January 2009 :: From One Generation To Another
There is a divide in magic - there is a separation - between the older generation of magicians and the younger generation of magicians. In magic, it's destructive to the mutual goal of advancing the artform we all know and love. It is not ubiquitous, but it is there. theory11 has done wonders working to bridge it - by bringing those from all sides of the industry together in one place, from Chris Kenner to Jason England to Daniel Madison to myself. But there are miles to travel before we have the unity that this industry needs.
Oftentimes, this divide manifests itself in disrespect or condescension from both sides towards eachother. Older magicians often think that all younger magicians are poorly read, uncaring of history in magic, and lacking in technical ability. Younger magicians often think that the older generation of magicians have little to offer them, as their styles clash and opinions collide. Both opinions are wrong, as it is unfair to stereotype anyone and certainly counterproductive to do what we need - to work together to take this art to the next level.
In working together and respecting eachother, in a more unified industry, greater advancement can arise. The question - this month's Cerca Trova topic - is what can the older generation of magicians learn from the younger generation - and what can the younger generation learn from the older? Further, how has this gap affected you personally - and what do you think can be done to improve this dynamic now and in the future? Let me know your thoughts.
First off I would like to say this has been spoken of countless times and hopefully this subject is taken seriously enough to save this art. Since Im right smack in the middle of old and new I have a tendency to respect both on many levels but at the same time it's hard to take someone with a know it all persona seriously in which most cases older magicians seem to have. Young vs. Old huh I think mainly the younger community wants to bring new innovative ideas into magic and they feel the older community may not be open minded to except their ideas which is sad due to the fact these guys are the magicians of tommorrow. The older community to me seems to feel the younger don't take the time to research and respect the past. We have to start respecting each other or magic will just become a con art and respected by few.
What the older gen can learn from younger gen
They can learn that that people today aren't impressed with those tricks. They recycle the same old tricks. Flourishing is ok to do with magic and is an art form. They use weird gimmicks and take to long with their patter so people get bored with the trick. Magicians dont have to dress up in a suit or in the nicest closes.
What the younger gen can learn from the older gen
They have some of the best sleights and some really good tricks that are some times really cool. Some younger magicians don't use much patter and that is just stupid. Flourishing is ok some times but to a laymen it looks fishy and sketchy. They aren't original with some of the tricks also.
I know I sound like an idiot but I said the opposite of what I said in both of those but I was trying to get both sides of this situation
- Join Date
- Apr 2008
I should first say that I have great respect for magicians of the past such as Dai Vernon, Marlo, LePaul. However, I find many older magicians to be very disrespectful towards the younger generation. When I look through posts on The Magic Cafe I frequently see insults directed at many younger magicians such as Dan and Dave, the posts often show a great deal of ignorance. Many of them (although certainly not all) seem absolutley convinced that their ways are the only way something can be done and are very condescending to anybody with a different approach.
They seem to be very opposed to progression, it seems like many of them endlessly parrot whatever Vernon said, while Dai Vernon's thoughts are certainly important times have changed. I bet Dai Vernon rarely performed for a group of 20 drunk college students trying to grab cards off you. While this isn't an everyday situation i'm just making the point that times change and in some situations a different approach is needed if we're going to perform effectively for a modern audience.
To me, Daniel Madison, Wayne Houchin, Chad Nelson's thoughts and approaches to magic are equally important to those of magicians from the past and I see no reason why they should be treated with any less respect.
I would say that if we're going to bridge the gap everyone needs to respect the thoughts of magicians from the past but realise that the thoughts of the younger generation are equally valid.
When you introduce yourself as a magician it's already an uphill struggle as people immediately get the image of a **** in a suit pulling a rabbit out of a hat or sawing a girl in half. Very few people have a positive experience of magic, they see it as being dated. The older generation is responsible for this, they continue doing the same effects and same presentations and don't keep up with the times.
I'd like to reiterate that I don't at all believe all older magicians are like this, there's some (possibly a majority, i'm not sure) who are supportive of younger magicians (e.g. Chris Kenner, Jason England etc) however there's certainly a large number who are not.
The younger generation could certainly also learn a lot from the old generation. I see many people posting performance videos on Youtube that are absolutely pitiful, people seem completely unconcerned if they flash a sleight, in some cases it's clear they've put little effort into effectively learning the effect in the first place. Young magicians could learn from the dedication of the older generation.
