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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » Cups & Balls – Does it Have A Place in Today’s Modern Magic Repertoire? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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yin_howe
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Blog post by a friend and fellow magician JC Sum, who is also a Café member.
Just thought I'd share it..

http://backstagebusiness.wordpress.com/2......ertoire/
"Talent without passion is talent wasted.."
The Burnaby Kid
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The guy undermines his own line of thinking somewhat by saying that we should get away introducing the cups and balls as "a classic in magic" or "the oldest trick in the world", and then offers six of his favourite routines... which open with variations on that line of patter.

I'm also unconvinced that the Caper routine is going to be remembered all that differently from many other street routines. Probably the two phases that make it stand out are the ball under glass phase, and the glass under hat phase, but both of those are quickly lost in a sea of final loads that mirror what most everybody else is doing (fruit under cups and a melon under the hat). Basically, the guy's saying that commercial magicians need to be different (a point which could be argued) but the example he offers up as being a true step forward lacks this.
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djkuttdecks
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We all say it's "a classic in magic" (myself included). But it's not... it's quite literally the start of magic. That's like saying "the wheel is a classic in transportation". Now, the classic variations, that is a different story, but to ask if it has a place at all seems a bit limiting. You might as well be asking "Does magic have a place in today's modern world" (which is an aptly legitimate question actually). That answer IMO is yes, but it depends on the presentation, location, and purpose.

-Lee
Jonathan Townsend
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As far as performing in the real world I rate the cups and balls trick (chop cup, stones under bowls... - basic effect here) a number one go-to item for closeup magic.
Where cards will blow away, stick or get dirty - where coins will get grabbed, fall or roll away, not be visible to all attending - the cups will set where you set them and the heavier or sandbag balls will be easily visible and less vulnerable to the environment.

OMHO they were, are and likely will remain in a very special place of honor in magic.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Lord Anacho
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Should we stop mounting a production of Beethoven's 9th because it is a classic? I don't think so.

As it happens, today I performed my very first C&B before an audience. My number two grandson' birthday was celebrated today and out of the blue his mom (who knows that I don't really perform) asked me to mount a little show for the guy. Four hours notice, of which three hours were needed with cooking and tending to the guests. It's tough being a granddad. But I put something together.

Included was a basic C & B routine. Actually, I did an extended version of Michael Ammar's super simple routine from his C & B DVD's. There are a few vanishes and appearances and I end up with a single final load. I followed Tommy Wonder's great advice to not bring the cup to the load, but to bring the load to the cup. I considered it very daring since it relies almost totally on misdirection instead of on sleights. But all hail to the Master. It worked like a charm. There was some time misdirection also before the final load is produced, and there were gasps galore!

I am sold to the Cups and Balls !

Ciao for now

Erik
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Rainboguy
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Yes.
rklew64
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Pull head out of ....
Bill Palmer
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I really hate questions like this, primarily because it shows the intense shallowness of people who
a) do not understand the classics
b) are not really very good entertainers
c) have put themselves on a pedestal above their audiences.

Any competent, entertaining magician can take ANY trick, no matter how old or how hackneyed, and figure out a way to make it work, if he really wants to. No magician anywhere has the right to question anything I do to entertain an audience--or anything any other professional magician does to entertain an audience either, for that matter.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Mr. Woolery
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While I totally agree with Bill Palmer above, I do think the article has a good point or two. Many routines, no matter how good they are, do look a lot alike to a lay audience. There are nuances that make them special for magicians, but we know what to expect from the trick and we appreciate the subleties.

One of my favorite moments from Penn and Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour is the bit in Egypt where a magician is doing the cups and balls for Teller. He does obvious sleights, Teller looks bored, he asks where the balls are, Teller plays along and indicates one under each cup. Now, what he was doing was being nice and playing layman while this Egyptian magician does a routine, right? Only he thought he'd seen each ball being put under the center cup and was sure all three were there. When the performer revealed one ball under each cup, it surprised Teller into a very animated and delighted response.

That was a trick performed by a magician for another magician. It was tailoring the performance to the audience.

