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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Smooth as silk » » Levent on the "Sympathetic Silks" (11 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Levent
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Hello All:

After the recent “Masters of Illusion” telecast in which I performed the “Sympathetic Silks” trick, I had received some emails from magicians asking about the origins of my routine.

In lieu of sending these gentlemen a private message, I thought it would be best to tell my story on an open forum, such as “The Magic Café”.

One small note, to some extent much of what I have to say on the trick was already published in “MAGIC” magazine (March 2002) in an article about me titled: “Levent – Method Behind Madness” by Alan Howard.

For the most part, I work on cruise ships and I am required to bring about 60 minutes of material. About 9 years ago, I was booked to work on a very deluxe ship in which the passengers paid on average about $1000 per person per day. The booking was scheduled to be a year away and on that vessel they required three different shows, which came out to about 105 minutes of material in total.

Because of my pacing I calculated that this would be a total of 50 magic tricks and a ton of gags and patter. Being that I had a year to build up to much material, I took it as a challenge and began to expand my act.

Since I don’t like to do common magic tricks unless I can find a special hook that will make a trick mine. I utilized my collection of magic books to find some old magic tricks that have slipped off the radar that could be brought back to life.

As a magic/vaudeville historian I had noticed that in the lists of routines from old magic acts, it seems that almost one in ten magicians did some form of a trick called the “Sympathetic Silks”. In fact the trick was regularly a part of the Howard Thurston and Horace Goldin shows and even Houdini did it on his last tour.

Furthermore in the “Genii” magazine survey conducted by Robert Orben in the 1950s, it is reported that on the list of the 20 most commonly performed magic tricks, the “Sympathetic Silks” came in at number 12!

Yet for some reason this is now a pretty rare trick. I think you could probably count the top pros doing this effect on one hand. Perhaps this is because the old performers that featured the trick had died and there were few young magicians to pick up the helm, opting instead for newer effects.

In any case, seeing this effect on the lists of popular tricks of the past acted as a “red flag” and made me curious about the possibility of bringing it back with an original handling of my own.

So I decided to give the trick a try and began my research.

The earliest reference I found was in the classic 1910 book “Magicians Tricks and How They Are Done” by Henry Hatton and Adrian Plate. After that book, there seems to be enormous interest in the trick and so many published ways of doing it. In fact in my library I found versions of the “Sympathetic Silks” described in more than 35 old books and I scanned all the references and created a PDF file for the trick that was nearly 300 pages long!

There seems to be two basic ways of presenting the effect.

One way is that two silks are shown untied and placed aside. Another pair of silks are shown and tied together. The first pair of silks is then shown to have magically tied together in “Sympathy” with the other, thus this effect was called the “Sympathetic Silks”.

The other way is a plot in which knots are magically shown to transfer from one group of silks to another. This could be called the “Traveling Knots” premise.

Both the “Sympathetic Silks” and “Traveling Knots” are essentially the same trick. It is just the premise that differs slightly.

Among the first routines I learned was the Charlie Miller’s routine called “Knot Control”. I tested it before a live audience of about 1000 people and it got a surprisingly good reaction.

So I began a headlong project to create an original presentation of the trick. But I did not want to do a version that was too simple as I believed that there was much more mystery in doing a multiphase presentation. This was the path followed in the book “Edward Proudlock’s Version of the Sympathetic Silks” published in England in 1936. Another great multiphase version that I studied was the Paul Potassy routine from a 1997 German language book called “Die Paul Potassy Show” by Uwe Schenks & Michael Sondermeyers, which was given to me as a gift from my dear friend the late Ted Lesley. Luckily my wife speaks German, so she translated the silk chapter for me. Of course today that would not be necessary because the Potassy book has now been translated into English by Richard Hatch. I also spent quite a bit of time studying the work on the trick by Harold Rice, Will Ayling and Tony Slydini.

Once the basic structure of my routine was complete, I set about fixing what I believed to be the three big flaws of a multi-phase “Sympathetic Silks” routine.

