broke out. Was Harris a consequence of the “spirit of the times?”

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”

Mike

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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #2 
Mike, you are right--Paul Harris was a massive shift and he had an enormous effect on magic. Maybe Derek Dingle did something similar but not as revolutionary with his multiple surprise endings. Paul's effects and methods are what mattered not how they were disseminated so I think the internet is not that important--if anything, it dilutes the scene because there is so much garbage floating in its digital sea. I don't see any new shifts but maybe I don't know what water is.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #3 
I view PH as an outlier, but not as defined by Malcom Gladwell. Instead I see PH as a one-in-a-million who came along, saw things through different filters, and acted on what he saw. He shook us up. He made us think. He made us mad. He moved us forward, even though that wasn't his intent. Or was it?

The zeitgeist of the 70s and 80s was a mixture of the strange and the profane, wasn't it? From the tumultuous 60s sprang a new order, or perhaps disorder is a better descriptor. Paul was, without a doubt, the product of his times - aren't we all? - but he embraced the times, hugged them close, gave them wings, and sent them out to the rest of us. Be silly. Be goofy. Accept your awkwardness and use it to your advantage. Own your eccentric personality and share yourself with the world.

Since Paul (AP?) things have waxed and waned. I think that mentalism has undergone a paradigm shift in the last 20 or so years. It's gotten edgier, grittier, and more and more insidious in method and effect. Derren Brown has been instrumental of late, as has Richard Osterland, Doc Dixon, Luke Jermay, et al.  

David Blaine, a student/mentee of Paul's, shifted magic from the indoors to the outdoors and spawned what is still, I think, known as street magic. Like it or love it, it works for some and has changed what magic means to many. Blaine also expanded the limits of what it meant to be a magician, harkening back to those old days of live burials and other life-threatening stunts, but at the same time injecting them with a new energy though the mediums of television and the internet. 

Are these examples of paradigm shifts? Doubtful, but they certainly have contributed to current zeitgeist. And after all, did we really, fully, madly, deeply understand Paul's impact at the time he was cranking out Las Vegas Close-Up and Supermagic? Didn't it take a while for his real contribution to the art to kick in?

I think this is a GREAT topic for discussion, Mike, and look forward to hearing from others. I will have more to contribute once I have had more time to ruminate.

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #4 
Great question Mike!

You made clear distinctions between the world-models of Aristotle, Newton and Einstein.  Can you expand on your thoughts about how Harris changed magic so profoundly?  Would you draw a parallel between Harris's effect on magic and Dylan's effect on folk music?
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Dawes
Great question Mike!

You made clear distinctions between the world-models of Aristotle, Newton and Einstein.  Can you expand on your thoughts about how Harris changed magic so profoundly?  Would you draw a parallel between Harris's effect on magic and Dylan's effect on folk music?


Dylan? Don't you mean Guthrie? Dylan, Dion, Prine, et al, were all heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie. 

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #6 
Nope, I mean Dylan.  I agree about Guthrie's influence on all the people you named, but Dylan made folk music hip, cool, wild and poetic in a way it had never been before.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #7 
I can dig it, but sans Woody there would've likely been no Dylan, wouldn't you agree? Sort of like, without Doug Henning there likely wouldn't have been a David Copperfield? 

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #8 
I think Dylan was a paradigm change. His innovation (which has been attributed to others) was putting poetry to music. That's an oversimplification, but it gets at what the shift was about. 

Anthony put his finger on the zeitgeist or "spirit of the times" for both Harris and Dylan and others. The '60s was about authenticity and questioning virtually everything, especially the "rules." It was inevitable that a Dylan or a Harris would come along. Similarly, calculus was "going to happen" in that time period. The groundwork had been laid. Newton and Leibniz were the great geniuses who formalized it into a coherent branch of mathematics. Also, necessity being the "mother of invention" (Zappa!), Newton needed calculus to formulate his physics. Newton stayed in the traditional framework of the times, though. His "Principia" was done in a geometric formulation. It's really difficult to follow. The geometry is very sophisticated. Way beyond what we did in HS.

