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.
I spent a great portion of my live working all hours of the day to get into Juilliard. But those weren't the cards that were dealt to me. Somehow the card dealer went by the stage name of Uncle Sam. When people ask what I do (aside from being a soldier), rather than choose between the two, I say the truth. I'm an artist. Magic is a medium to express what I'd like to put out that produces different emotions, feelings, reactions, colors, sounds, environments, etc... from music. But I'm proud of both. Never ashamed. I do magic. I do music.
I think a line should be drawn... While you do release an effect with the knowledge that people of all sorts will perform it/learn it... Some should be smart enough to know, this isn't for them. That they're either not ready or not right to perform it, and it is those people who will become successful, because they know themselves as artists.. And most won't or shouldn't put out their signature effect if they aren't ready for it to be performed. Teller has yet to put out Shadows......... On second thought, I don't even want to know how that's done.
I think there are many good points that have already been brought up so I won't dwell on those. I would like to touch on something about the creator's responsibility if that creator has some specific vision of how their effect should be performed.
All other things being equal, how many magicians are out there performing Arron Fisher's "Search and Destroy" well ve,rsus Dan and Daves version of Bill Goodwin's "The Queens?" My guess is that more magicians do Search and Destroy justice than do the Queens. You might say, "well of course. Search and destroy has only one move and the Queens has about four." Thus S&D is easier to learn. That may be true but look at it this way. (assuming you are not adding the Clip-shift ending) The moves in the Queens are generally moves of moderate difficulty whereas the Nowhere Pass is basically a bluff pass. Bluff passes are regarded by many as one of the most difficult moves you can do in card magic. So how does Aaron teach one of the most difficult moves in card magic and make it digestible to the masses. LOTS of focus on every minute detail of the move as well as the presentation of the effect. The Search and Destroy DVD go on for an hour just to learn one effect. You get in-depth instruction on the effect and the move as well as three different live performances and a discussion on presenting the magic.
Now this isn't to diss on the Bucks. I like there stuff and there style. But they are from the school of thought that says you teach the moves and leave it to the performer to figure out how to present it. Now creators from this side of the spectrum have every right to feel a bit slighted if someone goes out and performs their effect before all the moves have been mastered, but they can't really complain if people go out and perform their effect badly due to lack of solid presentation. If you don't teach how to present an effect then you can't gripe when people present it poorly. When you release an effect to the community you must consider the possibility that it might be the first magic effect someone ever bought. I have often seen books, DVDs, and downloads that warn buyers that "this is not a beginners effect," when the sleight of hand is difficult but I have never seen that kind of warning for effects that require an experienced presentation.
So to summarize, if a creator really wants his effect to be performed well he needs to spend a bit more time teaching performance!