Problem number one was the methodology of secretly untying the silks. I was really unhappy with the earlier methods. At least to my eyes, I did not like the wrapping of the silks or in some methods the use of misdirection during the crucial moments. So, I spent a few months creating two different completely original methods for this that could be done instantly right in front of people’s eyes without detection. This was a bear to accomplish and perform! I practiced this thousands of times and completely wore out a set of heavy duty scarves until I figured it out.

Problem number two was the confusion of the audience as to which group of silks were tied and untied. With the simple version of the effect where the knots travel once, this is not a problem. But with a complex version where the knots travel back and forth several times, audiences will have a tough time keeping track of which pile of silks is supposed to be loose or tied. So, I wrote patter that centered around a simple “play on words” and made cardboard signs with the “Knot” or “Not” written on them. By transferring the letter “K” the spectators are led to believe that the placement of the “K” makes the magic happen. More importantly the “K” helps the audience in a very large theater easily keep track of what is going on. Incidentally I recently performed this routine on a TV special in Seoul, Korea and for the show I made special “Not” signs that combined English and Korean Hangol characters.

And finally problem number three which is that when doing a complex multiphase “Sympathetic Silks” routine the effect commonly lacks a good finale. Charlie Miller himself wrote about this, positing that if you make the knots travel from one place to another several times the typical finale of making all the silks tie together at the end is just more of the same. Because of this Mr. Miller only did a simple version of the effect. While working on the routine, I discussed it often with John Thompson on the telephone. John told me that he used to do the trick in the early 1960s and closed with a production from the silks at the end. This is a GOOD idea. Then in passing John mentioned that maybe I could combine the trick with the so-called “This” production. I immediately knew that was a GREAT idea.

Now if you don’t know what “This” is, it is an effect that was the invention of the late South American wizard Max Londono. When Max was working in nightclubs in his native Cartagena, Columbia in the 1960s, he would open his act by coming out on stage holding three large silks of various colors in his left hand. Max would show each silk empty with his right hand and then from the combined silks he produced a large fantail pigeon.

Personally, I do NOT like the “This” trick, because it typically starts with holding the silks in the hand. To my way of thinking it just does not pass the smell test. But if the silks could be used individually beforehand, thus implying that they are empty and then afterwards you can secretly load up the silks and use the “This” ruse then you would have a mystery. Needless to say, this created some enormous technical obstacles. But I kept working on it and as you can see on the “Masters of Illusion” TV show I solved these problems. If you look closely you will notice that there’s a lot of technical secrets hidden in this routine. I have only revealed them to a couple of close friends. Perhaps in the coming years I will publish the routine, but for now I am keeping it for myself.

So after I figured out how the trick would work, I discarded the store bought scarves that I had originally used and made my own set. From the fabric store I chose a burgundy red, dark blue and a slate gray fabric and got busy on the sewing machine. This was a major pain in the neck and it literally took me three days to properly hem the fabric and make all the secret gimmicks.

At some point I was deeply conflicted about some of my methodology as I had several versions of the secret moves and could not decide which were the best. This sometimes happens to magicians as they are too close to an effect and they cannot see it from the spectator’s eyes. To solve this I did the trick for Lupe and Norm Nielsen in their living room and afterward Norm helped me decide on the best handling for maximum deception.

I am proud to say that about a year later I was in Las Vegas and I performed the entire routine for John Thompson (& Martin A. Nash) in John’s kitchen and fooled them with it!

Not long after, I was headlining the Comedy Club at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas and Jeff McBride and his wife came to see my show and Jeffrey commented on how much he liked the fact that my scarves looked like real scarves and not magician’s silks.

Later I would become close friends with Paul Potassy and Paul told me the colors of my scarves looked a bit murky to him. This caused me to replace the slate gray scarf with a pure white fabric and this is the set that I use today.

When I did the effect on that cruise ship, which required me to do three different shows, I used this routine to close my third performance. How I staged it was at the finale I walked into the audience holding the three silks in my right hand. I showed each silk empty by drawing it through the hands of a spectator seated in the audience. I then produced a real bottle of champagne and gave it to the astonished spectator as a gift.