I find myself at a peculiar position in the magic community. I'm relatively young at only 25 and would most likely fit in with the younger generation of Blainers by appearance. But I suppose I have an older soul. I had the fortunate opportunity to be mentored by an older magician who taught me how to really appreciate the craft and keep an open mind artistically. He showed me the value of reading and encouraged my studying of books to learn magic the hard way. I do agree that modern DVDs spoonfeed information to younger aspiring magicians, and often-- the knowledge would have been better appreciated had it been found written on a page. So in gathering, I guess I'm a little bit of both worlds. A living contradiction. And to be honest, I feel that both sides of this bridge have a lot to learn from one another.
The younger generation has been deprived of the value of searching for gold. Some of today's hardest hitting DVD releases have already been published in some of the community's oldest-written books. I can't tell you how many times I've been fooled (outrageously dumbfounded) by a crusty old man with a deck of cards. There is so, so much great magic written in books that haven't seen the light of day in ages because the majority of younger magicians have the attention span of a 2-year-old and don't want to put in the effort to read. The younger generation is spoonfed its knowledge, and I think it's resulting in everyone doing the same stuff. True originality and artistic freedom is diminishing fast whereas the older generation was filled with creative heroes whose names still live strong through today.
The older generation may learn a bit about attitude from younger performers. I find that it's a major difference between the two generations. Personally, I find that older performers are often too boring and PC in their presentations and appeal. The younger crowd who actually performs in the real world seems to grab an audience's attention better, because they're "edgier" and can relate to today's issues more openly and charismatically. But with that said, it's unfortunate that not a lot of today's younger magicians actually perform. The select few who do, though-- often possess a quality of appeal and presentation that the older generation lacks. I think it's attitude.
I think the best way to remedy the division in the community is by encouraging magicians to read more books. I think the younger generation will be astonished at how much they were missing out on. I would also encourage everyone to hang out in different social circles at club meetings or conventions. The only way to get past a division is by minimizing it and learning from one another with an open mind. I believe constructive interaction between young and old would improve magic on both fronts. My mentor and I are nearly best friends despite being over 30 years apart. We learn from one another every time I find the opportunity to visit. I believe I have made his magic more spirited and colorful; he's made mine more original and artistic. Anyone who can share this same relationship will be extremely fortunate.
“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.”
JAMES ARTHUR BALDWIN
- Join Date
- Sep 2007
I've always found that I can learn about 100 times the amount of decent and completely useful information from what we have deemed the "old generation." There are only a handful of GREAT theories, ideas, sleights, etc. that have been created/invented/whatever-word-you-chose in the past couple of years, maybe even a decade or so. When I think of the success I have today as a magician, I look back to Ortiz, Marlo, Vernon, Carney, Ben Earl, Ackerman, Tarbell, Erdnase, etc. Some younger and older than the rest, but these people had a humongous influence on me as a young learner. I am only 16, so I pride myself in being able to override my temptations to dive into everything modern.
It's important to understand the fundamentals and the original ideas that helped magic evolve into what it is today. Without the strong foundation and understanding the "old generation" has provided, we can't hope to bridge the gap. As for what the younger generation has to offer... I don't exactly know yet. I don't see much difference in the new and old generation. I only see bias and rumored opinions pervading everything from videos to forum posts. The more the older generation complains about the younger, the more I see an unwilling hand to help and reverse whatever the problem is. Communication between the two generations is vital in finding a solution, and I suspect it wont take any less than a few years for this to work/take effect. it took many years to create this internal struggle, and it will take as long or maybe even twice as long to diagnose the starting point and go about fixing it.
I'd like to finish my rant by stating that there is a fine line between the younger type of magician such as myself and another type of young magician who is completely modern. I don't think the "older generation" will have a problem accepting young people like me because we respect their work and study aspects such as history (something I'd suspect the majority of people don't do). People like me with this understanding will approach information and strive to learn everything about it instead of purchasing one video that covers a few effects, an entire sleight, etc . When we have problems, we turn to our manuscripts and volumes of books and notes, and we may even call a session with other avid conjurors to help. The newer generation, I have observed, may turn to youtube and other "quick-fixes." I think the underlying problem is work ethic. The newer generation needs to do its "homework" and study a bit more. It's all about patience, oranization, dedication, and self-confidence. I think the modern magic generation's priorities are skewed and there has got to be some work done or the rift between generations will continue to become larger.