Kent Gunn's routine is amazing to me because I never see him do the sleights I expect to get the results he gets. But I think of this as another performance that has more effect on the magicians than on the laymen.

What makes one cup and ball performance really any different from another in the eyes of a non-magical audience? I think that's a question that the article raises, though not in the same words.

But I agree with posters here that cups and balls is not only a classic but is perhaps the quintessential magic trick. It has everything, including enough potential to keep anyone busy refining and innovating within the idiom for a lifetime. I'm in love with my cups.

-Patrick
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This is fairly much correct. Sometimes magicians don't bother to really think about the effect of the trick upon the audience. Let's use the baroque expression "affect" for the way the trick affects the audience. They think that mimicking the "classical" version of, say, the cut and restored rope as performed by George Sands is very clever (and it is) so they perform it for an audience without clearly transmitting the real purpose of the trick.

So, when they are working for a major magic club that has a layman for an owner, and the layman happens to be a businessman more than an appreciative audience member, said layman may tell the "super duper champion magician" to entertain the people who are waiting in line. When the SDCM says, "I don't have anything that's good for that," the bossman says: "Do the rope thing." There are multiple levels of failure here.
"The Swatter"

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ade
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I enjoyed this article a lot, and it's not because I know J C Sum. I think many are missing the point if you think that J C is trying to bash the effect, or to undermine what everyone calls a classic. The main point I feel, that he is trying to bring across is that we should be thinking about why and how we are presenting a classic effect, which seemingly every magician presents... to almost exactly the same way. What is the relevance of your effect to the lay audience, especially if they have seen magicians who seem to do the same things?

This article prompted me to think not just about Cups and Balls (which I love too) but also about my linking rings routine. I do a pretty standard routine but what exactly is the relevance to the people who are watching? Is there any other way of presenting this routine? Is there some way where I can present it different from the seemingly "SAME" of everyone else? If you're doing magic commercially, and you want to be able to stand out, to be able to sell your routines, then I think this article brings across some very valid points.
puggo
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Quote:
On 2011-05-22 19:44, Bill Palmer wrote:
....Any competent, entertaining magician can take ANY trick, no matter how old or how hackneyed, and figure out a way to make it work, if he really wants to....

I totally agree. One of my favorite entertainers is Jeff Hobson - look at his work with a hopping half set or the egg bag. Hi routines are obviously character drivem, but still proves Bill's point.

Charlie
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2011-05-23 10:22, ade wrote:
I enjoyed this article a lot, and it's not because I know J C Sum. I think many are missing the point if you think that J C is trying to bash the effect, or to undermine what everyone calls a classic. The main point I feel, that he is trying to bring across is that we should be thinking about why and how we are presenting a classic effect, which seemingly every magician presents... to almost exactly the same way. What is the relevance of your effect to the lay audience, especially if they have seen magicians who seem to do the same things?

This article prompted me to think not just about Cups and Balls (which I love too) but also about my linking rings routine. I do a pretty standard routine but what exactly is the relevance to the people who are watching? Is there any other way of presenting this routine? Is there some way where I can present it different from the seemingly "SAME" of everyone else? If you're doing magic commercially, and you want to be able to stand out, to be able to sell your routines, then I think this article brings across some very valid points.


Here's a question for you. How many people have you performed for who have actually SEEN the cups and balls before?

I'm not trying to defend the trick or bash J.C. Sum. I'm simply trying to point out that magician audiences and lay audiences are different.

And I will now officially BASH the use of the word "bash." Be more precise in your use of the language. Not every criticism, including J.C. Sum's, is "bashing." What an inane, imprecise word. If I say that I don't really like hamburgers, am I "bashing" hamburgers?
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
SimonG-97
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Short answer yes, my good friend Adam recently did a cups and balls on a variety show in a londons west end theatre ,, there was gasps from a ball vanishing , almost screams for the first, second , third , and fourth final loads! and there was a pin dropping silence when he took a ten pound note out of the lemon which a small piece had been torn from and when it matched ... well you can imagine the applause...............

