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Socrates

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In this world there are an abundance of magic tricks to choose from but how do you choose which ones suit your performance style, and how do you then go on to shape them into a strong piece of magic?

"Often it is your presentation and patter which will be crucial in convincing the audience that you have performed a miracle" - David Berglas

When I first began reading magic books and learning tricks I did what most folk do and just learnt to perform them as written. It was fun for me too learning how they worked and what the underlying principles of magic were... it took me a while longer before I understood how to present the effects in a way that suited my persona.

Reading 'Magic & Showmanship' by Henning Nelms was a revelation for me as I soon realised I could make a massive impact with my magic using the most basic of principles... I also came to the understanding that our attitude toward our audiences also influences how our magic is perceived.
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Chi Han

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That's such a good question.

I believe strong magic will be different for different people.  As you've pointed out different personas have different things that work for them, but also people's individual ideas about what they like and don't like in magic will influence things.

That said, I think sometimes although people try to to do what they consider strong magic, they sometimes betray those principles to do things that are less strong but more fun.  I'm certainly guilty of it.  I've seen a lot of magicians talk about valuing effect over method, but if talking about tricks they do or like, they often select tricks whose methods are clever but effects are sub par.  You'll find people who talk about practice and scripting, but do neither.  People who recommend books they haven't read.

I think strong magic starts with people being critical and honest with themselves about their magic.  There's a lot that we all know we 'should' do, but do we?

I think it's similar to living a healthy lifestyle.  If you ask most people questions about their health, they almost always give really good answers.  Should you eat more salad as opposed to french fries?  Is 8 hours of sleep a good thing.  Should you exercise?  People usually know what is required to live a healthy lifestyle, but often their behaviour differs.  People have other priorities and other vices.

When it comes to magic, I don't really shoot for the starts too much personally.  I try to do the things that I think 'everyone knows'.  There's no secret formula.  I want my magic to look polished and practised.  I want my tricks to be scripted with patter beyond just narrating the actions.  I want to be a capable performer with experience for different types of crowds.  I don't want to do a lot of the same type of effects.  When performing I want variety in my voice, gestures, actions so things aren't monotone.

Looking deeper, I could talk for hours about construction of a trick etc...but honestly 80% of the journey is done just doing the things that everyone knows we should do but don't.


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Alan Smithee

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Reply with quote  #3 

Generally speaking, I think that any decent trick, decently performed is Strong Magic. Decent? Take your pick. Spot Paddles, Linking Rings, Chop Cup, Okito Box, Invisible Deck, Booktest..……….the list goes on and on and whilst not truly endless, it can seem that way.

We get sidetracked. We read books like “Strong Magic,” and “Magic And Showmanship For Magicians” and allow ourselves to be persuaded that we’re somehow inadequate. That these (and other writers) know all the answers and we’re unworthy. This despite the fact that we’ve probably been doing Coin Through Handkerchief or something since forever without their help and “everybody likes it”.

If that’s not Strong Magic, I’ll eat my hat.

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Mind Phantom

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Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates


"Often it is your presentation and patter which will be crucial in convincing the audience that you have performed a miracle" - David Berglas
 


100% agree here.

Orson Welles was a master of this with his mentalism.

This is such a good question, I don't know how to tackle it lol. Maybe after presentation & patter comes the method and then the nuts & bolts of how the illusion plays itself out in front of the spectators. It helps if your script isn't canned either, maybe that's why the actors say that the "Script Is The Enemy ".

I need to think more about this...

MP-

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Mind Phantom

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Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Smithee

We get sidetracked. We read books like “Strong Magic,” and “Magic And Showmanship For Magicians” and allow ourselves to be persuaded that we’re somehow inadequate. 



Not for me, I constantly go to Strong Magic for help and advice and I don't at all feel inadequate.

It's interesting that you feel that way..

MP-

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #6 
For me the notion of "experiencing magic" means seeing and experiencing something that appears to be impossible. I want the spectators to mentally be saying to themselves, "WTF" and/or "There's no way that can happen!" 

