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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Why do so many magicians do the classic tricks? (39 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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mndude
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Maybe I have not been seeing the right magicians, but it seems like so many you just the well known classic tricks, linking rings, torn newspaper, disappearing handkerchiefs, Etc.

One only needs to browse through the topics here to realize there are literally thousands of Wonderful tricks and effects. Why do so many magicians insist on performing so many classics?
Terrible Wizard
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Well, I can't speak for others, but I like many classics (esp classic card tricks) because they are often simple, direct, strong, proven and easily available to learn/purchase.
funsway
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One thought is that an observer likes to find some balance between encountering "inexplicable phenomena" and comfort over being in control. Both are illusions.
So, in observing a "known" magic effect (even one they performed as a kid) they have less of a fear response to the other effects which defy explanation.
As part of "being entertained" they also can appreciate artistry and skill - possibly more in an effect with a known outcome that one with mystery.

For me, this means trying to understand what the expectations are of a given future audience. I can then select effects and presentation to either maximize entertainment or "must be magic."
I do know of some performers who use a known, classic effect as a way of measuring audience expectation and experience with magic - and then adjust later on.

Following the Furst Principles, you must prove you are a magician and gain focused attention (possibly explaining what magic is) . Classic effects are a way of achieving this.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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55Hudson
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1. Classics are great tricks, proven over time. That's why they are classics

2. I perform mostly for laypeople, often ones who have never before seen magic performed live

3. Why would I perform the latest fad, when I can perform a proven trick that will amaze my paying audience?

Hudson
Dick Oslund
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Many years ago, I established my "Nine Important Things" (my CRITERIA) and, my motto, which have guided me throughout my fifty professional performing years. For the 20 previous years, when I was a part time professional, I hadn't written down my criteria--or--motto, but, I was "thinking" of them!

I've NEVER bought a "latest and greatest". I've managed to make a good living, using mostly generic props (silks, rope, golf balls, etc.) and, a few props that were "dedicated to a specific trick (e.g.: egg bag, Disecto, pom pon stick, mutilated parasol, brakawa wand & fan, etc.) For a year or two, I owned, and used, a Super X Levi, a "Garden of Flowers, a botania, and, one or two other similar type props. but, they were all classic props, too. The phone promoter for whom I was touring, wanted some "flash"! When the tour was completed, I sold all the "plywood" and, returned to my basic show, which fits in a "fat" attache case (13"x20"x8"). The act "plays" for almost anyone, almost anywhere. It sets up in about 4 minutes, and, I can leave the stage about 2 minutes after the curtain (if there is one!) closes. I had learned from Tarbell as a young teen, and, what I learned has proven to be "right". Tarbell, taught basically the classics, and, they work! --at least for me! (All I did, was update the PRESENTATIONS! (It aint WHAT ya do, it's HOW ya do it!)

The EFFECTS (EFFECTS are "what the spectators perceive".) which I can produce with the simple classic props, have always pleased my audiences, and, I've never been at liberty! I toured the USA, border to border, and, coast to coast.

I use tricks that were first written up in Scot's "Discovery of Witchcraft", because people who pay money to see me, like them!

When I was in the Navy in the early '50s, I carried the whole 30 minute act in a leather "toilet kit" the size of a cigar box. In my off duty hours, I made enough money, that I could send home to the bank, my Navy pay check. I made enough with magic, to buy my first car, rent an apartment in town, buy a new tuxedo, and any props needed.

If you're that interested, you can read my book ("Dick Oslund--Road Scholar").
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
jimgerrish
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The classic tricks are a great place to begin, but for magicians like you and me it will not be a place to finish. I teach my Wiz Kids a classic trick, and then we brainstorm to make a variation, then a variation on the variation, and soon we come up with something new. Kids or newcomers of any age are better at it than old timers who have been at it a long time and settled into what I call the "magic rut in the road of life." The Magic Nook is filled with "classics" that have moved on. I feel it is the obligation of every magician who can do so, to rethink, revise, and rebuild and if they happen to come up with something brand new, it will be because "chance favors the prepared mind." So keep questioning mndude, and you may grow old, but your magic never will.
Jim Gerrish

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CR_Shelton
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It's a timeless question asked in all arts. My passion is Shakespeare and classical theater, and within the theater community there is constant discussion about whether we actually need any more Hamlets, and whether 'tis nobler in the mind (so to speak) to carry that tradition on or to spend our energy creating new works. I have no answers, but a bunch of thoughts about it.

If you're at the MOMA in NYC, do you detour and stand in line to see Warhol's soup paintings with your own eyes, or do you know exactly what it looks like, so you get to be the first to see the bizarro brand new stuff that nobody understands?