so simply does the cups and balls have a place in the modern magicians repoirtere ,, UHHHHHH YES! I do a chop cup routine , although sometimes with just a normal cup but normally a chop cup And I love it! there arent many routines I can genuinely say I love doing , you know the ones that give you a warm pleasant feeling; but this is one! I ve seen magicians perform ambitious card , which may be considered a modern classic, with faces like they couldn't care less hwat happens! You need the whole Doug Henning Smile when you perform , he seemed as much amazed by the magic as the audience! and he was on the bad side!

my second answer , which people may relate to; is that if you like doing a routine you should do it , whether it be n Egg bag , linkng rings or anything. Ultimately the only way you can get across and get the audience to enjoy a routine , is if you do yourself! if every routine in your show, or close-up repoirtere you love,,, you will have made your magic that much more meaningful and long lasting..



Simon
Bill Palmer
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"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
ade
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Quote:
And I will now officially BASH the use of the word "bash." Be more precise in your use of the language. Not every criticism, including J.C. Sum's, is "bashing." What an inane, imprecise word. If I say that I don't really like hamburgers, am I "bashing" hamburgers?

Right.. I guess it was a wrong use of words. I meant to say that he was never putting down the effect.

And of my own opinion, I still think many are missing the point. The whole view point of the essay was from a commercial magician point of view, to examine how, why many seem to be presenting a classic magic in almost exactly the same way without a thought as to how the audience is perceiving or relating to the effects. I may not have watched many performances, but I have watched some (in Singapore or otherwise), and each one of the presentation starts with "let me show you a classic piece of magic..". That's not to say this presentation is wrong, or in anyway bad (i'm so guilty of this too), but when the audience has heard it many times, and seen similar and (to them) indistinguishable effects that look the same, as a commercial magician you will want to be different and to make something more relevant to YOUR audience.

That's the only point I wanted to raise... and now, I'm going back to considering what I can do for my own linking rings routine.
The Burnaby Kid
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Quote:
On 2011-05-24 00:04, ade wrote:
And of my own opinion, I still think many are missing the point. The whole view point of the essay was from a commercial magician point of view, to examine how, why many seem to be presenting a classic magic in almost exactly the same way without a thought as to how the audience is perceiving or relating to the effects. I may not have watched many performances, but I have watched some (in Singapore or otherwise), and each one of the presentation starts with "let me show you a classic piece of magic..". That's not to say this presentation is wrong, or in anyway bad (i'm so guilty of this too), but when the audience has heard it many times, and seen similar and (to them) indistinguishable effects that look the same, as a commercial magician you will want to be different and to make something more relevant to YOUR audience.

Again, I want to point out that the first six of JC Sum's examples of good cups and balls routines start with the same basic patter line. There's a disconnect here. Either he's chosen bad examples, or the patter line isn't as terrible as you'd think. As Bill rightly pointed out, most of our audiences are seeing the trick for the first time. Best to make sure you've got that routine down cold before seeking to be original for the sake of originality.

And even if we assume that our audiences may have seen the trick before, consider that some tricks are strong enough that they don't suffer from repetition. If people always wanted to hear new things, then Las Vegas lounge singers wouldn't be expected to sing standards, bands on tour wouldn't be expected to play favourites from previous albums, and cover bands wouldn't even exist.

In my mind, this article of Whit Haydn's is required reading.

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......m=117&27

Maybe JC Sum is speaking for a more advanced magician, I don't know. It might be nice to see the guy's own routines so that we can get an idea of what he means by taking the plot forward.
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jcsum
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Hi guys,

Thanks for the comments and healthy debate!

Just thought I would chime in and say actually I think it is possible the point of the article has been missed if read at face value. The Cups & Balls was just an example and you could substitute it for "The Egg Bag", "The Linking Rings" or just about any time-tested proven classic in magic.