Most of what I perform in the real world, especially close-up, are items that get that sort of reaction. The reaction shots in most ads for magic tricks show people in this state of "WTF!" That's designed to make the viewer think "If I had that deck/gizmo etc I would be getting that reaction." People who are filmed for a reaction shot who say, "That's cute" or "I liked that" won't make the cut. I feel like I'm succeeding when I get those sorts of reactions. 

This isn't to say that there's no merit to performing "fun tricks" i.e. tricks that people enjoy but don't get that big reaction. I have fun with the "Little Plunger." People love it AND it leaves them with the feeling of impossibility. They're not freaking out. But I think magic is happening in the sense that they have the feeling that they're seeing something impossible happen.

Ultimately I'm just saying that I like to perform strong magic rather than what might be characterized as "fun magic." Also, I'm not saying that this is THE correct way to perform magic. It's just what I like to do. Each to his/her own.

So to answer the original question: I choose what I think are very strong pieces of magic and present them in such a way as to maximize the feeling of impossibility. 
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John Cowne

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Reply with quote  #7 
[QUOTE=Mike Powers]For me the notion of "experiencing magic" means seeing and experiencing something that appears to be impos. I have fun with the "Little Plunger." People love it AND it leaves them with the feeling of impossibility. They're not freaking out. But I think magic is happening in the sense that they have the feeling that they're seeing something impossible happen.



Mike, I find similar thoughts cross my mind with the ‘Little Plunger’ ... and especially ‘Card-Toon’. The experience of laughter/delight is not (must not be) incompatible with the wonder of ‘seeing the impossible‘. I think when we tap into varying levels (or perhaps ‘kinds’) of an audience’s emotions, they leave with more of a sense that ‘I want to see more of that’, than ‘How did she/he do that?’.. Problem-solving does not = wondrous entertainment, at least for me. My thought is that powerful magic always involves reading and engaging with your audience - making sure they feel involved.
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Marco Batista

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Reply with quote  #8 
Great thoughts around here - I really like you folks at TMF! :-)

What constitutes strong magic? It is a great question with many diferent possible answers. If 10 answers are given, perhaps we will have 10 diferent answers.

I would say that, first of all, strong magic needs to deceive. I mean, the method can not be known or perceived in anyway by the spectator. Second, so that we are relevant to our audiences, we must make our magic more about us, more about the spectators or both! And, on this point, being able to comunicate and tell a story brings a lot to the performance.

In the midst of all of this, we must not forget about being ourselves and run from just copying others.  


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Medifro

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chi Han
  
Looking deeper, I could talk for hours about construction of a trick etc...but honestly 80% of the journey is done just doing the things that everyone knows we should do but don't.


I had this issue in the past. What helped me the most was experiencing a really powerful magical performance first hand. When it happened to me, I re-considered alot of the things I was doing. 

Afterwards it was important for me to gaining clarity and develop of a vision of not only how present magic well, but how to get there. Tamariz, Larry Hass, Kenton Kenpper, and Ortiz's writings and the played a big role in this for me personally. It was important for me to realize that is a iterative process and an artistic endeavour, more than anything else. 

Each situation is also different. A performance in a trade show won't be as strong as a 1:1. In addition, I see doing things for magicians as almost a different hobby than performing it for laymen with a different market, books, videos, and proponents. 

My answer to the question: I try to perform well-designed effects so it leads to a magical experience with an emotional impact, if possible on a meaningful or personal level, hoping that it leads to re-bookings (most importantly, hehe) and/or them having a unique experience and good time if its free. 






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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #10 
A total sense of (physical) impossibility, as Mike said, is the key of a strong magic effect.
I would like to add a little touch to it:

When a spectator see a magician making something desapear, he/she may think that it was magic, but may also think that the magician did so just because of knowing how to do it. In other words: the magician did that "magic" because it is the "magic" he/she knows how to do. So, it is "just" magic, but not particularly a "strong" magic.
A specially "strong magic" needs something more: it needs a challenge, a conflict, a trouble, a special difficulty...
For example, the spectator commites a mistake regarding the magician's instructions, so that, the magician get the magical effect not because he/she had got the way to do it, but because he/she just CAN do magic in any circunstances, being the sense of impossibility stronger than without any incident.

