My Philosophy of Creating and Sharing Magic Tricks
Hello friends. Now that theory11 has put my name out there a bit, a couple of you have sent me messages asking about my magic background and about my philosophy of tricks. Well, here are the basics:
I got into magic around 4 or 5. My grandparents had the best collection of David Copperfield VHS tapes, and every time I’d go over to their house, we’d watch them together. Again and again. Particularly China and Niagara Falls. I saw how deeply my grandparents loved those tapes, saw how magic had the power to delight people…and I wanted in. Been doing it ever since. About 25 years. I did birthday parties I did table hopping…but mostly I performed for friends and strangers in school, coffee shops, bars, and clubs.
So far I’ve published 3 tricks in MAGIC Magazine and 2 tricks on theory11.com. I try to create the most deceptive tricks possible—that’s the only objective. Don’t care if it’s cool, short, long, complex, simple, hard, or easy. Just care about deceptiveness. For me, creating tricks feels 90% scientific, 10% creative. Same with my writing. I’m actually a professional writer, not a professional magician…
…and on that note, I’d ask that you evaluate my tricks on their merit, not on their creator. (That’s a fancy way of saying, ‘Don’t hate my stuff cause I’m not a pro!’) Over the years, I’ve bought a lot of tricks that have been sold with the line “I’ve been a professional magician for 30 years, and I perform this trick every single night. It’s a real ‘worker.’” Often times those trick suck, and I walk away from them thinking, ‘Buddy, you’ve been doing a crappy trick for the past three decades!’ I’ve met a lot of great magicians who think up a lot of mediocre tricks. And I’ve met a lot of mediocre magicians who think up a lot of amazing tricks. Not sure where I fall on that spectrum, but I am sure that magic creation and magic performance involve wholly different skillsets.
One more thing on trick creation: Last week I was talking with a magician—a damn good one, who I very much respect—who puts all sorts of restrictions on who can and can’t perform his material. Basically, they have to share his philosophy. I don’t think creators should do this. I say, once you decide to share a trick with the world, you open the floodgates.
Right now I’m (re)learning Chopin’s Waltz in D flat Major. If Chopin came to my house, snatched my sheet music, and told me, “Please stop learning my piece. You’re not good enough to play it,” I’d be crushed. (Also, I’d be pretty terrified, with Chopin being long dead and all.) I believe that magic should be open to all who are excited to learn it—regardless of their capabilities or skillsets.
How about you? Agree with any of this? Disagree?
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
While I agree that anyone should be permitted to learn magic, some people should not be permitted to perform it.
There are those people who learn an excellent effect, but spend an insufficient amount of time practising it before they run out and perform it.
And they not only ruin the effect, but they put a small dent in the public's opinion of the magic community.
But yes, if one decides to share their creation, then it should be shared with everyone, whatever consequences it may bring.
I certainly believe that anyone has the ability, and should for that matter, to learn how to do magic. However just because one has the capacity to learn and execute a sequence of moves doesn't mean one possesses the same competency for presentation or performance. To that end I believe that is one of the major factors that separate the consummate professional from the weekend warrior. It's not in their ability to get work, but in their ability to entertain that I believe qualifies someone as a Pro. I have seen way to many arm chair magicians in the halls of the Magic Castle whose technical skills are beyond belief, but couldn't entertain their way out of a wet paper sack.
As to who can do what effect my opinion on that subject hasn't changed much in the past six months. I follow this rather simple but direct phillosophy:
- Rule Number 1: Don't perform another commercially publicized trick that a magician is known for if that magician is working or in the venue you are working without first consulting them to see if it's okay.
- Rule Number 2: Don't perform another magicians signiture effect period if it isn't sold publicly without first getting expressed written permission.
- Rule Number 3: If an effect is published, it is there for fair game for performance unless something in the effects instructions limit or prohibit performance rights in certain/all venues.
- Rule Number 4: Unless given permission or gifted by the creator them self, you should purchase any effect you plan to use in your act even if you believe you know the method to do it.
It's simple, direct, and gets the job done. I've heard stories about a certain mentalist who is very well known at the Magic Castle getting really upset with another performer for doing a lock and key routine. This routine is a published effect and one who isn't created by said well known mentalist. However this mentalist still got his panties in a twist because the effect he considered to be signature to him, and him alone. Personally I believe that if you publish something you release for profit, you really can't become a control freak over who performs it, so long as the effect is paid for.Winner SNC 6/5/2010 "What Magic Means to You?"
Winner SNC 8/22/2010 "Best Dramatic Work" for Theory11 Movie Night
Much the same could be said about songwriting or composing. love the fact you brought up chopin. classical music runs deep in my blood from the many many years of studying the art. So its always a nice breath of fresh air to see brought up. but anyway. to put in short... the creator cannot always bring to life the potential of his creation where another artist can. on the flip side of that pillow... a performer cannot always understand a creation as much as its creator perform it as it must be performed. there's always risk of artistic blasphemy.
Asher, We're not the only ones! Lots of great magician/musicians out there. We should start a website. I hear what you're saying about performers not understanding creations, though. I remember feeling that way when I wrote this play back in college that got performed. And I was fighting with actors as to how to say lines...
As for the actual topic of the thread, i think anyone releasing an effect then being picky about who performs it should bite their tongue. It's like magic exposure, kids revealing tricks on youtube and people watching them just to find out the secret and never performing the effect. Imagine having to pay just to find out a secret, when you dont have permission to perform it.