Maybe someone would like to expound upon what I have stated? This is just my opinion, as I see myself somewhere inbetween the two generations. I technically belong to the younger generation, however I study mostly around the older generation and I have acquired its work ethic. I don't know where this puts me, or which generation will accept me, but I think I do prosper from being able to see both sides of the rift. There are admirable qualities on both sides, but I think it would be a lot more effective for all magicians to be able to see from my perspective or from where I stand on the issue.
As a last note, we all know that magic has evolved over the past hundred years, especially in the last twenty or so. Along with the evolving of magic, comes the evolving of laymen and the global society's perception of magic. Due to the technological boom we have experienced, magic is a lot more well known and we have seen a humongous increase in the number of magicians. This is a blessing in a way for our community, however it also comes with its downsides. Magic has started to approach an "ordinary" sense instead of mysterious or whatever it was previously. The old generation still works like it always has, and I think in order to reach a solution, it will have to work a little on its end in order to catch up with what society demands.
Thanks for reading
2. That perhaps not everything comes off of the Internet. The older generation of magicians did not have the Internet to publish their materials, so maybe we should act as if there is no Internet and study magic a different way.
3. I have started reading magic books instead of relying on the Internet.
4. Fix both of our problems and create some sort of a compromise so we can work together.“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
- Join Date
- Sep 2007
@ Romeo Sierra - I totally understand what you are talking about. I had a mentor, only two years older than me, however I could swear he was a re-incarnation of the "older generation." I was SO fortunate to have him as a mentor because he taught me the value of reading and the work ethic needed to become the magician I have always aspired to be. We would talk magic philosophy daily before he left for college, and he was always pointing me in the correct direction. Whenever he would come up with a new idea or something, he would never rush to tell anyone or post a video. In fact, he'd research endlessly in old manuscripts and volumes, as well as consult with other older magicians to find history on what he had created. I'd say 8/10 times he'd come out of research pissed off because either Marlo or vernon had come up with his idea years beforehand, but I think this is notable because he somehow attained their thinking process and ethic. I really don't know how he does it, but he has something like 400 or more pieces of un-published and original material after cutting out stuff that has already been published.
Great topic Dan as this is one I feel very strong about. There a very big difference between the older generation of magicians and the younger and I'll get into that in a bit. Many here may remember a long while back I actually created a thread called "Old School Magicians.... Say What?". It was an essay that in my opinion completely destroyed the term old school magician. There is no such thing... It all has to do with style. However, I'm trying not to go off topic so I won't go into all that. I will paste this essay below. It was posted back in early October. Even though I wrote this with a different purpose in mind, I can easily tie it into what we are talking about here.
Originally Posted by Sinful
We can all learn a lot from each other. I have been to two lectures at Tannens which is a magic shop in NY. I'm friends with a few people there. The younger magicians were being treated with respect. I remember before seeing Dan and Dave's lecture there, people were talking about how great they were and how awesome they are with what they can do with a simple deck of cards. Its important that we all respect each other. The younger magicians there get lots of respect there. Why? Its because they showed that they really care about the art.
One of my friends whose name I will not mention that works there said to me at one point "Sometimes at Tannens, you'll see some 12 year old come in and ask about street magic DVD's. I'll offer them some books, but they will only want to purchase some DVD's." That wording was not exact, but the point was the same. Its at that moment when they say they only want "street magic" (I don't even believe that should be a term... that's for another topic though), that there shouldn't be any respect for that person. They don't want the REAL knowledge in magic. Please don't criticize me for hating DVD's because I don't. I own almost every Theory 11 release so far.
I think the younger generation can learn from the older generation about their experience as magicians. They can learn from the books that those who are alive and those who are dead put out. The Expert at the Card Table is looked at as one of the best books in magic ever published. When the younger generation mocks the older generation by treating magic as some cheap hobby that should not be taken seriously, they deserve no respect from the older magicians. I'm not saying every hobbyist needs to own several books, but at least be open to new things. The older generation I think also needs to teach the younger generation. We rarely see actual magic pros on here. Most of the people on here are just kids with a hobby or a dream. We will occasionally see a pro pop their head in, but we don't see it enough.
We need to all learn how to get along with each other. We need to respect the art before we just completely turn it around and change it. The older generation needs to help the younger generation more.
I said it plain and clear in my essay...
Originally Posted by Sinful
I am not the person who Doug mentions in the post, but I do work at Tannens and it is true that many young magicians don't want to buy books because they are written by "old guys" because they havn't experienced what these books have to offer. On the other hand, many old magicians will come into the shop and ignore me and my suggestions because of my younger age. Why all the hate?