Eventually I wrote an original piece of music for the trick, using a computer and a keyboard synthesizer. This was a simple musical vamp, with a four-chord progression in which the root note of the chords followed the chromatic scale. Each reveal of the silks had a musical accent and the tempo was kept by a fast bass line punctuated by a polyrhythmic drum track. For some reason the original soundtrack was not used during the “Masters of Illusion” broadcast.

One more interesting note: When I perform the routine today, the first bottle has a Martini label and the second bottle has a “Tide” detergent label on it. This allows me to make a bad pun about the scarves being “Tied” at the end. Before I flew to Los Angeles to shoot “Masters of Illusion” I was concerned about having an actual product label on a TV show. Thinking that this could be a problem with the sponsors during the broadcast, I altered the labels on the bottles and changed the Martini label to say the words “Booze”. And I created a completely fake detergent label for the orange bottle. But if you listen to what I say I let the words “Tide” slip accidentally from my mouth, but in the context of the trick the audience thinks I am commenting on the fact that the silks were “Tied”, so no harm was done.

Best regards,
Levent
http://www.LeventMagic.com
Darkwing
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Levent,

Your routine and method for "Sympathetic Silks" is simply brilliant. Lots of lessons for us to learn here; knowledge of magic history, technical knowledge, working toward a goal, patience, surrounding yourself with other magical minds, creating something that is entertaining and developing routines in front of live audiences. Plus, you have shown that it takes a great deal of hard work to develop routines and that good magic is just not out of the box. I have personally benefited from this post (and from the DVD I bought from you).

Very inspiring.

Well Done!

Thank you,
David Williams
hugmagic
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Levent,
Thanks for sharing. I like how you think.

Richard
Richard E. Hughes, Hughes Magic Inc., 352 N. Prospect St., Ravenna, OH 44266 (330)296-4023
www.hughesmagic.com
email-hugmagic@raex.com
Write direct as I will be turning off my PM's.
Levent
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Thank You David and Richard!

Best regards,
Levent (Flying home from a long road trip!)
accolombel
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I saw the routine on "Masters of Illusion" and thought it was fantastic. Thank you for sharing your development of the routine. This is more information on developing a routine than one can get in most venues. Information that many would pay for.
Again, thank you for sharing.

Craig
craig colombel
Autumn Morning Star
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Thank you so very much for sharing the development of your fantastic routine! So many magicians think you just "open the box, do a bit of practice, and you have a fabulous routine". Levent, you have taken "thinking outside the box" to a whole new level. Your dedication to the Art of Magic is remarkable. I look forward to hearing many more of your inspiring stories!
Autumn
Wonder is very necessary in life. When we're little kids, we're filled with wonder for the world - it's fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded, especially in modern day society. Magic renews that wonder.
Doug Henning
Levent
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Thanks Craig and Autumn.

I always like to think about magic in terms that would normally apply to the world of music.

Some people can write songs. Others are better at playing songs written by others. Some are songwriters and performers who only play original tunes that they created themselves. Some are people who can neither write songs, nor play songs well, but they play music because it makes them happy to do so.

In magic there are people who fit in similar categories and each one is perfectly fine as long as no one his hurt by exposure or bad business practices.

In the previous essay, I laid out my work process. It is the way I like to create material and I am happy that others would find this information enlightening.

There are others ways to put together a magic routine and I believe they all offer a valid path to creation.

Best regards,
Levent
http://www.LeventMagic.com
Bob Sanders
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Levent,

That is fantastic! Thank you.

I hope we see you often here on The Magic Café.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

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puppeterry
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Then there are jazz artists who can take somebody else's melody and turn it into something new and exciting.
Jazzy, Levent.

TVM
TV Mc Arthur
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Fresno (CA) County Public Library
"They don't get better.....just faster."
Levent
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Thanks Bob & TVM,

I try to visit the Magic Café as often as I can and post something. Usually I can only do this when I am home or on a job on land.

