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Michael Kamen
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Very well said Bill.
Michael Kamen
JackScratch
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Wow, Skip, I really like that one.
Jonathan Townsend
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Try Crowley's definition. You can put it into a theatrical frame if you must. And put a second frame around it if you need others to accept it.

But to ignore the frame or to believe others will ignore that frame are probably signs of trouble ahead.

Magic is not cognitive dissonance, surprise or astonishment nor is it any procedure which creates them. There simply must be an active agency of will involved to distinguish the natural from the willful.

I hope all here know the difference between a secret and a mystery and can avoid ruining the latter by making a public display of knowledge of the former. Or you can look up the story in DC Comics where Cain and Abel offer stories and discuss that distinction.
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BrianMillerMagic
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I disagree that the discussion of "what is magic?" is a pointless one, or like trying to nail jelly to a tree. Your personal definition of magic should be the lifeforce of how you perform. If you don't have a well defined definition of what magic is to you, how can you ever hope to show magic to your audience? In that respect I view this question as the one of the most important, if not the most important, questions that a magician needs to answer for his/herself.
karbonkid
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I'm sure you have some 'best selling' theories on magic. While I feel it's the most important one, I liken it to being alive. I don't need to go into the minuta that makes one alive, I could never begin to describe it, yet I know how it feels...how it feels to me specifically to be alive. I could go on about what excites ME about life and makes ME feel alive. I could go into the cellular make up about what makes one alive, or the minute processes of water molecules. All these things make me alive...yet not one of them, singularly, does. In one situation water is what keeps one alive, in another, it can kill you.

Magic is like that.
Whit Haydn
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Quote:
On 2007-10-24 14:50, karbonkid wrote:
I'm sure you have some 'best selling' theories on magic. While I feel it's the most important one, I liken it to being alive. I don't need to go into the minuta that makes one alive, I could never begin to describe it, yet I know how it feels...how it feels to me specifically to be alive. I could go on about what excites ME about life and makes ME feel alive. I could go into the cellular make up about what makes one alive, or the minute processes of water molecules. All these things make me alive...yet not one of them, singularly, does. In one situation water is what keeps one alive, in another, it can kill you.

Magic is like that.


I don't see how that is helpful. It's hard to build a boat if you don't know what one looks like. There is very little about performing magic that is "natural."
karbonkid
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But what defines magic changes as time moves forward. For example, if turn the of the century I picked up a little box that showed a motion picture and a voice came out that comes out in english...that would be magic to them...at the time. So trying, or attempting to put it in a box with rules becomes even more than complicated...unless you have pages upon pages, ala Ortiz, to lay out in painstaking detail (which I know you contributed to), I don't think this can be easily resolved in a forum format.
Josh Riel
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But it has been resolved, Even before this thread. The jello that we are nailing to the tree isn't the definition of "Magic", rather the insistence of some do simply disagree with whatever is offered.

The last paragraph of Bill Hallahan's last post referencing Whit Haydn is simple.... But then we start trying to lump the Television or childbirth in with what we do and we get this stupid cycle of confusing concepts
Magic is doing improbable things with odd items that, under normal circumstances, would be unnessecary and quite often undesirable.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2007-10-24 15:16, karbonkid wrote:
But what defines magic changes as time moves forward. ...


I disagree.

For example, let's say that when asked about being a magician you were to reach down to pick up a pebble, blow upon it and then let a moth or butterfly loose from your hand. I believe it would be just as effective as it has been for millenia. You made the pebble into a living thing.

I hold that it's all about the audience percieved effect. Now as to the performance - the relationship between the performer and the magic or the performer and the audience... that is very much a matter of context IMHO.
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Josh Riel
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I imagine we are talking about the thing we do that looks like we put a ball into our left hand, but really keep it in our right? Or when we lift 2 cards when we act like we lift one?


Cause I might be in the wrong conversation
Magic is doing improbable things with odd items that, under normal circumstances, would be unnessecary and quite often undesirable.
karbonkid
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Agreed.
erlandish
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I've had a really hard time dealing with this question. On the one hand, my own personal goal has been to try to attain Maskelyn and Devant's definition (thanks for putting that up, Bill). If somebody asked me "What is magic?", I'd want to try to answer it from that frame of reference.

The weird thing is, when I was doing magic show for Korean kids, we used to have a little discussion beforehand (this was to fulfill the ESL component). I'd ask them this exact same question... "What is magic?"

About every second class, one of the answers that would come out is "It's a trick."

I don't think that we can approach the idea of what magic is as a performance genre without taking this default skepticism (that can frequently remain even after bamboozlement) into account.

My humble take is this: Magic (as a performance genre) is the manifestation by a performer of an apparently impossible or implausible phenomenon, with the causative agent usually purported to be "magic" (as a mystic force).

Magic (as a performance genre) vs. magic (as a mystic force): Specified to prevent something that sounds like a tautology. Also, I want to specify that I'm not talking about the magic of a baby's smile, the magic of a wonderful poem, etc.