Guthrie is to Dylan as  XXXXXX is to Harris? Dingle was mentioned. Others? 

Following Harris's lead were Sankey and Harkey IMO. We'll never know if they needed Harris's lead to produce their work or if they'd have been Harris had he not come before them. Kuhn would hypothesize that someone would have emerged to do what Harris did, had he not been there doing it. 

I'm not a mentalist, but it appears that Derren Brown might be the mentalist's Harris i.e. the game changer.

Looking around at what's going on in the arts today is mind boggling. Innovation is off the charts. But has there been a paradigm shift in other art forms?

Mike

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
I can dig it, but sans Woody there would've likely been no Dylan, wouldn't you agree? Sort of like, without Doug Henning there likely wouldn't have been a David Copperfield? 

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Completely agree.
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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #10 
Another thing about Paul Harris is that his writing is often funny and fun to read. You don't see that much.
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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #11 
I have it on good authority that it was Paul Harris who suggested to David Blaine the whole street magic context.
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Steven Youell

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Reply with quote  #12 
I think the recent popularization of Poker (and Darwin Ortiz) has shifted the focus of many magicians to gambling related card magic. Few people know that Paul Chosse was a contributing factor. He absolutely NAILED Paul Harris with the DPS after Paul Harris told him he thought the slights weren't really useful in magic.
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Stevie Ray Christian

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Reply with quote  #13 
I believe we are in the midst of a Renaissance… Penn and Teller are serving as both Medeci and Michelangelo. They began decades ago, deconstructing the rusty dusty old thing. Because of their efforts, magic has never had greater exposure. This creates broader interest and therefore, more diversity.
I collected every Paul Harris book. I internalized those brilliant ideas… I embraced the weirdness. He was a game changer… Back in the day before the day when the game was still broadcast in black-and-white.
Today, we see a world of young men and women benefiting from the vast resources available to the curious.
There are plenty of burgeoning game-changers, with black belt chops and modern plots.
The flurry of talent, the quantity of information and the speed with which it is made available, may make it difficult to identify the next Svengalis. But I’m certain they’re out there.
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Tom G

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Reply with quote  #14 
Paul definitely wrote "different" magic books.  Every announcement in a flyer or magic magazine of a new book, required a 2 hour drive to Hank Lee's in Boston for the latest book. Getting one book cost me a ton of money.. car broke down in Boston on a Saturday morning, had it towed and then took a bus out days later to get it. But a new book from PH was worth it.  Paul had serious chops, like doing coin rolls with 2 coins in each hand at the same time.  Most of his videos didn't show his skills, bu they were there. When we were discussing up the ladder, his was so smooth and neat that I have never been able to duplicate it.  Much less other moves. While I own his AOA books, I would never get rid of the older original books.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #15 
Stevie Ray - your analysis is succinct and dead on the money. Indeed we are in a Renaissance, one that extends to the arts in general and magic in particular IMO.

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #16 
A renaissance? I dunno. The Renaissance lasted for what, some 300 years, and was only evident when viewed through the lens of history. And if we are in the midst of a rebirth - and I am not downright denying the possibility, just expressing my skepticism - then where and when did it begin, do you think? 

I do believe, and can support with all sorts of lengthy, well-constructed  arguments, that we are in the midst of a transition as a species. It began with the onset of WWI, and continues through today. Carl Sagan referred to a period of adolescence, but associated it primarily with nuclear weapons. I agree with his use of the word, but as I said, believe it is far broader in scope.

But back to the topic at hand. The Renaissance, as I recall, had a lot to do with a return to the learnings of ancient Greece and Rome. If I am right about that, then is there an equivalent period or culture to which the magic world is turning for inspiration? Richard Kaufman recently announced another reissue of Great Magic, this one expanded to double the size of his last reprint. Is there any chance that some of today's younger magicians will order a copy and actually read it? Could it spur them on toward that paradigm shift Mike mentioned to kick off this thread?

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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #17 

"You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
--Harry Lime (Orson Welles), TheThird Man

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Eddie H.

