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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The May 2009 entrée: Jeff McBride » » The classics of magic, study and “trickle down theory” » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Hi Jeff, how exciting to finally have you here on the Café. We have met briefly a few times. Back in Aug. of 07 you selected me to come up on stage and assist with Abbi’s straight jacket escape during a show you performed in Atlantic City. What a thrill- thanks for an experience I’ll never forget!

I thought you might like to offer some of your thoughts on the importance of the classics of magic - The Cups and Balls, The Linking Rings, The Egg Bag, The Miser’s Dream, Multiplying billiard balls, Coins through the table, The Four Ace Trick etc. etc.

How important do you feel it is for the student of magic to study the “classics”.

Due in part to the overwhelming availability of “killer tricks” available through online magic shops, on DVD or via instant download/ and due to the popularity of what I‘d term the “extreme magic” performed on T.V. over the last few years; why should magicians bother to study the old stuff when thanks to the ingenuity of modern creators the budding magician can go out and kill his audiences with these effects --often without the time and toil required to learn a formidable version of any of “the classics”.

Can audiences tell the difference between a magician who has honed his craft for years with a good grounding in fundamentals from and a guy who has purchased some great tricks or DVDs and learns how to perform these effects well. Is there any point in learning an older perhaps inferior method of a particular effect when one can just jump ahead and grab the fifth or sixth variation or “improved method” and go out and entertain with it?

I am concerned that a study of classic effects (and the techniques and fundamentals that may be learned from them) might be compared to the to the “Trickle Down Theory of Economics”. I am not an economist but to the best of my knowledge trickle down theory implies that lower taxes and policies that benefit the rich and powerful will eventually “trickle down” to the masses.

Many would agree that “trickle down doesn’t trickle” or if it does it does so very little.

Does a grounding in the classics of magic supply the magician with a catalogue of techniques which will apply to the other tricks and routines that eventually form the one’s working repertoire?

Does “Trickle Down” trickle? Or Is it best to take a more pragmatic approach and just learn to do well the material that appeals to you.

People are free to do what they wish- but I must be honest in saying it annoys me when I see people out there performing for money that have almost no grounding in fundamentals, and little respect for the history and classics of magic. Never the less- those with a thumb tip a coloring book/ some new hot tricks and a business card are out there making money as magicians…and ironically? some of them might be entertaining people fairly well.

I am not really looking for any specific “answers” per se but would appreciate any thoughts you may want to share-

Thank You-

Mark M. Walsh
...The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity...

William Butler Yeats
Jeff McBride
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Greetings Mark, and all...

I feel that my exploration of the classic effects of magic has given me skills I can apply to many other areas of magical performance as well as effect construction.

The Linking Rings taught me lessons in movement and showmanship.
The Miser's Dream taught me lessons in how to select and work with audience participants.
The Cups and Balls is one of my continuing studies, and I am learning just by practicing this effect all the time.

One of my teachers, Charles Reynolds, shared with me what I feel to be a very important insight. He said that the Cups and Balls is almost like a gymnasium for the mind. The Cups and Balls can help us train in learning the many diverse applications of magical technique. The Cups and Balls can illustrate many of the possibilities of magic. Let's take a look at Dariel Fitzke's list of effects from the Trick Brain, 1944, and see how many possibilities can be explored with this routine.
Production- appearance/creation/multiplication
Vanish- disappearance/obliteration
Transposition- change in location
Transformation- change in appearance, character or identity
Penetration- one solid through another
Restoration- making the destroyed whole
Animation- movement imparted to the inanimate
Anti-gravity - levitation and change in weight
Attraction- mysterious adhesion
Sympathetic Reaction- sympathetic response
Invulnerability- injury -proof
Physical Anomaly- contradictions, abnormalities
Spectator Failure- magician's challenge
Control- mind over the inanimate
Extra Sensory Perception

The above list are just a FEW of the possibilities that you can explore in just one routine!

The classics have much to teach us. Is it essential that a magician learn them? No. There are many strange and wonderful magicians that have been self-taught. Just look at Lennert Greene. He grew up isolated from mainstream magic community and innovated many of his own techniques.

A person can go online and buy "killer tricks," or get an instant download... but that doesn't make the person a magician. Many kids get into magic as a way of standing out, of generating social connection and sharing a common interest with friends. Magic is a great way to "find yourself," and many people who find magic are reinventing themselves. Perhaps they weren't good at sports, music or other areas of scholastic endeavor. Magic is a path to personal empowerment for both kids and adults who want to try new and exciting things. They can buy a "killer trick" and get some attention and the interaction they are looking for, and there's nothing wrong with that. The rules start to change the more they start to integrate into the magic community. If they want to go pro, an entirely new set of skills is needed.

In many professional circles, the magicians who have the best classical training and broadest knowledge of history and methods are the most respected. At some point in our lives, this becomes important, to be respected among your peers. I have personally experienced situations where a hack magician with a few "killer tricks" and performance skills attempts to gain entry into a circle of more elite magi. If a magician is to be taken seriously, they must take the art seriously. The art is more than just show and business; the art of magic is vast and mysterious.

Today, many of these "killer effects" go for shock, but an entire program consisting of one shock trick after another would get tedious. Yes, I feel a grounding not only in the classics of magic, but in the classic techniques of stagecraft and theater would enhance most magician's performances.

I must remember that in its day, the ball and vase was such a "killer trick," and now it is considered hack. But, in the hands of a classically trained magician, like Charley Frye, it can still fascinate and enchant even the most jaded audience.

Yours in empowering people through the art of magic,

Let's keep in touch! I would love to send you my free, inspirational MUSE-LETTER. SIgn up here:
<BR>Creator of [url=]The McBride Magic and Mystery
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Jeff, Thank you for taking the time to generate such a well thought out response. I greatly appreciate it. And I know we all appreciate the incredible mental/intellectual rigors you have gone through to provide us with all of this wisdom and knowledge. Isn’t it great that we can all go back to this forum when in need of inspiration!

- Mark
...The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity...

William Butler Yeats
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