The truth is, the Warhol and Pollock paintings are pretty new. I know living people who had to choose between Starry Night and "crazy Picasso", and then decades later had to choose between Picasso and "crazy modern" Warhol, at that exact same museum. At some point, in some other museum, someone had to decide if they should go see the Rembrandt or the new "crazy post-impressionist" stuff like Starry Night. Before that, someone had to decide if they should go see the Mona Lisa or the new "crazy baroque" stuff like Rembrandt.

The bottom line is that the artists we remember (and of course the analogy extends to music, sculpture, film, etc.) were all on the cutting edge of their craft, pushing the boundaries and creating. More than just new work in the modern style, they participated in the innovation and establishment of entire new movements. But they themselves understood the classic methods as well. They weren't trained in the style they ended up creating. Could Van Gogh have painted Starry Night if he'd never seen the landscapes of the baroque period? Could he have simply painted in the baroque style, if he wanted to?

In theater, which I think most closely relates to magic in this analogy, there is no way for the new generations to experience and understand the classic movements of the craft unless someone contemporary steps up to perform them. I absolutely could not be the artist I am today if I'd never seen a Shakespeare play, or a Tennessee Williams play. That is why I feel a duty to perform those plays for new audiences. But does that mean the only use of the classics is to educate? Do they still hold artistic value for a general audience? Is that artistic value inherent to them, or only meaningful as context for more modern work? Could I also say that I would not be the same *person* I am today, if not for Shakespeare and Williams?

I don't want to give my opinions, because I think "Why do we do the classics?" is a much more interesting question than "Should we do the classics?" I think we do them precisely because these questions do not have universally satisfactory answers.
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Wizard of Oz
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Wow I love reading well-crafted and well-informed posts. Thank you CR_Shelton.
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funsway
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CR Shelton - your fine thoughts unfortunately prompt me to ask, "What about those who go to a museum to see "Starry Night" or "Warhol" because they have never seen a star in the sky or a can of soup,
or ask "what is a museum?" Don't you have a video of that? Here is a selfie of me before the MOMA - proves I have good taste.

The greatest value of me performing a magic effect is that I (a real person) am interacting with a real person and sharing something of "how" rather than "what."
If I go to a museum or a play, it is to share the experience with another person and the ability to enjoy the discussion after.
In similar vein, I prefer magic effects that can lead to a discussion of awe & wonder in life rather than "I have 200 different decks of cards."

It is not "classic effects" that are so important -- it is classical themes proved real.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Tom Fenton
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Classic effects are time-proven and play well.
They also give room for the performer to put his own character into them.
Just look at Gazzo's cups & balls, Pop Haydn's Linking Rings, Jeff Hobson's Egg Bag and numerous others.
"But there isn't a door"
Dick Oslund
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Aye laddie! Ye've said it well, indeed!

"They also give room for the performer to put his own character into them." --And, THAT'S what my objective has been, for most of my performing life! It did take "awhile", to grow out of being "trick oriented", as a young teen. That first five years was spent, learning new tricks! In the 65 years since, after Fitzkee, Maskelynne & Devant, Tarbell, et al, I've learned to "put my own character into them".

My color changing silk, my ball routine, my egg bag, my 20th Century Silks, my Misers Dream, my "Norwegian YOYO", my Trouble Wit, even my "illusion routine" are MINE! My mutilated parasol is mine! --although the basic premise was the "brain child" of my pal, Don Lawton's!

None of "that" happened overnight!!! It took thousands of performances! Jay Marshall did the vanishing cane for thirty some years, before he added the "Saga of Juan Escadero"!
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CR_Shelton
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Quote:
On Dec 24, 2017, funsway wrote:
CR Shelton - your fine thoughts unfortunately prompt me to ask, "What about those who go to a museum to see "Starry Night" or "Warhol" because they have never seen a star in the sky or a can of soup,
or ask "what is a museum?" Don't you have a video of that? Here is a selfie of me before the MOMA - proves I have good taste.

The greatest value of me performing a magic effect is that I (a real person) am interacting with a real person and sharing something of "how" rather than "what."
If I go to a museum or a play, it is to share the experience with another person and the ability to enjoy the discussion after.


Interesting questions. I personally would show those people the stars instead (Not many to see in NYC though!), or have them over for a bowl of Campbells. Those examples may be too literal for magic. I used them mainly to illustrate the progression that makes "classical vs. modern" a false binary, but their mundanity doesn't serve the analogy. Perhaps some people went to see the Last Supper *because* they couldn't see it in real life but wanted to experience it in a way, and maybe that's closer to what we do for people as magicians.

If someone said "What is a museum?", they've asked the right guy and they're in for a treat. As you say, that is going to be a shared experience. It's not why I go though, personally. I enjoy the museum or the theater with friends, but I'm perfectly willing and able to be profoundly moved and changed by the art even if I go by myself.