The "false solution theory" helps a lot to make the sense of impossibility stronger.

Generally speaking I think that the sense of impossibility is stronger as it is done under any circunstances and conditions.

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Alan Smithee

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mind Phantom


Not for me, I constantly go to Strong Magic for help and advice and I don't at all feel inadequate.

It's interesting that you feel that way..

MP-


Isn't it. [smile][wink]
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #12 
I think the longer you've been into magic and the more you know the more jaded you become. 
It's like a drug. 
You need more, or you need something stronger. 

Go back to the "roots" of magic and you'll find it's the simpler magic that blew you away. 
I still perform sponge balls, a really short, short routine - and nothing is more magical than when the unsuspecting spectator opens their hand and discovers they are now holding two balls instead of one. 
I remember hanging out in magic shops and having people blown away by Nickles to Dimes, and the Spikes thru Half Dollar type of effects. 
These are the tricks they saw. These are the tricks they bought. These are the tricks that blew them away. 
Those that stuck with magic would come back to the shop looking for their next fix - the next trick that would blow them away. 
But by then, they had already built up a resistance of too much knowledge. 

I can't tell you how many times a trick has blown a magician away, and when they found out how it worked they reasoned that that won't fool anyone - forgetting that they were just blown away a few minutes ago. I know I'm guilty of this myself. 

But to answer the original poster's question: In this world there are an abundance of magic tricks to choose from but how do you choose which ones suit your performance style, and how do you then go on to shape them into a strong piece of magic? - I would suggest finding something you like performing and perform it for as many people in as many types of settings as you can. It will evolve over time and become "yours." 

On the other hand, if you're a hobbyist and have a limited audience that you always perform for - I don't have an answer. I would assume you're always on the hunt for something new to keep your limited audience entertained. 

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Alan Smithee

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EVILDAN


I would suggest finding something you like performing and perform it for as many people in as many types of settings as you can. It will evolve over time and become "yours." 



On The Button.
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Mind Phantom

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Reply with quote  #14 
It's magic that isn't boring...that's for sure.
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #15 

You shape it through repeat performances. 
I like working festivals or busking because it gives me a chance to work on the same material many times during the course of an event or the day. 
I might perform it one way and then change it up a bit the next time. 
Maybe something didn't get the reaction I thought it would so I'll try it a different way. 
Quite often a mistake happens and you recover and you discover a new way to approach a part of the routine. Also, how people react or what they say may cause you to react a certain way which makes the routine stronger - so you work to keep or add that in at all costs. 

Repetition is key - but repetition in front of a live audience. 

Practice will get you the skills to "give your knife an edge." 
Performance in front of people will hone that edge so it's razor sharp. 

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Dave

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Reply with quote  #16 
I believe it was Whit Hadyn who said "There is no such thing as magic/there is no other explanation." That is strong stuff.

Dave
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #17 
I have to disagree with Paco on 

Quote:
The "false solution theory" helps a lot to make the sense of impossibility stronger.


I think what Dave alluded to is correct - Magic happens when there is no explanation. Conversely, magic is not happening if they're thinking "I wonder if he shot that up his sleeve?"

Mike
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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #18 
Certainly, if a magical effect has apparently no explanation by itself, you don't need the help to drive to any false solution. The perfect trick!

Only, I was rather refering to help some (no perfect) magical effect to look like stronger : - /

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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #19 
      Fools and amazes strongly and ENTERTAINS strongly.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #20 
Certainly the wrong explanation is better than the correct one. But no explanation is when real astonishment happens. If we can find out what wrong explanation they are coming up with, maybe we can eliminate that as an explanation and get to the perfect trick. 

When Copperfield flew, he worked hard to eliminate the "wires" explanation. What other explanation was there?? I think it defied explanation and became pure astonishment. I saw it live from about row 20 in South Bend IN years ago. It was truly marvelous even though I knew the explanation. There were no Mylar curtains or changes in lighting. It looked totally amazing. Too bad that it has been exposed. 