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Reply with quote  #18 
I just finished reading Magic Is Dead by Ian Frisch. It seems to me he is saying we are currently in a shift and the internet and more importantly social media is the facilitator. Chris Ramsey has 2 million you tube followers and often puts out a couple videos per week. He's probably reaching more people in a month than many other stage and theater acts combined. I think the younger crowd who are technology natives (those who grew up with a keyboard/touchscreen) see silks, ropes and rings as puzzles and certainly bear no resemblance to everyday ordinary objects. To them it's the things like Doug McKenzie's cell phone effects that are modern magic and given the fact so many are instantly connected though social media I tend to agree with Frisch, we are currently in some sort of change.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #19 
I'm not sure we're in a 300 year "rebirth" cycle as was the "Renaissance." Also, pre-modern times aren't analogous to the dark ages. I just suggested PH ushered in a "paradigm shift" as did Newton and Einstein. Separate from that, I am noticing that the arts in some general way are in a "golden age." Much ground breaking work is being done. I think, should historians adopt this view, that they will see the internet as the primary and maybe necessary catalyst for this "golden age" to occur. Fast computers, big data and AI will also be in the mix. Also, I think that the internet will dwarf the printing press as a pivotal moment in human history.
 
Futurists will prognosticate about the near future i.e. up to five years out. But when asked to guess what things will be like in 10 or 20 years, they shrug their shoulders? Who knows? Thinks are moving very quickly. If I make it to 92, I'll see the 20 year future. Maybe there will be another paradigm change in magic. I can't imagine what it would be. If I could, I'd be the one creating it. Who will be Newton's Einstein?

This sure is a lot of speculation on my part. But it's fun to speculate!

Mike
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddie H.
I just finished reading Magic Is Dead by Ian Frisch. It seems to me he is saying we are currently in a shift and the internet and more importantly social media is the facilitator.


No doubt. The internet has had a tremendous impact on our art, as well as our culture and our species. Ass to its impact on magic, I agree with the assessment you describe. Younger magicians are learning almost entirely through the internet. Downloads, YouTube, ebooks and manuscripts, and countless other media that I, as a Baby Boomer, know nothing about. Many, including our own Harry Lorayne, lament this shift. I see it as inevitable. It's not all bad. In fact, there's a great deal of good to be found out there in the ethersphere. I'm doggie paddling in the mid-part of the pool myself and enjoying the experience. 

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
I just suggested PH ushered in a "paradigm shift" as did Newton and Einstein. Separate from that, I am noticing that the arts in some general way are in a "golden age." Much ground breaking work is being done. I think, should historians adopt this view, that they will see the internet as the primary and maybe necessary catalyst for this "golden age" to occur. Fast computers, big data and AI will also be in the mix. Also, I think that the internet will dwarf the printing press as a pivotal moment in human history.

Maybe there will be another paradigm change in magic. I can't imagine what it would be. If I could, I'd be the one creating it. Who will be Newton's Einstein?

This sure is a lot of speculation on my part. But it's fun to speculate!


Yes, it is fun, isn't it! 

I like your suggestion that PH constituted the beginning, or perhaps even catalyst, of a paradigm shift. I think Doug Henning was involved as well. He eschewed the evening wear popularized by Robert-Houdin, and also nearly eliminated the fourth wall in his shows. He also wore his hair long, so naturally I dig Doug! [cool]

Yes, the internet will turn out to have been pivotal, and eclipse the printing press. Can you imagine what people 100 years from now will think when they learn that we were just learning to adapt to advanced technology. We will look more primitive to them that the people of the late 19th and early 20th centuries look to us!

Your question, "Who will be Newton's Einstein?" is brilliant! Who indeed? Are they alive already? It's possible...

Mike, from my perspective you are participating in the creative process that is, or is leading to, the next or current shift. I admire those of you who consistently create and share those creations with the rest of us.