Unfortunately, when I am away on a cruise ship at sea, the satellite internet costs me 55 cents per minute and the connection is slower than dial-up. So during a those times I only check my e-mail and avoid surfing the web in general.

Best regards,
Levent
http://www.LeventMagic.com
David Bilan
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Levent,

An excellent essay on the evolution of an effect! Alliteration aside, this should be mandatory reading for anyone seeking to be a true success.

Thank you for sharing.

Dave
Yes, I am a magician. No I did not make my hare (hair) disappear... it just took early retirement.
dmueller
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As a relative newcomer to the art, I must say this was very insightful as to what goes on behind the scenes in the creation of a routine. Life has kept me fairly busy lately so I have been Tivoing MOI and catching up when I get a chance. I actually just watched that episode the other day and was floored. Absolute genius.

The routine was definitely a breath of fresh air. I think if I see one more variation of "lovely assistant goes into box then box is pulled apart/stabbed/all sorts of other mean and nasty things" I will puke. Even to my lay people friends it is getting repetitive. While I certainly don't mind the lovely assistants, it is nice to see a routine with some spirit.

Keep up the good work. I can't wait to see more.
Tim Hannig
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Levent,

I really enjoyed the essay, especially after seeing the routine on MOI.

Your hard work is an inspiration.
Make your show FUNNIER with Rindercella & Tim's announcements cd

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[email]tim@pkshow.com[/email]
Alikzam
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I love hearing you talk about method. When I watched your performance, I watched the performance and I never even thought about how it was done, or could be done. Your character/persona is so well done.

If you're like that in real life, you must be a very tired man. Smile

PS: I look forward to following you on twitter.
Foxbiz
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Levent.... Having seen your perfomance live at our club banquet (thank you for performing) I noticed that you had a unique way of upsetting the knots and a great premise (follow the K).

It is obvious that you have honed so much of your material that just passes by while enjoying your show. Your rope routine and misers dream were superb.

I hope to learn even a little from you in the near future. Thanks for contrubuting here as well as in other articles and books.

Your neighbor....
Lynn Fox
sherifmayika
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Levent,
I have seen a hyllrious routin on sympathetic silk. Allthough which did not have climax like yours. The magician repeats the transpostion three times each time with diffrent type of knots, Any idia?
Levent
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David, Dmueller, Tim & Alikzam:

THANKS

Lynn Fox:

About my Miser Dream and Rope routine, money routine, straight jacket, neutron card trick, etc...

I really wish we had more time at the taping of Masters of Illusion. I was all set to do my rope routine, but the producers asked me to cut some material, because on the last day of shooting we ran out of time. As a result I'm sorry to say I couldn't do my rope routine. So on "Master's of Illusion" you might have noticed that I do NO audience participation tricks (which are usually the bread and butter of most comedy magicians).

Hopefully, I'll get another chance to do these kinds of routines on TV in the future.

Sherifmayika:

I am not sure about the routine you have seen. Is it perhaps my dear friend, Paul Potassy?

Best regards to all,
Levent currently on tour
http://www.LeventMagic.com
dsalley13
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M. Levent,

I saw your Sympathetic Silks routine last night (I missed it the first time it played). It was magnificent!!! You were the star of the entire show in my eyes.

I laughed until I almost died when you had the "K" walk across the floor from one chair to another. That was priceless!!!

Give Mr. Rabbit a hug from me. :o)


dsalley13
sherifmayika
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Levent,
You are correct, the sympathetic silk I mentioned is of Grand master magician Paul Potassy. When you told me his name, I simply googled and bought his video. A great thanks to you.

His sympathetic silk was in my mind for years and now comes yours as another legendary routine.
Levent
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SherifMayika

Yes, Mr. Potassy is a wonderful magician and I am happy to say that he is also a good friend of mine. In addition to the silks, there are many excellent routines in his book and DVD set.

Best regards,
Levent
http://www.LeventMagic.com
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