Quote:
In similar vein, I prefer magic effects that can lead to a discussion of awe & wonder in life rather than "I have 200 different decks of cards."

It is not "classic effects" that are so important -- it is classical themes proved real.


It is my belief that art should lead to *action*, but that is a big topic for another thread. Awe and wonder are fine ways to effect action, but I would say we need effects that lead to the actual feelings, rather than discussions of them. What I wanted to get across at the end of the post was that if people are doing something and are interested in something, it is meaningful.

People *do* love to collect, and "awe and wonder" fairly accurately describe the look on a layman's face when they see 200 decks of cards displayed in your study. I'd say some people would find that more interesting than anything in the MOMA. Instead of considering what it says about their taste - better *or* worse, whatever you believe - I just see an opportunity for magic to be an equal with those other art forms, or perhaps even surpass them for this person in this moment. Maybe just the 4 boxes full of jokers from each deck would be stunning to them. Maybe that's the beginning of a routine about collecting, a quirky but universal bit of human nature that I know of no good paintings about. (Except maybe the Warhol...?)
An actor is a magician performing the illusion of reality.
www.ActingMagician.com
Tom Fenton
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Thank you Mr Oslund.
"But there isn't a door"
Dick Oslund
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Thank you FELLOW PERFORMERS!

(It's relatively easy to identify as PERFORMERS, those who commented positively about doing the "classics"!)

Patrick: I usually check the profile of an OP, BEFORE, I comment. Apparently, I forgot to do that, in this situation. (Mea culpa!) I did look at his previous posts, just now, and, your comments immediately above, are, IMO, well justified.

The line: "magicians helping magicians" is a "good one", but it has become increasingly apparent that a few klutzes take advantage of us who are willing to help. In looking over mndude's recent posts, it is apparent to me that he is a "trick shop magician".

My New Year's Resolution, is to constantly remind myself to check profiles!!! --and, thus ignore the posts of "magicians" (note the " ")like the OP.

To Tom (a fellow countryman of John Ramsay, Pat Page, and Jay Marshall) thanks for your post above, and, your appreciation! (Now, will you tell us what Scots wear under their kilt? (hee hee)
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
The Burnaby Kid
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Oh come on. The question isn't THAT terrible.

Lance Pierce once described classic effects as blank canvases that can be used by a performer to project themselves onto. Usually that might imply performance style, but there are some interesting structural changes that one could come up with, such as what Tommy Wonder did with the cups and balls.

I think one underrated obstacle is that classics using classic props are safe for anybody to perform, but a specific innovation might deservably belong to whomever came up with it. For instance, if somebody uses Slydini's approach to the cut and restored rope but instead using somebody's headphone cord, that's significant enough to actually not copy out of respect, in the same way that nobody doing Macdonald's Aces wants to copy Ricky Jay's presentation, even though it dates back to Erdnase.

Whit Haydn has made the case that magicians are frequently like cover bands. That's not a terrible thing to be, and in magic there's the added advantage for the performer that most won't have seen the trick before. One could disagree with Whit on the importance of originality in magic, but he's not wrong on the larger issue.
Tom Fenton
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Dick, nothing is worn under the kilt - it's all in perfect working order!

By the way, if you want to find out which clan a Scot belongs to, look under his kilt.
If it's a quarter pounder he's a McDonald.
"But there isn't a door"
Brent McLeod
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Surprisingly many of Todays audiences have not seen a lot of the classics or as mentioned previous a live magician. As a professional I work mainly the adult & corporate market and get many comments from clients as to how much they enjoyed what they saw..but...a lot of the routines are honed by me over many years and its the fine tuning,the comedy,the music that makes them fun to watch etc...
Mr. Woolery
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Regarding kilts, I may be American, but I grew up as the son of bagpipers, I’m a piper, my kids are pipers. My usual answer depends on who asks! If it is a woman in a skirt, I pause for a moment and then ask if we are trading information. Otherwise, I raise one eyebrow and say “socks.”

Classics are classic for a reason. Magicians who perform them value those reasons.

Patrick
Tom Fenton
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Nice replies Patrick.

Have to agree with you about Classics.
I started off as a copier and, in time, developed my own "way" with the cups & balls.
Classics such as these have a lot of room for someone to do that.

Some may say that there is only one Charlie Miller move and if you do it then the routine is not original.
I cannot really claim originality but I can claim original scripting and the manner it is delivered and presented.
"But there isn't a door"
Dick Oslund
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Quote:
On Dec 26, 2017, Brent McLeod wrote:
Surprisingly many of Todays audiences have not seen a lot of the classics or as mentioned previous a live magician. As a professional I work mainly the adult & corporate market and get many comments from clients as to how much they enjoyed what they saw..but...a lot of the routines are honed by me over many years and its the fine tuning,the comedy,the music that makes them fun to watch etc...


YES!
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