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Reply with quote  #22 
Shin Lim has brought a new and different style of close-up card magic to the national scene (2 AGT Championships).
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Tom G

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Reply with quote  #23 
At a lecture by Shin, he mentioned he learned mostly from Youtube, also that most of his stuff is designed for video.  But that said, he performed the act he won on P&T (?) and it looked good up close.  A lot of gaffs and lots of sleight of hand.
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Intensely Magic

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Reply with quote  #24 
I'm going to exercise a little Old Guy Privilege here. If you never saw PH perform and lecture, I think you will underweight his impact on magic. I've never been totally sure what a paradigm shift is, but he changed magic. I can think of no one in the past 60 years that had an impact even close to him.

I love Shim Lim and consider him the finest practitioner of a new type of magic I'll call Digital Close Up. I first saw this in DVDs put out by Bob Kohler of Shoot Ogawa and Apollo Robbins (I believe). he coin magic was incredible, but the angle of view was minimal. MAgic made for You Tube and other online media is a totally new discipline and has only the most minor connection to classic magic.

Just a couple of thoughts.

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #25 
New styles don't count as paradigm shifts. Rap music, whether you like it or not, was something new. Shin Lim style, made for youtube, or digital magic as from Marco Tempest are new styles. But I don't think they represent paradigm shifts. On second thought, maybe they're like "mini paradigm shifts." They do "open the box we're in" a bit further. That's especially true for Marco. The "godfather" of the type of magic Marco T is doing might be Tony Chapek. Another innovator is Rudy Coby. 

However, I think these newer guys are still riding the Paul Harris "out of the box" thinking. Once PH blew the lid off, anything goes.

Anthony mentioned Doug Henning. I think he's one of the people in the lead up to PH. The zeitgeist was producing people like Henning and then PH - blam. There are always necessary predecessors to the one whose name is associated with the paradigm shift.

Mike
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JohnnyNewYork

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Reply with quote  #26 
Hello Forum Members! I just read this thread (actually, only portions of it since everyone’s responses fall in the “very deep food for thought” category — I’m planning on “circling back” later!). I am certainly not up to par with philosophical acumen that the above posters have demonstrated, but I’ll mention some ideas to consider. First, I think one could make an argument supporting the notion that the term “revelotionary” is a misnomer when applied to the creation, perception, and appreciation of ART forms, whatever they may be — in retrospect, everything that occurs in this area is the outcome of what has preceded it, and therefore, all historical developments in Art could be more accurately thought of as “evolutionary”. Even if the pendulum swings to the far opposite side, it requires the potential energy collected from the initial side, and so on. I’m also surprised that the names Lennart Green (with his chaotic approach that fooled so many) and Dani DaOrtiz (with his emphasis on psychological and spontaneous controls that seem to be part of his DNA) have not been mentioned. I also think that Lorayne’s approach to explaining magic (with his conversational and clear writing style) as well as his contributions to memory techniques certainly carved a new direction for so many books, authors, and methods, that followed.

Such a great topic, and so many great thoughts to consider! I am really enjoying reading all of the above posts (but it does cut into my “practice time”!) — thanks to Mike and the other posters for the fascinating discussion — johnny
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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #27 
Maybe it's worth considering that Einstein developed his theory of gravitation because Newton's theory failed to correctly fit observed data.  Newton's theory worked fine for the data that were available in his time, but by the 20th century much more accurate measurements were available.  The point being that Einstein's explanation of gravitation was needed because the previous theory was no longer sufficient.

So can we consider ways in which the current state of magic is "not fitting the data"?  Maybe that would help us to identify some aspects of the next paradigm shift, even if we can't see who will bring it about.
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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #28 
This is an absolutely fascinating topic for me. As I have mentioned before, I kind of dropped out of magic about 37 years ago and only got back in during the last year. One of the things I have been fascinated with is just what has changed. At the time I dropped out (1982) there were lots of greats around such as Marlo, Alan, and Goshman and many many others, but it seemed like the guys who were shaking the tree were fellows like Paul Harris, Derek Dingle, Darwin Ortiz, John Mendoza, and don't forget Eugene Burger: guys that may be part of the paradigm shift (I don't really believe in one person shifts) that you describe.  Now, all these years later, after the shift, I have a few observations about what has changed, but I feel that I am just beginning my discovery of what has happened. 