Blackstone's floating light bulb was also inexplicable. He'd say, "You will remember this to the last day of your life" or something like that. That remains true.

Mike
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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Lorayne
      Fools and amazes strongly and ENTERTAINS strongly.

Yes, indeed!
As a matter of fact magicians can cause a really strong sense of magic just by the way he or she presents it.

For example, a conflict.

Sometimes the magician could be seen as a kind of HERO that overcomes a really impossible and unexpected situation.

A magician in trouble is always something special for the spectators.

I'll never forget a Tamariz show I watched on TV when I was 12, in which he had the help of a spectator to cut a handkerchief with a scissors. When the magician did it he could restore the handkerchief, but when the spectator did the same, the handkerchief appeared with a big hole in the centre. The magician looked terrified at it.
People laughed.
Then he tried to make the spectator to restore it along with a lot of jokes.
"Did you really follow my instructions?"
"Well, my next instruction is to pay the handkerchief to the owner" ...

After a couple of unsuccessful tries with different magical gestures and words, the magician says that he seems not to be a good magician master.

At that point, everybody (and me) thought that obviously it was IMPOSSIBLE to restore a borrowed handkerchief that is clearly torn.

Finally he asked the spectator to try it for the last time with the help of everybody shouting at the same time the magical words.

The magician, resigned, asked the spectator to return the handkerchief (which is folded inside the spectator's hand) to her owner as the magician take some money from his pocket to pay for it (people laugh). But...
When the owner unfold the handkerchief, she sees that it is perfectly restored!!

Tamariz explodes! Tah, tah, tah!!
Air violin!!

Hey!! He did it! He got the spectator to restore it!

It seemed to be a simple magic trick, but Tamariz made it to look like a real miracle!

Tamariz's shows like that made me love the art of magic up to the point to analyse their shows second by second to get to know not only how to do it, but also how to perform it to make it looks like a real miracle to my relatives.

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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
Certainly the wrong explanation is better than the correct one. But no explanation is when real astonishment happens. If we can find out what wrong explanation they are coming up with, maybe we can eliminate that as an explanation and get to the perfect trick.

Mike, having a look to The Magic Cafe Forum, I found out a very very good quote that you wrote by Simon Aronson that would fit perfectly what you say here. And I admit that I totally agree with that.

"There's a world of difference between a spectator's NOT KNOWING how something's done versus his KNOWING that it can't be done." Simon Aronson from "Shuffle-bored"

For those who are interested in that thread:

https://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=691212&start=20

(Edited to correct spellings mistakes)

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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paco Nagata


"There's a world of difference between a spectator's NOT KNOWING how something's done versus his KNOWING that it can't be done." Simon Aronson from "Shuffle-bored"

(Edited to correct spellings mistakes)


And it's another matter when a spectator could care less about the effect or how it's being done, regardless whether it fools them or not. 
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #24 
Paco - I have posted that Simon A quote many times and often use it in my lectures as a trivia question (for a prize!).

Darwin Ortiz has a similar quote: "Magic is not simply about deceiving. It's about creating an illusion, the illusion of impossibility." It's from Designing Miracles.

Also from Designing Miracles: "This is what people should feel when they watch magic: not that they’re not smart enough, but that even someone ten times as smart would have no better chance of explaining it, because there is no explanation.”

I'd put "because there is no explanation" in bold. 

These are things that Pop Haydn was emphasizing in a thread on TMF too. 

Mike
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TheAmazingStanley

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Reply with quote  #25 
I purchased Dan Harlan’s Tarbell chapter on coins. I think if I did not know how coin magic was done (doing it myself is another matter) I would feel this way about The Miser’s Dream, especially since he takes out the totally incongruous bucket held with four fingers inside and uses a common glass. When he starts going ping ping ping pulling one after the other out of thin air, where are they coming from, and why isn’t the glass overflowing? What explanation could there possibly be?


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