Manifestation of a phenomenon: Something must occur external to the audience's imagination. The amazement might occur in their interpretation of it, but they've got to have something to interpret.

Impossible/Implausible: Since it's technically possible for someone to predict winning lottery numbers five times in a row, I put "implausible" in there to satisfy allowing the genre to include Mentalism.

Apparently: Not sure if this is the best word for it. Basically, what it's meant to state is that logically, if they think about it, the audience should believe the phenomenon to be impossible or implausible. Of course, the fact that it's just been shown to them puts this previous certainty into doubt.

By a performer: Self-evident?

The causative agent: Something has to make the phenomenon happen, right?

Usually purported to be "magic": Not every performer makes this claim ("reading someone's pulse to locate their card"), or really takes this claim seriously (limiting the magic moment to a cursory snapping of the fingers). I also don't think there's necessarily any fault in not taking the route of describing the phenomenon as being caused by "magic".

This definition is really limited to magic as a performance genre, and it also does its best to avoid passing judgement upon what is "good magic". I don't think that's an easy question to answer, because that's where objectivity often goes out the window.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2007-10-24 15:33, Josh Riel wrote:
I imagine we are talking about the thing we do that looks like we put a ball into our left hand, but really keep it in our right? Or when we lift 2 cards when we act like we lift one?


Cause I might be in the wrong conversation


That is wandering from audience frame to performer's frame and not knowing one's purpose.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Skip Way
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Ask not how the magic was done for you. Ask how you can sustain the magic.

To really enjoy the wonders of magic we have to learn to savor that rare and beautiful moment of utter astonishment when our inner child says "Whoa! No Way! Cool!" and stop our adult ego from demanding a solution to the puzzle. The longer we can convince our minds to reside in astonishment mode, the more we'll relish the joys of magic.

As a magic performer, our solitary goal should be creating and sustaining this moment of astonishment for our spectators. Only when we can do this on a consistent basis, can we truly call ourselves magicians. Real magic is never a puzzle to be solved. Real magic is a fantasy journey that draws us along while creating a believable alternate reality.

This is why the secrets of magic are so important. It isn't about doing something no one else can do. It isn't about proprietary ownership of an effect. It isn't about fooling people with a gimmick. It's all about keeping the fantasy and the power to astonish alive.

Once the average layman learns the secret to an effect, it tranforms that precious moment of "Whoa!" to "Oh...okay." It is our sworn task as magicians to erase disbelief, create that indescribable moment of child-like astonishment and nurture that moment as long as we can before our adult egos finally kick in and spoils the moment with the declaration that "it's just a trick!" Curse you, adult ego!

My opinion.
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Josh Riel
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Quote:
On 2007-10-24 16:52, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-10-24 15:33, Josh Riel wrote:
I imagine we are talking about the thing we do that looks like we put a ball into our left hand, but really keep it in our right? Or when we lift 2 cards when we act like we lift one?


Cause I might be in the wrong conversation


That is wandering from audience frame to performer's frame and not knowing one's purpose.


......no..... it's what we do. Why inject cerebral nonsense into a rational question? We pretend to do something, we don't. No wandering here, it's a simple concept really.

What is so difficult about: "Simulated magic is the result a logical argument with a false premise".

Of course that's exactly why these conversations go nowhere. We all gotta compare the size of our brains.
Magic is doing improbable things with odd items that, under normal circumstances, would be unnessecary and quite often undesirable.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2007-10-24 19:02, Josh Riel wrote:...
We pretend to do something, which we don't actually do by the means claimed to our audience. ...


I prefer the version with the words inserted. How's that for you?
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tommy
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Does Maskelyne’s definition exclude performances of magic not performed for a live audience?
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2007-10-24 23:08, tommy wrote:
Does Maskelyne’s definition exclude performances of magic not performed for a live audience?

If a guy does the most incredible illusion in the middle of a forest when no one is looking... is it magic?

I don't know what magic is, but I think the magic of magic is getting people to go home thinking, that's impossible, but I saw it.
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landmark
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Can I take this a little further?
I like George's definition, similar to Whit's and Jon's but now let me ask this--why?

Why do we want to send the audience home in this condition of uncertainty? How does it help them or us?

Not taking a position here--I just want to hear more about the why of what's happening from your perspective.

Jack Shalom
George Ledo
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Why do we want to send them home feeling this way? Because people need a break.

Human beings want, and need, to get away from their everyday lives and problems, and indulge in relaxation, in fantasies, in dreams, and in going, "wow, what if..." and chilling out. Releasing pressure. Re-grouping. Getting a different perspective.

That's what entertainment is.

Right now I'm doing preliminary work for a production of "My Way - a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra," which I'll be designing early next year. Reading about the guy back in the early to mid 1940's, when he was the ultimate fantasy of bobby soxers, makes this clearer for me than a neon sign: he was giving these kids a break from their lives. He gave them a dream. He gave them emotions. He gave them something to look forward to. The Beatles did exactly the same thing, and so did Elvis. And so do movies and sports. And hobbies.

We, as human beings, need it.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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