First (most important), although there was magic all over the world back then, we simply were not as aware of it as people are these days. The incredible developments in places like Spain and Asia were not in my consciousness.
Second, perhaps because of this there have been a raft of performers who have come along (and some who have left) since then, people like Ascanio, Tamariz, Wonder, Daryl, Giobbi, and so many others.
Third, there seems to have been tremendous development in sleight of hand at least in the area of cards. Sleights seem to have frequently been refined and perfected.
Fourth, everything magical (especially books) has skyrocketed in price.
Fifth, the internet, youtube, downloadable videos, DVDs, online forums, skype, online dealers. At the time of the paradigm shift you mention, MTV had not even come along. I think there are inevitably both positive and negative aspects of all of this.
Sixth, new approaches such as bizarre magic, street busking (following people like David Blain, who I hadn't heard of), that spooky stuff, and so on. (memorized decks)
Seventh, a continuation of the decline of the stage illusion and growth of close up (especially card) magic.
Eighth, an ongoing de-formalization of magic. Top hats and tails seem a thing of the past, and frequently now one finds the magician in extremely casual garb and style of discourse. Even doing bar magic, I used to wear a vest and tie.
Ninth, perhaps in relation to the growth of the internet, there seems to be a decline in participation in local magic clubs (or branches of larger clubs).

I am sure that there have been other significant developments, and that I am probably out to lunch on some of these. Please let me know. Do these various forces amount to a paradigm shift? The fundamental problem, in my opinion, with Kuhn's hypothesis about paradigm shifts was his notion that it happened suddenly and overwhelmingly and was usually because of the work of one great man. I don't think that is how things really change and develop. We may choose a particular figurehead as emblematic of a shift, but it usually occurs because of larger forces in society and the work of many individuals.
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Steven Youell

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Reply with quote  #29 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom G
At a lecture by Shin, he mentioned he learned mostly from Youtube, also that most of his stuff is designed for video.

Don't get me started. [rolleyes]

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ianmcrawford

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Reply with quote  #30 
Thanks Mike, for posting such and interesting topic.  I really appreciate the positive discussion.

I would like to offer an alternative view.  I don't think any one person can be attributed the paradigm shift that is occurring in magic.  Rather I propose a more Darwinian cause.  I believe magic is evolving at an increasingly accelerating pace due to globalization.  Yes, the internet may be one cause, but over the past 25 or 30 years magic resources have become increasingly accessible through translations, video and the web allowing exposure to magic from around the world.  The work of geniuses such as Harris, Ascanio, Tamariz, and Wonder (to name a few) are available are being combined into a cultural mosaic.  We see performers from the Spanish school of card magic (Tamariz), the beautiful manipulations from Korea and China (Chien, Lim) , the European creativity (Frisch, Romier).  And of course, the global ...Got Talent franchise has produced crowd pleasers like Shin Lim (Canadian/American/Chinese).  And all these performers combine elements taken from all over the world into beautiful magic.

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that You Tube produces magic and millions of dollars, yen, euros etc for performers who understand that a whole generation want to consume their entertainment in 30 second increments on the net.  And as a result, those viewers see magic influenced by every culture on the planet.

Like everything, magic is evolving fast.  Let week I attended a local club auction, and couldn't believe the amount of 20 year old stuff that didn't sell, because it was obsolete.  Yes, there are gems to be found in old books and resources, but the way magic is being performed will continue to evolve at an alarming pace.
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Mbreggar

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Reply with quote  #31 
Very much agree with others that this is a great post theme!

In my mind, outside of card magic, no one has changed more thinking and performance style than Max Maven. Look at how much more “accessible” he has made mentalism compared to greatness of Annemann, Dunninger and Corinda. Maven/Goldstein combined with the writings of Bascom Jones, Jr and TA Waters revolutionized the delivery of mental effects. Interestingly (or not) Uri Geller moved the needle backwards a bit through his insistence that his powers were real. But Max and subsequently others pushed the performance aspects forward.
Do some research... you will find a quantum leap in mentalism pre and post Max.
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