The blog entry was written for/ and from the narrow but significant point of view of the commercial creative artist (in our case magician) who is looking for mainstream relevance. So, the article does not apply to everyone. One reason is that the definition of "mainstream" may be interpreted differently and can mean different things to different people. For myself, "mainstream" goes beyond the casual lay audience that I'm performing for but also includes the critical mainstream media, commercial international show bookers, influential social bloggers etc. Often, the latter groups, have more influence than the reactions of the actual lay audience we perform for because they determine the content that is booked, makes TV, mainstream media etc. Not ideal for the artists in us, but a reality any (and only if you are) commercial artist needs to bear in mind. We are talking about the same mainstream audience who would help put Justin Bieber in 3rd place of Forbes Most Powerful Celebrities Lists this year. Who of us listen to Justin Bieber??? :-D Obviously multi-millions worldwide.

Hence, I happened to use "Cups & Balls" as an example and if it was not clear, I think it is a perfect routine even for today's audience. However, the way it is traditionally and generally performed while is highly effective and a hit with the lay audience, does not have the necessary appeal to the overall "mainstream" for a commercial magician to be a huge success.

Charlie Caper was used as an example because his routine made a mainstream platform (ie was deemed commercial by TV producers to showcase on mainstream TV) and subsequently resonated with the casual internet audience (also now part of our mainstream). I personally think he would not have had that much success if he did a standard routine. I'm not saying his routine is artistically or technically superior to another routine but it was different (in a positive way) which was necessary for his to resonate with the mainstream audience.

The singular point I'm making (and again only relevant to magicians looking for mainstream relevance) is that there is a need be different in a good way. And if you do a classic/ common act, it has to be "perceived" as moving forward or away from the masses by the mainstream audiences; even if from a purist magician's point of view it might not be or might just be an idiosyncratic variant.

So, the article is not really about the "Cups & Balls" Smile

Peace!

J C
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Bill Palmer
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How much did the "mainstream" audience pay you last year?

This may appear to be irrelevant, but if you are a "commercial" magician, the bottom line is, in fact, the bottom line.

This is true of music, magic, graphic arts, dance and a whole lot of other idioms as well.

Example -- One of my friends, long since dead now, was Jethro Burns, of Homer and Jethro. Jethro was an extremely good mandolin player, although it was basically not all that important to the act. The act was, after all, a comedy act, so (according to many of their contemporaries) technique and skill were not nearly as important as comedic timing.

On the other hand, both Homer and Jethro were excellent technicians on their respective instruments. In fact, Chet Atkins stated in an interview with one of the trade magazines that if he could choose from all of the rhythm guitar players in the world to back him up on an album, his first choice would be Homer Haynes.

So, after a concert, a lady came up to Jethro (in the green room) and said, "My son is the world's best mandolin player."

Jethro asked, "Really? How much did he make last year?" She left.

Granted, if you are trying to make contact with the same people who put Justin Bieber into his particular level of stardom, you shouldn't be starting any of your magic with "This is a classic of magic." In fact, you shouldn't do that in the first place.

However, if you want to achieve what Justin Bieber has done, you shouldn't even consider magic as the art form you want to exhibit, because record producers aren't going to hire you in the first place.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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jcsum
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@ Bill, I'm not sure if you were making a general statement or asking me specifically. But, yes my mainstream makes up a significant portion of revenue. But, that is not important as it is for each individual to decide how their want to approach their own commercial careers. The great thing is that individuals who aren't sure can read the exchanges and see what is relevant to them. There is no one way.

I completely, agree, at this point in time, it seems impossible to attain that Bieber level of success in magic or many other art forms. But, there is no reason not to use it as a benchmark to push ourselves and our art forward. If more magicians were to push forward, collectively, we raise the art. Of course, it might be a pipe dream but it is the non-movement that has kept magic from going more mainstream than it is. We are the most resilient art and luckily we have made good headway in the last one and half decades.

But, I whole-heartedly agree this approach is not for everyone and am not advocating it for everyone. It is just my opinion and I have personally seen how the perception of magic has changed in the mainstream in this part of the world due to it. It has helped the industry as a whole, commercial magicians as a whole get more work, glass ceilings for fees are broken and magic as a whole is taken a wee bit more seriously by the mainstream and hence rest of the markets that follow.

Respectfully,

J C
J C Sum

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